Picture the scene. A female police officer — hi-viz police jacket, regulation black hat, facemask slipping from her nose — punches the air, proclaiming: ‘free, free Palestine!’ Her words are met with cheers from the crowd at the anti-Israel rally in central London that she was supposed to be policing.
Actually, you don’t have to bother picturing the scene. Just watch the video clip below to see a perfect symbol of the toxic blend of state authoritarianism and hard-left politics that is creeping across British institutions today.
After I posted the video on Twitter, the Metropolitan Police said it was ‘reviewing the footage’ and would provide an update ‘shortly’. One wonders how long the investigation will take.
On the face of it, this would seem an egregious breach of the police’s Code of Ethics:
‘We do not favour one person or group over another, acknowledging that discrimination increases feelings of unfairness and makes our jobs harder to do.’
— Jake Wallis Simons (@JakeWSimons) May 18, 2021
I wonder if this is the best way for a police officer to behave? pic.twitter.com/86xy4Jg4F6
Indeed. In the wake of a wave of anti-Semitism unleashed across the country over the weekend – including the serious assault on a rabbi in Essex and a gang of northern lads on a convoy through north London yelling that when it came to Jews, they intended to ‘f*** their mothers, rape their daughters’ – the community is feeling pretty unsafe right now. Security has been stepped up. Now, if you were a synagogue-goer, would you want to arrive at your place of worship on Saturday to see a certain police officer guarding the gates? What if you worked at the Israeli embassy?
Not that the impulse to support the Palestinians is anti-Semitic, of course. Even the WPC’s slogan itself, ‘free Palestine’, was not, in itself, offensive. But it was certainly political. Given the febrile atmosphere surrounding the conflict at present, and the violence it has sparked so far, for a uniformed officer to jettison impartiality in this way undermines the credibility of the police in Jewish communities. It would also have been wrong for this policewoman to unfurl an Israeli flag and sang Yerushalayim Shel Zahav, though that is rather harder to imagine.
Even now, I’m giving her a generous benefit of the doubt. The chant of ‘free Palestine’ at these demonstrations is almost always accompanied by more objectionable slogans. Like ‘from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free’, for instance, which effectively calls for the obliteration of Israel. As a video of a recent rally in Vienna showed — a cry of ‘stick your Holocaust up your ass’ received rapturous applause from the crowd — anti-Semitism bubbles under the surface at these events, and a sense of relief erupts through the crowd as soon as somebody is bold enough to give it voice.
When I posted the video on Twitter, I accompanied it with a simple question:
‘is this the best way for a police officer to behave?’
The number of emphatic replies in the affirmative was striking. What were they envisaging? Armies of yellow-clad bobbies taking to the streets and chanting about rivers and seas? To those people, all I can say is this: be careful what you wish for. When that yellow army rallies in favour of other leftist causes, such as LGBT rights, for instance, one suspects it might not go down so well amongst anti-Zionists of a conservative religious persuasion.
What is going on with the Metropolitan police? Last month, a serving police officer in north London, Benjamin Hannam, was sentenced to four years and four months in prison for secretly belonging to a banned neo-Nazi group. A few weeks later, officers dragged a polite, 71-year-old Christian street preacher from his stepladder and arrested him outside Uxbridge station for making the ‘homophobic’ statement that marriage was between a man and a woman. And in June, we were treated to the spectacle of police officers dropping to one knee before Black Lives Matter protesters outside Downing Street.
In all this, ordinary people are being left behind. As we have seen many times, from the Brexit vote to the toppling of Corbyn to the blueing of Hartlepool, Brits are not as in thrall to the hard-left as those in the Islington bubble would like to think.
I suspect most people know how they would want their government to react if 1,000 missiles a day were being launched at their own capital city. And they understand that Islamic terrorists are not, as Jeremy Corbyn famously put it, our ‘friends’. Because it’s very easy to cheer on jihadi violence — until it arrives on the streets of London. That's when the quality of our police officers really counts.