Lib Dem mayoral candidate says ‘from the river’ chant antisemitic in most instances

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Lib Dem mayoral candidate says ‘from the river’ chant antisemitic in most instances

Rob Blackie says that in some cases protesters are ignorant but that in the majority of cases it is ‘obviously antisemitism’

Lee Harpin is the Jewish News's political editor

Gavin Stollar, (seated) with Lib Dem London mayoral candidate Rob Blackie
Gavin Stollar, (seated) with Lib Dem London mayoral candidate Rob Blackie

The Liberal Democrats London mayoral candidate has said the pro-Palestinian chant of “from the river to the sea” is antisemitic when used at protests in the the capital in “most circumstances”.

Speaking at the latest London Jewish Forum mayoral election breakfast event at JW3 Rob Blackie was asked for his view on the policing of the regular protests since October 7th and claims that London’s streets become unsafe when demos are held.

He said: “Keeping London welcoming means everybody has to feel safe in our city, so when we fail to do that it is a failure for everyone.”

Stressing he was not a lawyer himself, Blackie added:”Common sense is that some of the things that are chanted like ‘From the river to the sea (Palestine will be free)’ are clearly antisemitic.

“Maybe some people might be doing that out of ignorance, but I think most of the time it’s pretty obvious.

“In most circumstances chanting that is obviously antisemitism.”

In the last of four LJF events, with the Green, Labour and Tory candidates have already held sessions, the Lib Dem candidate was careful not to be too critical of the policing of demos in the capital.

Jewish News has partnered with the organisers during all four events, and will also support a hustings with all four candidates next month.

He said that it was “difficult” making more arrests  “because policing demos is very manpower intensive, for every one person you arrest you probably need 20 police officers.”

Blackie added:”I think not recognised enough is quite how overstretched police in London are right now. ”

He was also loath to criticise current mayor Sadiq Khan on his attempts to call out antisemitism in the capital. But the Lib Dem candidate said he would have spent the past four years “fixing” the situation so there were more police available in the capital.

Blackie said the Metropolitan Police also had a significantly high number of police working in back office roles, rather than on the front line.

Later he praised Layla Moran, the Lib Dem foreign affairs spokesperson, who has a Christian Palestinian background, and while speaking out on the devastating humanitarian crisis in Gaza and the loss of innocent lives, has never been afraid to call out the atrocities committed by Hamas.

“I agree with Layla on almost everything,” said Blackie, who was introduced to the audience by Liberal Democrat Friends of Israel honorary chair Gavin Stollar.

Thursday’s event took place at JW3 two days after Sadiq Khan had appeared at a similar early morning session. Tory mayoral candidate Susan Hall had appeared on Monday, while the Green candidate Zoë Garbett took part in a breakfast event last week.

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