Anti-Palestinianism, suspect communities and racist backlash (10 – 24 October 2023)

Anti-Palestinianism, suspect communities and racist backlash (10 – 24 October 2023)


Written by: IRR News Team


Asylum and migrant rights  

23 October: A coalition of charities and groups hopes to urge the UK government to introduce a package of emergency measures, including a family reunion scheme for Palestinians in Gaza and a medical evacuation programme for people in need of specialist care. (Guardian, 23 October 2023) 


24 October: The immigration minister tells the Commons he has begun the process of deporting foreign nationals and revoking visas of anyone whose behaviour is deemed to spread ‘hate and division’ or incite antisemitism, even if it falls ‘below the criminal standard,’ and has written to chief constables asking them to identify examples for consideration to the Home Office. (Guardian, 25 October 2023)


18 October: As Labour councillors in areas with large Muslim communities resign over the leadership’s ‘unwillingness to show value to the humanity of Palestinian lives’, Keir Starmer writes to Labour councillors in an attempt to clarify comments made in an LBC interview in which he said Israel had ‘the right’ to withhold water and power from Palestinians. (Guardian, 16 October 2023, Guardian, 18 October 2023) 

16 October: Foreign secretary James Cleverly tells pro-Palestinian protesters to stay at home, saying there is no need for people to come out as it ‘causes distress’ to the Jewish community. Labour Party general secretary David Evans writes to members, councillors and MPs advising against attending pro-Palestine demonstrations, and local branches are told that debate on Israel-Palestine is forbidden. (Open Democracy, 16 October 2023; Sky News, 10 October 2023) 

19 October: Minister Michael Gove brings forward the third reading of the bill banning public bodies from boycotting Israel. (Guardian, 19 October 2023)  

19 October: Tory baroness Sayeeda Warsi warns the Labour Party against advising its councillors not to attend pro-Palestine demonstrations. (Guardian, 19 October 2023) 


10 October: Suella Braverman tells police that waving a Palestine flag and pro-Palestinian chants could, depending on context, be a criminal offence and urges them to clamp down on any attempts to harass or intimidate Jewish people. Rishi Sunak had already vowed that supporters of Hamas would be ‘held to account’. (Guardian, 10 October 2023)  

Palestine solidarity march on 21st October. Credit: Jago Stock

13 October: The French government bans pro-Palestinian demonstrations in the name of ‘public order’ and police use tear gas and water cannon to disperse protesters in central Paris. The interior minister says 24 people have been arrested across France for ‘anti-Semitic acts’ and any foreigner involved should be expelled ‘without delay’. (Al Jazeera, 16 October 2023; Guardian, 13 October 2023) 

14 October: Four people are arrested for failing to remove face coverings at a Palestine solidarity march in London while wearing the Keffiyeh, a scarf that is symbolic of Palestinian nationalism and is traditionally worn around the head. Some of those arrested are referred to youth offending teams. (Met Police, 15 October 2023; Open Democracy, 16 October 2023) 

16 October: Palestinian feminist and PFLP member Maryam Abu Daqqa is  arrested during a speaker’s tour of France and placed under house arrest pending deportation on the grounds of representing ‘a threat to public order amid the war between Israel and Gaza’. (National News, 16 October 2023) 

18 October: Following a complaint against a pro-Palestine activist made in 2021 for ‘inciting hatred and violence against Jews’ the Dutch public prosecutor finds no criminal conduct took place. Slogans such as ‘from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free’,  are ‘subject to various interpretations’, rather than calls for illegal action, and these expressions ‘relate to the state of Israel and possibly to people with Israeli citizenship, but do not relate to Jews because of their race or religion’. (ELSC, 18 October 2023) 

20 October: As more demonstrations take place in support of Palestine, Amnesty International calls on the police to respect freedom of expression and to respect legitimate symbols, such as flags or keffiyehs, or chants at demonstrations. (AI, 20 October 2023)  

Palestine solidarity march on 21st October. Credit: Jago Stock

20 October: Following claims from pro-Israel groups that the chant ‘from the river to the sea’ is antisemitic, the Met police announce that that they do not consider the chant an ‘arrestable offence’ in a protest setting, though if it were used to intimidate or harass Jewish people it would be considered an offence. (Middle East Eye, 20 October 2022) 

