Suella Braverman: Waving Palestinian flag could be a criminal offence

15/09/2021. London, United Kingdom. Attorney General, Suella Braverman. 10 Downing Street. Picture by Simon Dawson / No 10 Downing Street

The right-wing Home Secretary Suella Braverman has warned police chiefs about the display of Palestinian flags and pro-Palestine chanting 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 said: “Sadly, experience indicates that whenever Israel is attacked, Islamists and other racists, seek to use legitimate Israeli defensive measures as a pretext to stir up hatred against British Jews and increase fear within the Jewish community. In the past, this has included vandalism of Jewish businesses, desecration of memorials and religious sites, physical and verbal abuse of Jews on the streets, convoys driving through Jewish neighbourhoods hurling antisemitic abuse, and proliferation of antisemitism online. There is an obvious risk that this pattern will be repeated during the current conflict…

“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…

“Behaviours that are legitimate in some circumstances, for example the waving of a Palestinian flag, may not be legitimate such as when intended to glorify acts of terrorism. Nor is it acceptable to drive through Jewish neighbourhoods, or single out Jewish members of the public, to aggressively chant or wave pro-Palestinian symbols at. Where harassment is identified, I would encourage the police to take swift and appropriate enforcement action.”

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.

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She also urged police too crack down on “offending” online.

“I have also been absolutely clear that online offending is as serious as offline offending. You will be aware that we have robust legislation in place to deal with terrorist content online, as well as threatening and abusive behaviour or behaviour which is intended or likely to stir up hatred. I urge you to ensure that this continues to be taken into consideration in the upcoming days and that any reports of online offending are dealt with promptly…

“There can be no place for antisemitism or glorification of terrorism on the streets of Britain. I therefore expect the police to use the full force of the law against displays of support for Hamas, other proscribed terrorist groups or attempts to harass and intimidate British Jews.”

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.

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