LONDON - Despite the July 4 being a Shabbat, a large number of Jews will be joining members of other faiths and those of none, to demonstrate their abhorrence of what can only be described as an “anti-Jew” rally planned for the Saturday afternoon in one of the heartlands of London Jewry, northwest London’s Golders Green area.
Whipping up the atmosphere in advance of their rally, Joshua Bonehill-Paine, a notorious white supremacist activist, used his website last week to announce that at the rally against the “Jewification of Britain,” it was his intention to destroy Israeli flags and hold a “private ceremony” to burn copies of the Talmudic “in recognition of its racist anti-white teachings.”
He explained that destroying Israeli flags would be “in solidarity with those oppressed by the illegal state of Israel,” and he invited activists to bring Israeli flags “as we will be destroying them in an act of opposition to Israel.”
Bonehill-Paine added that to avoid prosecution for burning national flags, the Israeli flags would be “dismembered by hand.”
“This will be a show of solidarity by English people who recognize that Israel is a corrupt state which is responsible for horrific war crimes,” he said.
Bonehill-Paine has given notice of further similar events in nearby Finchley and a return to Stamford Hill, site of the largest haredi community in Britain. His last rally there in March, highly publicized as it was, did not strike a chord with many of his claimed followers, just 30 turned up and the Jewish community chose to ignore the provocation.
The Golders Green rally, however, has struck a raw nerve in Anglo Jewry and the Board of Deputies of British Jews among others has begun urging the community to show their presence in a dignified manner without breaking Shabbat, under a multifaith “Golders Green together” banner, co-sponsored by the London Jewish Forum and the national anti-racist group Hope not Hate.
Bonehill-Paine is a relative unknown in terms of right-wing extremists. With the demise of groups such as the British National Party and the National Front, little has been heard from the organized wing of the far Right for a number of years.
He has faced a series of criminal charges for incidents including malicious communications and harassment. Security expert Graham Cluley in March 2014 described Bonehill-Paine’s website as “moronic” after he admitted in court that he had published false claims about immigrants.
The local weekly newspaper the Hampstead & Highgate Express disclosed that Bonehill-Paine has just been barred from his own demonstration by the police who have told him he is banned from appearing anywhere in London as part of his current bail conditions.
Keeping up his reputation as an “Internet troll,” he has since used his blog to announce that he had asked another rightwing extremist, Eddie Stampton, to take over organizing the Golders Green rally, alongside Piers Mellor, the man behind the New Dawn Party.
But showing total disarray among the farright splinter groups, a couple of days later, Stampton was removed as stand-in organizer as he had allegedly invited a Jewish speaker to participate. Bonehill-Paine claimed that allegations that New Dawn was behind his rally were “completely untrue and unfounded,” and he went on to state that due to Stampton’s “incompetency” and the “failures” of New Dawn, “I will now be leading and fronting the campaign myself.”
Jewish community representatives, meanwhile, have repeatedly said they are not intimidated by the planned demonstration.
At a briefing meeting held on Sunday attended by communal leaders and activists, and the police, the Community Security Trust made clear it was “concerned and repelled” by the extremists’ plans but recalled that Bonehill-Paine was “essentially a provocateur who has not shown the capacity to mobilize large numbers of people to attend far-right events.”
The CST and the Board of Deputies of British Jews has appealed to Home Secretary Theresa May to try and ban the rally, but her hands are tied by Public Order legislation which gives her the power to ban provocative marches but not static demonstrations.
The police hesitated to request a banning order, fearing it will make them look incapable of maintaining public order.
When Golders Green and Finchley MP Mike Freer questioned British Premier David Cameron about the planned rally last week, Cameron told MPs that the right to freedom of speech and freedom of assembly did not extend to “harassment or threatening behavior.”
He added to cheers of agreement from all sides of the Commons, “Where any criminal offenses are committed and where individuals have demonstrated anti-Semitic hostility they should face the full force of the law.”
North London’s police chief had told Jewish communal leaders that once he has evidence that the rally will be anti-Semitic, he will exercise his local powers and ban the event. Adrian Usher, the Barnet borough commander, added that if it could be proved that the rally was “motivated by anti-Semitism, then that is clearly against the law and we will take robust action.”
It was made clear that moving to prohibit all protests in the borough for a month would be a last resort, it’s a measure that has only been used once before.
Last week local communal leaders launched the Golders Green Together campaign together with representatives of the Muslim, Sikh, Anglican, Methodist and Hindu communities.
Anglican vicar Rex Morton, of Golders Green Parish Church, said: “The idea that people would want to come and march against any part of our community is abhorrent. Jews and Christians have been here for yonks; we’ve lived happily together for decades.”
Reacting to the most recent threats on the Internet, a Board of Deputies spokesman told The Jerusalem Post that they were “grossly offensive statements by a tiny group of pathetic individuals. We would urge everyone to join our Golders Green Together campaign against hate.”
And CST Director of Communications Mark Gardner told the Post that it was a series of attempted provocations in Jewish areas, hitherto involving a relatively small and isolated group of middle-aged anti-Semitic neo-Nazis.
“CST is working with the local community, council and police to ensure that Jewish life can continue as normal. The purpose of CST is to facilitate communal life and we will do so: for those who seek a normal Shabbat and also for those who want to counter-protest. It is important that people distinguish rumor from fact in all of this, including various claims being made on the Internet by attention- seekers,” he said.