21 October: The Met and the CPS decide that banners referring to ‘Muslim armies’ or chants such as ‘jihad’ used on a Hizb ut-Tahrir Britain protest were not unlawful. (Metropolitan Police, 21 October 2023) 

23 October: The home secretary asks the Met Police Commissioner to explain why no action was taken against demonstrators who chanted about ‘jihad’ during a Hizb ut-Tahrir protest in support of Palestine. Counter-terrorism officers say the government is to blame for not responding to repeated requests to change the law to allow for prosecutions. (Guardian, 23 October 2023) 

23 October: For the first time since the start of the war in Gaza, demonstrations in solidarity with Palestine are authorised across France, following a legal ruling that pro-Palestinian demonstrations cannot be banned by a blanket order from the minister of the interior and should be subject to the decision of prefects on a case-by-case basis.  (Le Monde, 23 October 2023) 

23 Germany: In Berlin, Germany, after the phrase ‘From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free’, is chanted at several pro-Palestine demonstrations, state prosecutors launch an investigation into the phrase as potential ‘hate speech’. (Deutsche Welle, 23 October 2023) 

24 October: In Twickenham, west London, three teenagers are arrested on suspicion of racially aggravated criminal damage and inciting racial hatred after reports that a group of teenagers chanted ‘Free Palestine’ and attempted to set fire to the Union Jack. (Evening Standard, 24 October 2023) 

24 October: In Germany, where the police have pre-emptively banned most pro-Palestinian rallies,  the  commissioner on antisemitism warns of an erosion of ‘basic rights’ in relation to expressions of support for the Palestinian people. (Guardian, 24 October 2023)

25 October: Prominent Jewish personalities across Germany sign an  open letter condemning the police crackdown on  pro-Palestinian public rallies,  particularly in immigrant and minority neighbourhoods, with Neuköln, Berlin now under police occupation.   ‘Jewish Berliners Against Violence in the Middle East’ have also had protest events cancelled, and a   Jewish Israeli woman was prosecuted for holding a sign denouncing the war.  Police bans cite the ‘imminent risk’ of ‘seditious, anti-Semitic exclamations’. (npluszonemag, 25 October 2023)


17 October: West London surgeon Professor Ghassan Abu-Sittah, who is currently in Gaza assisting medics and injured children, tells BBC Newsnight that British counter-terrorism police  visited his London home, ‘harassed’ his family, and questioned his wife as to why he had travelled to Palestine, who paid for his ticket and which charity he was helping. (BBC, 17 October 2023)

23 October: Following a joint French-Belgian police operation, four teenagers all under 16, two of Chechen descent, are arrested for planning an attack on the Israeli embassy earlier this year, with one tweeting ‘our goal is to terrorise the Jews’. (Brussels Times, 23 October 2023) 

23 October: In a Commons debate it emerges that Mohammad Yasin, a Labour MP and committee member, was held for questioning by both British and Canadian officials before being allowed to fly to a meeting in Canada on ‘levelling up, housing and communities’. (Guardian, 23 October 2023) 


12 October: According to the Telegraph, Immigration minister Robert Jenrick has commissioned Home Office officials to investigate how they could revoke visas and expel foreign students who ‘praise Hamas’. (Telegraph, 12 October 2023) 

13 October: SOAS, University of London suspends a number of students who attended a rally in solidarity with the people of Gaza. Members of the Palestine Society who were not present at the rally say there are issued with formal warnings of disciplinary proceedings. (SOAS Palestine Society, 13 October 2023) 

16 October: The Times claims to have ‘identified a dozen academics at Oxbridge and Russell Group universities who have posted statements appearing to justify the weekend’s attacks on Israel’. One of those listed had simply called for solidarity with the Palestinian struggle. (Open Democracy, 16 October 2023) 

18 October: The Union of Jewish Students writes to all university student unions and vice-chancellors calling for greater support for Jewish students and zero tolerance of any sign of support for Hamas.(Guardian, 18 October 2023)

