UK Home Secretary Suella Braverman ordered on Tuesday UK police increase scrutiny on displays of Palestinian support amidst the recent Hamas attack on Israel. In a letter sent to Chief Constables in England and Wales, Braverman reminded police that the government has recognized Hamas as a terrorist group. Under UK law, it is a criminal offense to show any support towards recognized terrorist groups, such as Hamas.
In the letter, Braverman said she expected “the police to use the full force of the law against displays of support for Hamas.” In the UK, it is a criminal offense for anyone to belong to, invite support for, and gather in support of recognized terrorist group like Hamas. Braverman emphasized that displays of support may include slogans, such as “from the river to the sea, Palestine shall be free,” or waving a Palestinian flag. At the same time, Braverman acknowledged, “Context is crucial” and that “[b]ehaviours that are legitimate in some circumstances…may not be legitimate such as when intended to glorify acts of terrorism.”
Braverman emphasized that the government is concerned that displays of support for Hamas may be used to “stir up hatred against British Jews.” Only a day after Braverman’s letter, Jewish non-governmental organization (NGO) Community Security Trust (CST) noted that there have been 89 antisemitic incidents recorded since this past Saturday, October 7. The number of incidents marks a 300 percent increase in antisemitic incidents compared to the same period last year. Recorded incidents include assaults, damage to and desecration of Jewish property, direct threats and verbal abuse.
Braverman’s letter has been criticized by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC), a NGO advocating for peace and justice for Palestinians. PSC said Braverman’s statements “threaten civil liberties and normalise the dehumanisation of Palestinians that is widespread in current political discourse.”