Commentary on Political Economy

Thursday 7 March 2024


London ‘becoming a no-go zone for Jews’

A Home Office commisioner warned that extremist groups had ‘gone unchallenged for too long’
Rishi Sunak urged protesters last week not to “let the extremists hijack your marches”
Rishi Sunak urged protesters last week not to “let the extremists hijack your marches” TOLGA AKMEN/EPA
The Times

Pro-Palestinian protests are turning London into “a no-go zone for Jews”, an independent adviser has claimed. Robin Simcox, a Home Office commissioner, said extremist groups had “gone unchallenged for too long”.

The adviser on extremism issued the warning after Rishi Sunak urged protesters last week not to “let the extremists hijack your marches”. Michael Gove, the levelling up secretary, is expected to announce a wide-ranging definition of extremism.

Simcox wrote in The Daily Telegraph that the “permissive environment for radicalisation” being developed meant pro-Palestinian protests, which left parts of the capital off-limits to Jews, had become “normalised”.

He said the same casual approach ­applied to Iran’s sponsorship of schools and mosques, the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas support for charities and extremist television channels operating in the UK. He wrote in the newspaper: “We have not betrayed democracy if extremists are no longer able to operate television channels.

“And we will not have become an ­authoritarian state if London is no longer permitted to be turned into a ­no-go zone for Jews every weekend. All these things and more have become normalised in the UK.


“These groups have gone unchallenged for too long, and have used their time well. They are now embedded and influential among communities.”

Gove is to expand on the definition of extremism in an announcement next week. This is expected to enable the government, universities, councils and other bodies to ban funding for, and ­engagement with, Islamist and far-right groups if they are judged to be ­promoting extremist ideology that ­“undermines” British values.

The government is not expected to publish a list of the bodies that could fall under the new definition, which included any group or individual that promotes an ideology that “undermines the rights or freedoms of others”. Ministers are likely to use parliamentary privilege to name the groups in the Commons.

Simcox said police should consider placing tougher restrictions on demonstrations. This would not signify an ­“authoritarian” desire to crush the protests but a recognition that London could not indefinitely host large demonstrations, he added.

One option he is believed to have canvassed is whether the protests could be held in a different part of the city or restricted to being static, similar to ­requirements for far-right English ­Defence League demonstrations.

“Government has more power to tackle extremism than it sometimes thinks,” he said. “The Iranian government does not have an inalienable right to run schools and mosques in our capital city.”
The prime minister gave a speech outside No 10 last Friday in which he said the government would introduce a “framework” to tackle extremism.

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