18 October: Misogynist Andrew Tate, under investigation for human trafficking allegations in Romania, buys the domain name in an attempt to move into ‘online education’ and teach ‘real life skills’. (THE, 18 October 2023)

20 October: Amnesty International criticises letters sent out by the education secretary to  vice-chancellors, schools and college leaders, which include references to the Prevent duty, saying it should not be used as a ‘pretext to unduly restrict freedom of expression or association in schools and colleges’. (AI, 20 October 2023) 

24 October: Academics specialising in the Middle East warn that the debate about the current situation in Israel and Gaza is being stifled because of an ‘atmosphere of fear’ caused by cancellations, online threats and government rhetoric, with universities not doing enough to protect free speech and academic freedom. The cancellation by Liverpool Hope University of a planned lecture on Israel by Oxford historian Avi Shlaim because of concerns about the ‘well-being and safety’ of its students is cited. (THE, 24 October 2023, THE, 20 October 2023) 

24 October: The Union of Jewish Students reports over 150 calls to its dedicated hotline reporting incidents of verbal abuse, intimidation and the targeting of Jewish students’ accommodation. In one incident, a WhatsApp group used by a Jewish society was infiltrated and bombarded with antisemitic threats. (THE, 24 October 2023) 

24 October: Education authorities in Berlin are criticised after telling schools that  ban students from wearing the Palestinian flag, kufiya scarf and ‘free Palestine’ stickers. ‘A  general suspicion that all Muslims are antisemites doesn’t help’, says Germany’s federal antisemitism commissioner Felix Klein. (Guardian, 24 October 2023) 


23 October: Transport for London suspends a tube driver who appeared in a viral video to lead a “free, free Palestine” chant on a Central line train carrying many passengers to the London solidarity protest on 21 October. (Mirror, 23 October 2023) 


11 October: Scotland’s first minister Humza Yousaf, whose parents-in-law are trapped in the Gaza strip, says the collective punishment of millions of people in Gaza is not justified. (Al Jazeera, 11 October 2023) 

17 October: The British Palestinian Committee criticises the government’s response to ‘atrocities in their homeland’, demanding that public bodies ‘uphold their legal responsibilities to protect equal participation in democratic and civic space, by defending the rights of Palestinians in Britain and those who stand with our people in a spirit of solidarity and common humanity’. (British Palestinian Committee, 17 October 2023) 


11 October: In France, the mayor of Choisy-le-Roi, citing ‘respect for all victims’ as his motive, stops the staging in Paris of the play ‘And Here I am’ by Hassan Abdulrazzak. The artists, from the Freedom Theatre in Jenin refugee camp, had risked their safety to travel to France. (Freedom Theatre, 11 October 2023) 

12 October: The Palestinian Literature Festival is forced to cancel a book launch for Jewish American journalist Nathan Thrall’s book ‘A Day in the Life of Abed Salama: A Palestine Story,’ after the Metropolitan Police contacted the host organisation citing ‘security concerns’. (Open Democracy, 16 October 2023) 

13 October: Rabbi Alex Goldberg resigns from his position on the Football Association’s faith group over the organisation’s decision not to light up the Wembley Arch in the colours of the Israeli flag following Hamas’ attack on Israel. (Independent, 13 October 2023) 

14 October: In France, Nice FC suspends footballer Youcef Atal after he shared a video in which a preacher called for violence against Jewish people. In a subsequent post Atal apologises and states that he does not support a message of hate’. A criminal investigation is launched for ‘glorifying terrorism’ and ‘public incitement to hatred or violence because of a particular religion’. (Al Jazeera, 14 October 2023, Al Jazeera, 18 October 2023) 

14 October: Frankfurt Book Fair is criticised after it ‘postpones’ an award ceremony for Palestinian author Adania Shibli, who was supposed to be honoured as a woman writer from the Global South publishing in German. (Deutsche Welle, October 2023) 

16 October: The Guardian says it will not renew cartoonist Steve Bell’s contract after 40 years over a cartoon he submitted, claiming his depiction of Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu preparing to operate on his own stomach with an outline of Gaza, evokes the antisemitic ‘pound of flesh’ trope. A bemused Bell says he was inspired by an old cartoon of US president Lyndon Johnson during the Vietnam war. (Al Jazeera, 16 October 2023) 

