Gove warns councils not to cancel Chanukah celebration over Middle East conflict

The latest Jewish News

Read this week’s digital edition

Click Here

Gove warns councils not to cancel Chanukah celebration over Middle East conflict

Communities Secretary said it was “wholly wrong” for local authorities to suggest celebration of religious festivals could be provocative, as the conflict continues.

Sadiq Khan celebrating Chanukah with Jewish community leaders in Trafalgar Square
Sadiq Khan celebrating Chanukah with Jewish community leaders in Trafalgar Square

Local councils should not cancel plans to mark Hanukkah or other religious celebrations over fears they could be “provocative”, Michael Gove has said.

The Communities Secretary said it was “wholly wrong” for local authorities to suggest celebration of religious festivals could be provocative, as the conflict between Hamas and Israel continues.

Havering Borough Council in east London had planned not to light Hanukkah candles from December 7 over concerns they could be vandalised.

But after claiming the celebration could “risk further inflaming tensions within our communities”, it has backtracked on the decision.

In the Commons, Conservative former minister Sir Michael Ellis claimed it was “impossible to imagine any local authority in the country trying to cancel the annual celebrations of any other faith group” apart from the Jewish community.

He added: “All local authorities at this sensitive time should be very careful to avoid any such rash action and should use intelligence and common sense in their decisions.”

Mr Gove said he was “absolutely correct”, adding: “It seems to me that it was based on a misconception, which is that the idea of the celebration of any faith should be seen as provocative at this time.

“We know that it is the case that there are individual Jewish citizens who feel uncomfortable wearing the kippah or any outward symbol of faith, and to have a London borough saying that the menorah should not be lit because it would be provocative at this time is wholly wrong.

“Freedom of religion, the chance for us all to express our faith, is fundamental to British values, and (Sir Michael) is right that other local authorities should not go down that same route.”

Speaking during communities questions, Mr Gove also warned MPs that a rising number of antisemitic incidents had taken place in the UK since Hamas’s attack on Israel on October 7.

The senior Cabinet minister said: “Tragically, we have seen a significant increase in antisemitism since the events of October 7. The Community Security Trust records 1,500 antisemitic incidents between October 7 and November 22, the highest total in a 47-day period since records began in 1984.”

Conservative former minister Andrew Percy said: “There are some in the pro-Palestinian movement who continue to deny these atrocities took place; whether it’s dead babies or whether it’s gender-based violence against Jewish women, it appears that Jews don’t matter.

“This risks fuelling further the antisemitism we have seen in this country since those attacks.”

The Communities Secretary said: “(Mr Percy) is absolutely right. The events of October 7 were uniquely horrific. It was an exercise in calculated, premeditated sadism, which everyone in this House condemns.

“However, he is right, there are some voices, including some prominent media voices, that have considered it appropriate… to question and to prevaricate in the face of this violence.

“And I think it is vitally important that even as we recognise that all life is precious, even as we recognise that it is vitally important that we do what we can to minimise casualties in this conflict, that we recognise the events of October 7 stand out as the biggest slaughter of Jewish civilians since the Holocaust, and for that reason there can be no quibbling when we face such a transparent evil.”

Havering Borough Council’s original statement outlining why it had cancelled its Hanukkah plans said the authority believed it would be “unwise” to go ahead with its installation after an increase in the number of hate crimes towards Jewish and Muslim communities.

It said: “When we started work on the installation no-one could have foreseen the recent international events and we have been fully committed to installing the candelabra with a number of council teams working to support it.

“Sadly, there are some who are politicising this and making accusations of antisemitism.

“This is categorically untrue and such statements are likely to incite further unrest in our communities.
Show less

Support your Jewish community. Support your Jewish News

Thank you for helping to make Jewish News the leading source of news and opinion for the UK Jewish community. Today we're asking for your invaluable help to continue putting our community first in everything we do.

For as little as £5 a month you can help sustain the vital work we do in celebrating and standing up for Jewish life in Britain.

Jewish News holds our community together and keeps us connected. Like a synagogue, it’s where people turn to feel part of something bigger. It also proudly shows the rest of Britain the vibrancy and rich culture of modern Jewish life.

You can make a quick and easy one-off or monthly contribution of £5, £10, £20 or any other sum you’re comfortable with.

100% of your donation will help us continue celebrating our community, in all its dynamic diversity...


Being a community platform means so much more than producing a newspaper and website. One of our proudest roles is media partnering with our invaluable charities to amplify the outstanding work they do to help us all.


There’s no shortage of oys in the world but Jewish News takes every opportunity to celebrate the joys too, through projects like Night of Heroes, 40 Under 40 and other compelling countdowns that make the community kvell with pride.


In the first collaboration between media outlets from different faiths, Jewish News worked with British Muslim TV and Church Times to produce a list of young activists leading the way on interfaith understanding.


Royal Mail issued a stamp honouring Holocaust hero Sir Nicholas Winton after a Jewish News campaign attracted more than 100,000 backers. Jewish Newsalso produces special editions of the paper highlighting pressing issues including mental health and Holocaust remembrance.

Easy access

In an age when news is readily accessible, Jewish News provides high-quality content free online and offline, removing any financial barriers to connecting people.

Voice of our community to wider society

The Jewish News team regularly appears on TV, radio and on the pages of the national press to comment on stories about the Jewish community. Easy access to the paper on the streets of London also means Jewish News provides an invaluable window into the community for the country at large.

We hope you agree all this is worth preserving.

read more: