Antisemitism campaigner Gideon Falter accused of ‘provoking’ incident to halt pro-Palestine protests

An antisemitism campaigner who was threatened with arrest at a pro-Palestine demonstration has been accused of trying to “provoke” an incident to get the protests banned.

Gideon Falter has led calls for Metropolitan Police commissioner Sir Mark Rowley to resign – along with former home secretary Suella Braverman – after clips emerged of an officer threatening to arrest him and describing him as “openly Jewish” at a rally last weekend.

Sir Mark is today meeting the mayor of London and Jewish leaders after his force issued a statement apologising for the incident amid claims the Met’s “inertia” against regular pro-Palestine protests was letting down Jewish Londoners.

However the march organiser Ben Jamal, director of Palestine Solidarity Campaign, has accused Mr Falter – who is chief executive of the Campaign Against Antisemitism (CAA) – of attending the march with a film crew to “provoke a confrontation”.

In a heated clash with Mr Falter on Sky News, Mr Jamal said: “The nature of the incident was not as Mr Falter has tried to portray it.

“The reality was he came to the march with an entourage of four to five people and film crew, sought to break through the stewards, physically pushes himself past the police in order to walk in front of the march to provoke and to try to stop it.”

Falter has been accused of attending the march with a film crew in order to ‘provoke a confrontation’ (PA)
Falter has been accused of attending the march with a film crew in order to ‘provoke a confrontation’ (PA)

He said the officer’s remarks to Mr Falter were “quite disgraceful”, but insisted the CAA is determined to get the pro-Palestine marches banned.

“Since the marches started they have tried to stop them, they have even called to bring the army on to the streets to stop the marches happening,” he added.

“Now they are using the tactic of coming to the marches trying to provoke an incident so that they can say there are scenes of disorder and therefore the marches should not go ahead.

“These are disgraceful antics. They should be shunned by anybody who believes in the right to protests and democratic freedoms.”

Responding, Mr Falter said: “I find that absolutely astonishing. I was not going to try to provoke something. What exactly does he think I’m trying to provoke by being openly Jewish?

“I was not there to counterprotest. I was not there with film crews. I was simply Jewish in the vicinity of these marches.”

The clash came as the prime minister insisted he had confidence in Sir Mark, provided he works to rebuild the trust of the Jewish community and the wider public.

The prime minister told a Downing Street press conference: “I share the shock and the anger that many are feeling when they saw the clips over the weekend.

“And you know what I would say about Mark Rowley and the police, they do have a difficult job, of course I appreciate that.

“But what happened was clearly wrong. And it’s right that they’ve apologised for that.

“And yes, I do have confidence in him, but that’s on the basis that he works to rebuild the confidence and trust of not just the Jewish community, but the wider public, particularly people in London but more broadly.”

Rishi Sunak expressed confidence in Rowley (PA)
Rishi Sunak expressed confidence in Rowley (PA)

He said the home secretary James Cleverly will be meeting the commissioner “later today”.

Meanwhile shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said the incident was “wrongly handled” and it was right the Met had apologised.

Mr Falter previously told ITV’s Good Morning Britain that Jewish communities felt “gaslit” by the Met over the ongoing protests.

“We’ve been gaslit, essentially, for months now by the Met, because the Met keeps saying ‘these things are safe, nothing to worry about, they’re brilliantly policed’, and the reality is that’s not true and it’s so badly policed, that if you are a Jew on the sideline of this thing, they have to threaten you with arrest to get rid of you,” he told the programme.

Meanwhile a former Met chief superintendent said if he were policing the march he would have considered arresting the campaigner for “assault on a police officer and a breach of the peace” after a 13-minute video of the full interaction was published.

Dal Babu said the video was “very illuminating” and showed Mr Falter attempting to push past officers.

“You saw Mr Falter put trying to push past, push police officers out of the way and that is a common assault,” he told Sky News.

Following the exchanges, Mr Falter issued a fresh statement on Monday, saying the Met’s response was “shambolic” and repeating calls for Sir Mark to quit.

A CAA petition calling for the commissioner “to go” has so far accrued more than 8,500 signatures.

Mr Falter said the some of the Met’s statements had been “belligerent” and insisted Sir Mark has not offered to meet him following the incident.

He said: “Some individuals have also been wheeled out to suggest that I provoked the crowd, or that there is somehow more to the story than it appears from the footage. A former Chief Superintendent has even outrageously suggested that I assaulted a police officer and should have been arrested. This has now gone far beyond victim blaming.”

There have been multiple arrests at regular pro-Palestine marches in London since the conflict began (PA)
There have been multiple arrests at regular pro-Palestine marches in London since the conflict began (PA)

The campaigner has said he plans turn up at the next pro-Palestinian march and encouraged others to join him.

His campaign has launched a “walk together” initiative to follow the route of the march and “force the police to make sure that these things are safe for Jewish people”.

Mr Falter added: “The fault lies squarely with Sir Mark. It is time for him to go, and if he does not resign, the mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, and the home secretary, James Cleverly, should remove him from his post.”

A spokesperson for Mr Khan said the Met “must have the confidence of the communities they serve and it is right that they have apologised for the way the incident was handled and their original public response”.

Sir Mark himself has reiterated the force’s apology and acknowledged that some officers’ actions had increased “concerns”.

Representatives from the Community Security Trust (CST) and London Jewish Forum met with Sir Mark and assistant commissioner Matt Twist, who leads public order policing, on Monday morning.

The CST said it would continue to push for a reduction in the number of pro-Palestine protests permitted in central London, adding: “We will continue our dialogue with police later this week to express our concerns regarding the cumulative impact of the repeated anti-Israel protests in terms of disruption and intimidation of the Jewish community.”