16 October: Ofcom suspends online safety supervision director Fadzai Madzingira after she posted a story describing Israel as an ‘Apartheid State’ on her private Instagram account. (BBC News, 16 October 2023) 

16 October: Six BBC Arabic reporters are taken off for breaching impartiality guidelines after liking tweets that supported Palestine or criticised Israel. (Financial Times, 16 October 2023) 

16 October: The BBC issues a statement correcting coverage of protests over the weekend in solidarity with Palestine. After having claimed that ‘people voiced their backing for Hamas’ at the protest, it admits that this was a  ‘poorly phrased’ and ‘misleading’ description of the ‘pro-Palestinian demonstrations’. (The New Arab, 16 October 2023, AA, 17 October 2023)

17 October: In Germany, Mainz 05 suspends Anwar El Ghazi after he posted the phrase ‘From the river to the sea, Palestine shall be free’, deemed ‘not compatible with the values of the club’, and refused a request by Mainz 05 to film a video apologising for his stance. Bayern Munich declines to punish defender Noussair Mazraoui for a similar post. (BBC Sport, 17 October 2023; Morocco World News, 19 October 2023, Deutsche Welle, 23 October 2023) 

17 October: ITV’s Good Morning Britain apologises on-air for ‘upset’ to viewers after complaints about Richard Madeley, interviewing Liberal Democrat British-Palestinian MP Layla Moran, asking her whether she or her family knew a Hamas attack was imminent. Bell Ribeiro-Addy MP tweets that ‘conflating the actions of Hamas with those of Palestinian families in this way is straightforward racism’. (Independent, 17 October 2023, Twitter, 17 October 2023) 

17 October: Egyptian swimmer Abdelrahman Sameh wins a gold medal at the Swimming World Cup in Greece, then receives death threats for showing solidarity with Palestinians. After the Israel Swimming Association demands ‘action against swimmers who support terrorism’, World Aquatics seemingly crops Sameh’s picture from an image of medallists, leading to the hasthtag WeStandWithAbdelrahmanSameh. (Al Jazeera, 17 October 2023) 

18 October: Following the attack on Al Ahli hospital, Israel and Tottenham Hotspur player Manor Solomon writes a post stating that Islamic Jihad are ‘Killing their own people’ before sharing an Isaac Herzog post stating that ‘Israel is standing against an enemy made of pure evil’. (Daily Mail, 18 October 2023) 

19 October: The Israeli government posts on X that the initial coverage by the BBC of the explosion at al-Ahli Arab hospital in Gaza was tantamount to a modern ‘blood libel’. The correspondent had speculated that the blast was likely the result of an Israeli rocket. (Guardian, 19 October 2023) 

19 October: 4Q4 Media Instagram ‘sincerely apologises’ for auto-translating phrases that included ‘Palestinian’ and ‘alhamdullah’ into ‘Praise be to God, Palestinian terrorists are fighting for their freedom’. Parent company Meta blames a bug that generated ‘inappropriate’ auto-translation. (404media, 19 October 2023, Guardian, 20 October 2023) 

19 October: An investigation by The Intercept claims that one of Europe’s largest news aggregators Upday hands out directives to ensure the company’s news coverage maintains a pro-Israel sentiment. Employees are allegedly directed to minimise coverage of Palestinian civilian deaths and maintain parent company Axel Springer’s support for Israel. (The Intercept, 19 October 2023) 

20 October: In Spain, Israeli footballer Shon Weissman does not travel with his club to Pamplona due to concerns of backlash from Osasuna fans following his social media posts which called for the execution of Palestinian prisoners and the erasure of Gaza. (AP News, 20 October 2023; Marca, 13 October 2023) 

21 October: After issuing an alert claiming that flags similar to the ISIS flag and calling for ‘jihad’ were displayed at a pro-Palestine demonstration in London where calls were allegedly made for the ‘genocide of Jews’, the Met police delete the alert and point out that the flags represent ‘shahada’, a declaration of faith in Islam, while condemning the ‘unacceptable’ abuse the original post received. (Metropolitan Police, 22 October 2023) 

