Government Inaction Has Led to 'No Go Zones' For Jews In Britain

Redefining 'extremism' may assist the British government in quelling extremists who lurk just beneath the threshold of terrorism, author says.

ProPalestine march Melbourne Wikimedia

Britain’s Commissioner for Countering Extremism, Robin Simcox, warned that the government has failed to use its powers to address extremist group, and risks turning London into “a no-go zone for Jews” even while anti-Semitism is “skyrocketing.”

“The Hamas terrorist attacks of October 7 will come to redefine our era. Not since 9/11 have extremist networks been as emboldened,” he warned. 

Writing in The Telegraph, Simcox – a political analyst and independent advisor to the Home Office – emphasized that there are groups in Britain that “lurked” just below the threshold of terrorism that are thriving in a “permissive environment for radicalization.” Pointing out that Prime Minister Rishi Sunak  has noted “a shocking increase in extremist disruption and criminality,” Simcox wrote that the premier now “needs policies that meet the scale of the challenge.”

Simcox warned that the currently radicalized environment has led to the “normalization” of pro-Palestine protests that have made segments of the capital city off limits for Jews. Moreover, he wrote. Ministers of Parliament fear for their lives in the face of threats from pro-Palestine campaigners.

“Anti-Semitism skyrocketing. Inflammatory and borderline criminal rhetoric widely shared on social media. A sense that the terrorism threat is rising. Protests becoming ever more vociferous, with “from the river to the sea” beamed onto the side of Big Ben during a vote on Gaza,” he wrote.

In response, the British government is creating a new definition of extremism, he wrote, and updating a 2011 definition that has been largely ignored by government. A new definition, he wrote “will be used to guide future decisions over who government does and does not engage with and fund.”

Last week, Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, Michael Gove, announced the redefinition, which members of the Muslim community believe could result an extremist designation for Palestine Action, Muslim Engagement and Development, and The Muslim Council of Britain.

Setting parameters for policy, Simcox wrote: “Future governments may wish to revisit legislative gaps to capture expressions of support for terrorism but, even still, government has more power to tackle extremism than it sometimes thinks.”

Iran’s government “does not have an inalienable right to run schools and mosques,” and likewise there is no obligation so that “Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood must be allowed to run a multitude of charities,” he wrote.”All these things and more have become normalised in the UK. It is why I have warned of a permissive environment for radicalisation developing that needs urgently addressing,” continued.  “We have not betrayed democracy if extremists are no longer able to operate television channels. And we will not have become an authoritarian state if London is no longer permitted to be turned into a no-go zone for Jews every weekend.”

A 2023 independent review of government policy by Sir William Shawcross suggested a way forward, Simcox wrote, and emphasized that “terrorists are driven by ideology” and that government had overemphasized safeguarding. The review called for tackling “radicalizers operating below the terrorism threshold,” and also identified the government’s “blindspot” for Hamas networks in the UK.

Simcox wrote that Shawcross’s review has promoted training on the ideological origins of terrorism. However, he wrote that “As the extremism threats cascade,” the government “must now double down on Shawcross’s approach.” Politicians have promised tough actions in the past, he wrote, but failed to deliver: “We see the consequences of that failure on the streets daily.”

Commissioner Simcox contended that government action must be not only faster and bolder, but also “willing to accept higher legal risk if it means implementing policies that keep us safer.”

This would mean “disrupting the activities of those groups who propagate extremist narratives but who lurk just below the terrorism threshold. “ 

“These groups have gone unchallenged for too long and have used their time well. They are now embedded and influential among communities. It cannot only be government that stands up to these extremists – be it Islamist, extreme Right-wing, extreme Left-wing, or other ideological manifestations – but it has the most resources and must take a leading role,” Simcox wrote. He suggested that government could confine extremist rallies and marches to specific areas and places, as is the case with certain right-wing groups.

Finally, he wrote, “The Government now has an opportunity to break this cycle while also championing the UK’s innate respect for those things that have been in such short supply since 7 October: respect for the rule of law, civility, and decency. It must take it.”

The stakes are high for the United Kingdom as a whole and its historic Jewish community. According to a December poll, which was taken after the October 7 terrorist attack on Israel, nearly half of British Jews considered leaving the UK due to anti-Semitism. Also, four of five respondents said they considered themselves to be a Zionist. Based on the CAA survey data, 69% of British Jews agree that they were less likely now to show visible signs of their Jewishness, such as wearing a Star of David or kippah. 

Britain recorded thousands of antisemitic incidents after the outbreak of war between Israel and Hamas in October, making 2023 the worst year for anti-Semitism since 1984, when Jewish advisory body Community Security Trust began recording data. In 2023, the number of antisemitic incidents across Britain reached 4,103, more than twice the figure in 2022, amid a surge of threats, hate speech, violence and damage to Jewish institutions and property, the Community Security Trust said.


Martin Barillas is a retired diplomat. He is the author of 'Shaken Earth,' available at Amazon.

Topic tags:
Israel Swords of Iron United Kingdom Hamas Antisemitism