United Kingdom

RICHARD LITTLEJOHN: How long before drive-by shouting turns into a drive-by shooting?

An Islamic State-style convoy sweeps across North London, waving Palestinian flags and screaming anti-Semitic hatred through a megaphone.

‘F*** the Jews, rape their daughters.’ For the best part of three hours, 4x4s full of anti-Israel fanatics cruise the streets of Finchley, Hendon, Hampstead, Golders Green, St John’s Wood and Swiss Cottage, home to a sizeable Jewish population.

The agitators have come from as far afield as Bradford in the north and Slough to the west. They are captured on video at traffic lights on the Finchley Road, close to Lord’s cricket ground. The Community Security Trust, which provides safety and advice to Britain’s Jewish community, says it has been ‘deluged’ with reports of abuse being shouted from vehicles.

This drive-by intimidation happened on Sunday, at the start of the Jewish religious holiday of Shavuot

What’s especially disturbing about developments over the weekend has been the move to target British Jews in the suburbs over a long-running dispute in the Middle East

Police eventually scramble a helicopter and detain a car heading out of town on the A40 in Hillingdon. Four men are arrested on suspicion of racially aggravated public order offences.

This drive-by intimidation happened on Sunday, at the start of the Jewish religious holiday of Shavuot. Elsewhere, on the previous day in Central London, thousands of demonstrators marched on the Israeli embassy. At the nearby Barkers building, which houses the offices of this newspaper, one protester scaled six floors of scaffolding, tore down the Union flag and hoisted the Palestinian flag.

Inevitably, the crowd was addressed by the pro-Hamas former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, flanked by an inflatable caricature with a hook nose, bloodshot eyes and horns. It was reminiscent of the grotesque mural of Jewish bankers, which Corbyn opposed removing from a wall in East London in 2012.

Protesters waved Hamas scarves and brandished deeply offensive banners comparing Israel to Nazi Germany, with a swastika imposed on a Star of David.

Outside Downing Street, a pro-Israel counter-demonstrator was kicked to the ground. Nine police officers were injured.

We’ve become inured to the world’s battles being fought out on the streets of Central London, ever since the Iranian embassy siege in 1980. But what’s especially disturbing about developments over the weekend has been the move to target British Jews in the suburbs over a long-running dispute in the Middle East.

Fourteen years ago (was it really that long?) I made a TV documentary, The War On Britain’s Jews — and wrote a Saturday Essay in the Mail — exposing the new wave of anti-Semitism forged by the sinister alliance between the hard-Left and militant Islam.

Time and again, I heard people protest that they didn’t hate Jews, they were simply opposed to the policies of the Israeli government. It was a glib, get-out-of-jail excuse to cover their thinly disguised anti-Semitism.

Can you imagine the outrage from the BBC and the political Left if they’d paraded an Israeli flag?

I didn’t believe them back then, and I don’t believe them now.

Anti-Semitism, like Covid, comes in waves. This is the Palestinian variant.

There’s a large body of opinion on the Left and the more extreme fringes of Islam which holds all Jews responsible for the actions of Israel. (Why? We didn’t blame the Irish for the IRA, or hold all Muslims responsible for Saddam Hussein or the Saudi government.)

Yet why else would a bunch of headbangers in SUVs go out of their way to tour suburban North London waving Palestinian flags and calling for the murder and rape of Jews?

You don’t have to be a slavishly uncritical supporter of hardline Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to be horrified at this frightening turn of events. It has even given some on the Left pause for thought. Labour leader Max Headroom and other MPs have expressed their condemnation.

But still they refuse to acknowledge that they are part of the problem, not part of the solution. Labour remains riddled with anti-Semitism, under the guise of opposition to Israeli ‘aggression’.

A Richard Littlejohn article from 2007 warning about the prevalence of anti-Semitism within the left

The crowd was addressed by the pro-Hamas former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, flanked by an inflatable caricature with a hook nose, bloodshot eyes and horns

For the record, I don’t think Starmer is an anti-Semite — unlike his predecessor. For a start, he has a Jewish wife. But he gives succour to those who are.

He’s a fixture of what the brilliant journalist Nick Cohen described in my documentary as the Islington ‘dinner party anti-Semitism’ set, wrapping their prejudice in contempt for Israel. And don’t forget he campaigned for a Corbyn victory in 2019 and would have been happy to serve in an extreme Left-wing government hostile to Israel and openly friendly to Hamas and Hezbollah.

Shortly after he became leader, Headroom was quick to take the knee in supplication to the Black Lives Matter mob. Can you see him doing something similar in support of Israelis being subjected to rocket attacks from murderous Hamas terrorists?

Dream on.

The Left claims to oppose all forms of racism, but stays shtum when it comes to hatred directed at Jews. They are uniquely deranged over Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East, yet ignore far worse humanitarian outrages committed by the likes of Communist China and feudal Saudi Arabia.

They have no problem attracting useful idiots, either, like the two gormless Leicester City players who unfurled a Palestinian flag after the FA Cup Final on Saturday, yet escaped serious criticism.

Can you imagine the outrage from the BBC and the political Left if they’d paraded an Israeli flag?

And if a convoy of Jewish youths had driven through Bradford or Tower Hamlets waving the Star of David and calling for the rape and murder of Muslims, we’d never have heard the last of it.

This isn’t the forum for picking the bones out of the probably insoluble Palestinian problem.

If you’ve listened to any of the emotionally charged radio phone-ins lately, you’ll know rational debate about Israel/Palestine is impossible.

Suffice to say that as far as this column is concerned Hamas is the aggressor and Israel has the right of any nation to self-defence. There can be no peace, for either the Israelis or the Palestinians, until Hamas has been unconditionally defeated and driven from Gaza.

No, my concern is — and has always been — for our friends, neighbours and fellow British citizens in the Jewish community. It wasn’t just the Izal-style convoy along the Finchley Road on Sunday, either.

In Chigwell, Essex, a rabbi was beaten up and subjected to anti-Semitic abuse by two Asian youths who stopped his car as he drove away from his synagogue. This is where the constant drip-drip-drip of anti-Semitism leads.

When I made my documentary in 2007, plenty of people flatly refused to believe me and accused the programme of feeding Jewish paranoia.

Fourteen years on, the problem is worse than ever and getting closer to home. Yes, there will be every effort to dismiss Sunday’s drive-by shouting as the actions of a minuscule, misguided minority.

But what if this is the shape of things to come? It’s not as if we haven’t seen Islamist slaughter on our streets before. Police patrols in North London have been stepped up and the Jewish community is on high alert.

How long before drive-by shouting becomes drive-by shooting?

Sorry if this sounds alarmist, but as the events of the past weekend prove: just because you’re paranoid, it doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you.

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