21 October: Sky News makes an on-air correction to a claim by Kay Burley that Palestinian ambassador to the UK Husam Zomlot, who lost six family members in Israeli airstrikes on Gaza, said ‘Israel had it coming’ when he hadn’t. (Independent, 19 October 2023, Metro, 21 October 2023)  

21 October: Footballer Karim Benzema  threatens legal action against French interior minister Gérald Darmanin and MEP Nadine Morano. Darmanin accused Benzema of having ‘well-known links’ to the Muslim Brotherhood, and Morano described Benzema as an ‘element of propaganda for Hamas’ after the footballer tweeted an offer of prayers to the people of Gaza as ‘victims again of unjust bombardments which spare neither women nor children’. (BBC News, 21 October 2023) 

21 October: In Switzerland, organisers cancel the upcoming concerts of Turkish pianist and composer Fazil Say due to his statements on X that called for Netanyahu to stand trial for war crimes and an end to barbarity in the region. (Daily Sabah, 21 October 2023) 

22 October: Paddy Cosgrave, CEO of the European technology conference Web Summit, resigns after sponsors’ and attendees’ anger over public comments in which he accused Israel of ‘war crimes’ in breach of international law. He apologises for any ‘hurt’ he has caused. Meta, Google and Stripe had said they would boycott the World Summit in November in protest at Cosgrave’s comments. (Al Jazeera, 22 October 2023) 

24 October: Social media users including filmmaker Thomas Maddens accuse the world’s largest social media platforms Facebook, Instagram, X, YouTube and TikTok of censoring accounts or actively reducing the reach of pro-Palestine content, a practice known as shadowbanning. (Al Jazeera, 24 October 2023) 


15 October: Greater Manchester Police deploy extra officers to counter hate crimes as antisemitic incidents increase. Bury council leader expresses concern about the escalation. (Guardian, 15 October 2023) 

16 October: Islamophobic graffiti are plastered across bus stops across London, with London Assembly member Hina Bokhari first spotting the graffiti in New Malden and criticising the lack of any police response. (My London, 16 October 2023) 

17 October: Red paint is thrown at two Jewish primary schools in Stoke Newington and Finsbury Park in north London. Scotland Yard report 105 antisemitic incidents and 75 antisemitic offences in London between September 30 and October 13, compared with 14 incidents and 12 offences in the same period last year. (Evening Standard, 17 October 2023) 

17 October: A video emerges of a man threatening to kill Unicef workers in Milan, Italy, if they say the word ‘”Palestine” one more time’. (Al Jazeera, 17 October 2023) 

18 October: Germany’s chancellor vows to fight antisemitism after Molotov cocktails are thrown at a synagogue by two masked men shouting ‘anti-Israeli’ slogans in the Mitte district of Berlin. No one was injured. Police investigate ‘aggravated arson’ (Al Jazeera, 18 October 2023) 

20 October: Staff at a Palestinian takeaway in London are frightened to go to work after the restaurant receives deaths threats ten to twenty times a day, with the BBC obtaining audio recordings of the threats. (BBC News, 20 October 2023) 

20 October: Police officers are on standby outside Whitechapel Mosque, east London for Friday prayers following ‘noises’ of a heightened risk to Muslims, with reports of women being abused on the street and having headscarves pulled. (Guardian, 20 October 2023) 

20 October: According to the Metropolitan Police, hate crimes against Jews and Muslims increased as the Middle East crisis erupted. Between 1 and 18 October London recorded 218 antisemitic incidents (compared with 15 in the same period last year) and 103 Islamophobic offences (compared with 42 in same period last year). (Guardian, 20 October 2023) 

24 October: Germany’s antisemitism commissioner condemns the increase in anti-Jewish violence, citing cases in Berlin where houses occupied by Jews have been marked with a Star of David, also expressing concern that pro-Palestine freedom of peaceful protest is being curtailed by police and school authorities. (Guardian, 24 October 2023) 

Feature image: Pixellated image with silenced over it from a palestine solidarity march on 21st October. Original image credit: Jago Stock


The Institute of Race Relations is precluded from expressing a corporate view: any opinions expressed are therefore those of the authors.

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