Suella Braverman has been condemned for her “dangerous rhetoric” after contending thousands of people protesting in support of Palestine were taking part in “hate marches”.
The home secretary told broadcasters that demonstrators taking to the streets in support of a ceasefire in Gaza had “chanted for the erasure of Israel from the map”.
She added that she “will not hesitate to act” in changing the law surrounding protests “if there is a need”. Braverman has a history of using inflammatory language, previously describing the arrival of refugees as an “invasion”,
“We’ve seen now tens of thousands of people take to the streets following the massacre of Jewish people, the single largest loss of Jewish life since the Holocaust, chanting for the erasure of Israel from the map,” she said.
“To my mind there is only one way to describe those marches: they are hate marches.”
Estimates suggest 100,000 people took part in each of the two marches taking place over the last two weekends in London.
Thousands more have taken part in protests in other cities in the UK, including in Manchester, Birmingham, Glasgow and Belfast.
Akiko Hart, the interim director of the human rights organisation Liberty, said on BBC Newsnight that Braverman was guilty of “inflammatory and dangerous rhetoric”, and a “real failure of leadership in many ways at a time when what is needed is thought and care and scrutiny”.
On Sky News, ex-home office adviser Nimco Ali labelled Braverman’s comments “reckless”, adding: “To call 100,000 people all ‘hate marchers’, I think that is dangerous.”
Labour’s shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said: “The home secretary has a responsibility to make it easier for the police to tackle hate crime and extremism while reassuring different communities who are deeply distressed by events in the Middle East not to use rhetoric carelessly in a way that makes the job of the police much harder.
“Anti-Semitic and Islamophobic hate crime and the glorification of terrorism need to face the full force of the law. At the same time work is needed to rebuild community cohesion, to recognise the distress people are feeling about the Hamas attacks and the humanitarian emergency in Gaza, and to pull communities together at this difficult time.”
Braverman has previously branded the chant “between the river and the sea” – used by pro-Palestinian protesters – as anti-Semitic and claimed that it is “widely understood” to call for the destruction of Israel. Protesters contest this definition.