This week, James Cleverly, the Home Secretary, announced several proposed amendments to the Criminal Justice Bill, in a clear and targeted rebuke to anti-Israel marchers deliberately causing disruption in London and around the country and outraging the public over behaviour at war memorials and launching fireworks at police.
Mr Cleverly has proposed the following changes to the Criminal Justice Bill:
- Creating a new offence of desecrating a war memorial punishable by up to three months’ imprisonment and a fine of up to £1,000;
- Creating a new offence which would make it illegal for someone to have a pyrotechnic article in their possession during a procession or assembly. Offenders could receive a fine of up to £1,000;
- Providing the police with new powers to arrest protesters wearing face coverings to conceal their identity. Offenders could receive a fine of up to £1,000 and a month in prison;
- Modifying the reasonable excuse defence that is currently available concerning certain public order offences to prevent a minority of protesters from deliberately causing serious disruption while exploiting defences relating to the right to protest.
Campaign Against Antisemitism’s Demonstration and Event Monitoring Unit has for months observed protesters causing severe disruption to the public during their weekly anti-Israel demonstrations, including launching fireworks at police officers; desecrating war memorials; and preventing members of the public from travelling.
A further effect of these weekly protests is that a staggering 90% of British Jews say that they would avoid travelling to a city centre if a major anti-Israel demonstration was taking place there.
With protesters using rhetoric like, “Zionists are like Nazis, and if that’s antisemitic then f*** it. I don’t care” in last week’s protests, that sentiment is not surprising.
You can watch interviews, captured by our Demonstration and Event Monitoring Unit and Communications team, here.
For months now, we have been asking for tougher restrictions to be placed on these protests, which have made our urban centres no-go zones for Jews. While the police have failed the Jewish community and law-abiding Londoners, the Government, to its credit, is listening.
These new laws will help address the mob mentality that we have observed in these protests. There is no justification for such scenes, and now, there will be no legal defence.
The people of this country expect the lawlessness on our streets to be brought firmly under control, and with these changes there are now even fewer excuses for police inaction.
The Prime Minister recently explained how the weekly protests prompted the Government to act.
What is happening on British campuses?
In the past week, Jewish students at Birmingham had to face signs reading “Zionists off our campus”.
Our most recent polling shows that only 6% of Jews do not consider themselves to be Zionists. The University of Birmingham claims that it offers a “welcoming and supportive environment”. It doesn’t look that way.
At the University of Leeds, the synagogue and Hillel Jewish student centre was vandalised with graffiti reading “IDF off campus” and “Free Palestine”, and there are reports that the Jewish chaplain has received death threats.
Less than a day later, students on the same campus voiced support for the Houthi rebels in Yemen at an anti-Israel protest. The motto of the Houthis is: “Allah is the greatest, death to America, death to Israel, a curse upon the Jews, victory to Islam.”
When support for an organisation that openly parades its antisemitism goes unchallenged on a university campus, what message is this sending to its Jewish students? What message does it send when they chant “There are many, many more of us than you”?
This is not some sort of social justice movement. It is an attempt by thugs to intimidate Jews and drive them out of our universities. The reaction of the universities must be swift and severe.
What does the David Miller judgment mean?
David Miller, a disgraced academic obsessed with anti-Jewish conspiracy theories, was fired by the University of Bristol in 2021 following a Jewish communal outcry and one month after Campaign Against Antisemitism commenced a lawsuit on behalf of students against the institution.
Prof. Miller has a long record of inflammatory statements about the Jewish community. He now regularly appears on the Iranian state propaganda channel, Press TV.
Prof. Miller later sued the University, and the Bristol Employment Tribunal has now handed down its judgment.
Until this case, the exact reasons for Prof. Miller’s sacking by the University of Bristol were kept from the public. It is now clear that, despite its adoption of the International Definition of Antisemitism, Bristol’s failure to recognise that Prof. Miller’s comments constituted antisemitism, as well as its failure to consider some of his most egregious comments, opened the way for this judgment.
But even so, the tribunal found that Prof. Miller’s misconduct was “extraordinary and ill-judged” and deserving of disciplinary action, albeit that it did not warrant dismissal. He was found to be “culpable and blameworthy”, and, if he had been fired for the right reasons, the result at the tribunal may have been different.
Importantly, the tribunal drastically slashed Prof. Miller’s compensation, including due to his behaviour since being dismissed, which the tribunal found led to a ‘realistic chance that the claimant would have been dismissed’ anyway.
Campaign Against Antisemitism is deeply concerned by the way in which the University of Bristol has handled this matter over the course of years. We hope and expect that Bristol will appeal this decision. We are considering the matter with our lawyers.
To understand better what this judgment does and does not mean, watch this explainer here.
In the wake of the judgment, Kemi Badenoch, the Trade Secretary and Minister for Women and Equalities, told the House of Commons: “It is important to underline that this ruling does not change the fact that, while academics have the right to express views, they cannot behave in a way that amounts to harassment of Jewish students. Disguising this as discourse about Israel would be no more lawful than any other form of antisemitism.”
British universities cannot become places where students or academics attempt to intimidate Jews and drive them off campus. We will continue to do whatever it takes to stop that from happening and hold the thugs accountable.
If you are a student, academic, member of staff or chaplain at a university — or you know somebody who is and needs assistance — please contact us at [email protected].