A victory for common sense this week, as the planned neo-Nazi rally was redirected away from Golders Green on public order grounds. Thanks are due to the incredible efforts of organisations and individuals, including the London Jewish Forum, the Board of Deputies, Jewish Leadership Council, the CST, Campaign Against Antisemitism and MPs Mike Freer and Tulip Siddiq in bringing about the right result.
But why was it so hard to ban in the first place, and why are these static hate-filled demonstrations so different from their mobile kin? We might also reflect on where this leaves free speech. It is not OK to suggest London is being “Jewified” and that the country must rise up to stop the spread. We know what happens when people do that.
But still, what is “extremism” or “race-hate” as we know it today? Should we, for example, apply equal fervour to stopping the demonstrations of those who oppose the state of Israel on the grounds of policy, law, behaviour or the Bible? In short, where does this road lead, and how far down it do we intend to go?
We can take comfort from the involvement of other faiths in opposing this protest. Golders Green Together was supported by churches and mosques, in part because of communal organisations’ interfaith work. If ever there was evidence that this is a time well-invested, this is it.
Long may it continue!