Communal organisations welcome new report recommending clampdown on Palestine demos

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Communal organisations welcome new report recommending clampdown on Palestine demos

Lord Walney warns of 'unholy alliance' between far-left and Islamist groups

Lee Harpin is the Jewish News's political editor

Lord Walney, left, is quizzed by Lord Mandelson at launch of his report into protest extremism
Lord Walney, left, is quizzed by Lord Mandelson at launch of his report into protest extremism

Communal organisations have welcomed a report by the government’s adviser on political violence which recommends strengthening the laws around political protests.

Speaking at the launch of a lengthy report containing 41 recommendations for the government to consider, Lord Walney said there had been an “explosion” of antisemitic conduct including threats and intimidation at anti-Israel demos since October 7th.

In response to the publication of the report both the Board of Deputies and the Community Security Trust welcomed the former Labour MP John Woodcock’s findings.

The CST said in a statement there was a need to balance the “right to free speech against protecting communities from harassment” and to prevent the rise of extremism and division.

They said they wished to work with the government to ensure Walney’s recommendations were implemented.

The Board also said the report on ‘Protecting Our Democracy from Coercion’ ” rightly sets out serious concerns with the way in which protests claiming to embody democracy are in fact stifling it.”

In a series of recommendations, Lord Walney said the Government should restrict protest organisations that use criminal tactics, as well as consider creating protest buffer zones around MPs’ constituency offices and local council chambers.

He noted that many Jewish people were fearful to travel to central London over fears about being targeted by pro-Palestinian protesters.

Speaking to journalists in Westminster Walney argued there was now a “serious blindspot” towards far-left activists entering into what he said was an “unholy alliance” with Islamists.

He singled out protest groups such as Palestine Action and Just Stop Oil, accusing activists linked to them of breaking the law.

Walney, who was introduced by the Counter Extremism Group’s Davis Lewin, argued there was a need for the public order act to be amended to make their activities illegal.

In a fascinating Q&A session at the launch of the report Lord Mandelson, who chaired questioned Lord Walney on how likely his proposals would be to succeed.

Especially in light of Tuesday’s High Court ruling that the Home Office’s attempt to lower the threshold for serious disruption was unlawful.

“I just think the public is sick of the way in which they feel that their priorities are ignored there is not sufficient deterrent effect in stopping this kind of extreme economic disruption,” said Lord Walney.

Davis Lewin introduces Lord Walney

He also denied claims made by the journalist Nick Cohen that by recommending sweeping crackdowns on pro-Palestine marches in this country he was engaging in “selective fear-mongering.”

Walney highlighted antisemitism statistics released by the CST, although Cohen said these did not back up claims that antisemitic attacks on Jews occurred as a result of the demos. 

Home Secretary James Cleverly has said he would carefully consider Walney’s recommendations.

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