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Police arrest four over ‘antisemitic threats’ in London as Johnson condemns ‘shameful racism’

·4-min read
The convoy from which one man could be heard shouting threats against Jewish people (@gunnerpunner/Twitter screengrab)
The convoy from which one man could be heard shouting threats against Jewish people (@gunnerpunner/Twitter screengrab)

Four men have been arrested by officers investigating a video which appeared to show antisemitic abuse being shouted from a car in London on Sunday, the Metropolitan Police said.

Boris Johnson and Sir Keir Starmer denounced the incident in which threats were apparently shouted from a convoy of vehicles driving through a Jewish community in the capital.

Footage showed a group of cars adorned with Palestinian flags driving down Finchley Road on Sunday, with several individuals standing up through the sunroofs and waving flags as one man shouted: “F*** their mothers. Rape their daughters. We have to send a message.”

A Scotland Yard statement said: “Officers investigating a video which appeared to show antisemitic abuse being shouted from a car in north London have made four arrests.

“Police received reports of people shouting antisemitic abuse from a car travelling within a convoy of vehicles through the St John’s Wood area on the afternoon of Sunday, May 16.

“Enquiries were carried out and officers traced a car to the A40 in Hillingdon. The police helicopter was deployed and officers stopped the car at approximately 18.30hrs.

“Four men were arrested on suspicion of racially aggravated public order offences. They were taken into custody at a west London police station.”

The cars drove through the St John’s Wood area – a community which houses four significant synagogues, including the oldest congregation within Liberal Judaism, and is described by The Jewish Chronicle as occupying “a special place in British and Jewish life”.

In response, the prime minister said: “There is no place for antisemitism in our society. Ahead of Shavuot, I stand with Britain's Jews who should not have to endure the type of shameful racism we have seen today.”

Labour leader Sir Keir said “there must be consequences” for those involved in the “utterly disgusting” incident, adding: “Antisemitism, misogyny and hate have no place on our streets or in our society.”

As Israeli-Palestinian violence continued to intensify this weekend, with medics reporting at least 42 Palestinians killed by Israeli airstrikes in Gaza on Sunday, pro-Palestinian protesters took to the streets to oppose the violence and show solidarity in several cities, including London, Glasgow and Manchester.

Organisers of the march in the capital on Saturday said some 100,000 people were in attendance, as huge crowds gathered outside the Israeli embassy calling on the British government to take “immediate action” to deescalate the situation.

Addressing the crowds, former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn suggested the demonstrations gave “succour, comfort and support” to those suffering in the conflict, while the Palestinian-UK ambassador Husam Zumlot said: “This time is different. This time we will not be denied any more. We are united. We have had enough of oppression. Today we are saying enough, enough with the complicity.”

Scotland Yard said nine police officers were injured while dispersing crowds on Saturday when demonstrators threw projectiles at them during what the force called “small pockets of disorder”.

The communities secretary, Robert Jenrick, condemned “some of the language used on marches this weekend and in posts on social media” as “intimidating, criminal and racist”.

Referring to the video of the convoy, which was later spotted near Brent Cross and Golder’s Green, Mr Jenrick said: “This, on the streets of London, is deeply disturbing. Vile, criminal hatred like this must not be tolerated.

“Whatever your view of the conflict in Israel and Gaza, there is no justification for inciting anti-Jewish or anti-Muslim hatred. The incidents of antisemitism we have seen in recent days have been shameful,” he said, adding: “We must not tolerate this vile, shameful hate in our country. These actions must stop.”

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Cabinet minister Michael Gove also pointed to footage showing men at London’s protests shouting a phrase relating to a seventh century massacre of Jewish people, now widely interpreted as a battle cry: “Jews, remember Khaybar, the army of Muhammad is returning.”

Sharing the footage, labelled by Mr Gove as “deeply concerning”, Karen Pollock, chief executive of the Holocaust Educational Trust, said: “Can’t stop thinking about this. Happening on our streets. It has to be condemned at the highest level. This is not a call for peace. It is incitement against Jews.”

Additional reporting by PA