‘Famous British tolerance’ stretched to breaking point, says journalist behind October Declaration

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‘Famous British tolerance’ stretched to breaking point, says journalist behind October Declaration

Allison Pearson takes part in a wide-ranging Q&A session moderated by Gary Mond, chair of the National Jewish Assembly

Jenni Frazer is a freelance journalist

The journalist behind the 75,000-signature-strong October Declaration, supporting Israel in its war with Hamas, has told a Jewish audience that the “famous British tolerance” is being stretched to breaking point by nationwide anti-Israel protests.

But the Daily Telegraph columnist Allison Pearson, a founder of the new British Friends of Israel, told her online audience: “This too shall pass.”

The October Declaration, begun in the wake of the Hamas attacks on Israel, says its signatories are “a group of concerned British citizens and residents from a wide range of backgrounds and professions who stand in solidarity with British Jews and condemn all forms of antisemitism, whether in Britain or elsewhere.” Signatories include government ministers Michael Gove and Lucy Frazer, as well as people from the arts world such as Sir Tom Stoppard and actor Tom Conti.

The declaration also urges the BBC and other broadcasters to describe Hamas as terrorists rather than militants, and calls on the police to do more to enforce the law against those who promote terror in this country.

Pearson, who is not Jewish but who described herself as “an honorary Jewish mother”, took part in a long and wide-ranging question and answer session monitored by Gary Mond, chair of the National Jewish Assembly (NJA).

Acknowledging the current “appalling” level of antisemitic abuse, both verbal and physical, Ms Pearson nevertheless told one audience member: “We’re not in Poland in 1941. We’re just not”.

Speaking to an NJA online audience, Pearson detailed the beginnings of the October Declaration, which she helped start with another journalist, Laura Dodsworth. She said the Declaration now had more than 75,000 verified signatures and believed it would not take long before there were 100,000 supporters.

She said she thought that “the famous British tolerance” was “being stretched to breaking point” in respect of the huge numbers of pro-Palestinian, anti-Israel demonstrations, and said that many people “want to see the police being a lot tougher”.

She herself, she said, was preparing to travel to London this weekend in order to help defend monuments such as the Cenotaph from vandalism. What Britain was witnessing, she said, was “the civilised world against barbarism,” and that was why she had felt compelled to  act.

Gary Mond, NJA chair, said: “The key message from this meeting is, that contrary to worries understandably expressed by some, the Jewish community in this country is not alone. There are many others on the UK who are utterly appalled by the horrendous rise in antisemitism and the Jew-hatred emanating from the so-called “pro Palestine” supporters. Going forward, we need to work together with the numerous friends and champions of Israel among non-Jewish communities —and together we can defeat this cancer.”

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