Suella Braverman says targeting Jewish neighborhoods, waving pro-Palestinian, pro-Hamas symbols, could be public order offenses
UK Home Secretary Suella Braverman issued a warning to police chiefs on Tuesday regarding the display of Palestinian flags on British streets.
In a letter to chief constables in England and Wales, she suggested that waving the flag “may not be legitimate” if it is seen as a show of support for terrorism.
Braverman said although there are valid reasons for expressing solidarity with Palestinians, certain actions go beyond the boundaries set by the Terrorism Act and the Public Order Act.
She provided examples of protest actions that she believes could potentially constitute public order offenses, including targeting Jewish neighborhoods, waving pro-Palestinian or pro-Hamas symbols and chanting slogans that could be interpreted as anti-Israeli.
Braverman urged law enforcement to employ the “full force of the law” against any demonstrations or displays of support for Hamas, as well as any attempt to intimidate the Jewish community in the UK amid the conflict between Israel and Hamas.
The recent escalation of hostilities in the Middle East has led to public displays of solidarity for both sides.
Vigils have been held to commemorate those killed in Israel, while protests advocating for Palestinian rights have also taken place.
Braverman pointed out the need to maintain public order during demonstrations.
In the aftermath of a protest staged by pro-Palestinian advocates Monday outside the Israeli Embassy in Kensington, where the chant: “From the river to the sea” was audible, Braverman conveyed in her letter that the phrase ought to be interpreted as an indication of a violent wish for the elimination of Israel.
“Of course, it is not just explicit pro-Hamas symbols and chants that are cause for concern. I would encourage police to consider whether chants such as ‘From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free’ should be understood as an expression of a violent desire to see Israel erased from the world, and whether its use in certain contexts may amount to a racially aggravated section 5 public order offence,” she said.
This slogan is commonly employed to describe the aspiration for a unified Palestinian state extending from the River Jordan to the Mediterranean Sea.
Palestinian group Hamas launched a surprise attack Saturday, with fighters infiltrating Israeli towns near Gaza amid heavy rocket fire.
Israel retaliated with a series of airstrikes on the Gaza Strip and imposed a total blockade on the territory, home to nearly 2.2 million people.
At least 830 Palestinians were killed and 4,250 injured in the Israeli bombardment of the strip, according to Gaza’s Health Ministry.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to use all of Israel’s strength to destroy Hamas’ capabilities and to “take revenge for this black day.”
More than 1,900 people have been killed in the violence, including at least 900 Palestinians and 1,000 Israelis, according to authorities.
Israel has cut water and electricity supplies to Gaza, worsening the blockaded enclave’s already dire humanitarian situation.
The seaside enclave, home to nearly 2.2 million people, has already been reeling under a crippling Israeli siege since 2007.