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‘Gideon Falter Came to a Pro-Palestine Demo Looking to Provoke – And the Media Gave him What He Wanted’

The chief executive of the Campaign Against Antisemitism appears to have got ‘exactly what he came for’ at the march, according to a witness who was there

Gideon Falter, the Chairman of Campaign Against Antisemitism, clashing with police at the pro-Palestine march in London on April 13
Gideon Falter, chief executive of the Campaign Against Antisemitism, is seen clashing with police at a pro-Palestine march in London on 13 April 2024. Photo: John Lubbock

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An antisemitism campaigner’s clash with the Metropolitan Police yards from a pro-Palestinian march on 13 April was about a lot more than him looking “openly Jewish”. I know, I was there when it happened.

Gideon Falter, chief executive of the Campaign Against Antisemitism (CAA), was blocked by a police officer and threatened with arrest in Aldwych, London – with the exchange caught on camera.

Footage published by Sky News showed Falter telling police officers that he wanted to make his way to the other side of where pro-Palestinian protestors were marching. The police did not less him pass and offered to escort him via another route, avoiding the protestors to ensure that he would be “completely safe”.

During the exchange, one of the officers said Falter was being “disingenuous” and trying to “antagonise” others as he “took it upon himself” to walk “right into the middle” of the march and was “openly Jewish”.

The incident sparked calls for the Met Commissioner, Sir Mark Rowley, to resign, and Scotland Yard has apologised twice.

Falter is the vice chairman member of the Jewish National Fund UK, which reportedly raised more than £1 million to fund ‘Israel’s largest militia’.

During the incident, he appeared to be flanked by a number of security guards in dark glasses and a videographer who later provided footage by the CAA to the press.

I happened to witness a small portion of Falter’s interaction with the police as I moved along the protest route.

As I had come towards Aldwych, I noticed the pro-Israeli protest with a number of Israeli flags, as well as a few Pahlavi Iranian flags featuring the face of the son of the last Shah of Iran. I saw one man being led away from the pro-Israel counter-protest by police, his wife following him. As I got nearer, I saw that some people from both sides were hurling insults and trying to antagonise each other. 

Stewards on the march were encouraging pro-Palestine demonstrators not to engage with the counter-protestors.

The clash at the Pro-Palestine march has led to calls for the Commissioner of the Met Police to resign. Photo: John Lubbock

It is clear that some Israel supporters are unhappy with the level of support for Palestine being demonstrated by the weekly marches, and are openly advocating that the police should ban demonstrations which former Home Secretary Suella Braverman has called “hate marches”.

Following the incident, Falter told TalkTV that the Met Police should “ban the marches”. Such calls have been going on since last November when Rowley refused to bow to calls to ban a demonstration held on Armistice Day.

This week’s headlines announcing that Falter had been prevented from crossing the demonstration route because he was “openly Jewish” have allowed all those people who previously called for the Met to ban marches to now call for Rowley’s resignation.

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But there is more to the story than Falter’s categorisation of it as him being “simply Jewish in the vicinity of these marches”. Falter’s presence at the march had a number of contextual factors, of which looking “openly Jewish” was by no means the most important. It is, however, the only one which he chose to draw attention to

Falter claims he was not there to counter-protest, but why was he then trying to cross the march right next to the counter-protest, where antagonists on both sides were shouting at, and insulting, each other?

He claims he did not have a film crew, yet footage published of the incident by the BBC and others is credited to his organisation. Other videos show Falter at the centre of a group of people attempting to wade into the demonstration.

Protest movements seeking social and political change, which employ large street demonstrations to show their support, are used to agents provocateurs who aim to show the movement in a bad light by getting close to protestors and antagonising them. A man wearing a three-piece suit, with a number of security guards in tow, would look out of place almost everywhere except possibly entering a celebrity nightclub.

The attempts by Falter and some elements of the media to reduce his behaviour to a simple matter of him being Jewish appears to have an obvious political aim – to paint opposition to the Israeli state as motivated by racism.

I believe this is a political tactic employed by those who support the actions of the Israeli Government, which does a huge disservice to the fight against the real problem of antisemitism which exists globally.

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The Jewish diaspora in the UK contains political factions which are highly critical of the Israeli Government and its actions in Gaza, and many hundreds of British Jews are regularly seen on these demonstrations.

The 13 April protest had a large contingent from the Jewish bloc, who gathered at a separate starting point before joining in with the head of the demonstration as it left Russell Square. Taking photos at the head of the march, I heard a loud cheer go up as the Jewish bloc joined the main march.

Attempting to paint pro-Palestine demonstrators as antisemitic, then, is an attempt to divide a large and diverse group of people calling for an end to the bombing of Gaza.

I didn’t stay to see the end of Falter’s confrontation with the police, because stewards advised us to move on and not engage with counter-protestors looking to antagonise people.

But Falter seems to have got exactly what he came for: a filmed confrontation which made a police officer look bad, and which is now being used to call for the sacking of the Met Commissioner.

The Campaign Against Antisemitism was contacted for comment.

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