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Jewish groups in London ready for neo-Nazi demonstration

People hold placards and Israeli and Union flags outide the Royal Courts of Justice as Jewish groups rally in London on August 31, 2014.
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Extremists threaten to burn Jewish Talmud books, tear Israeli flags in protest of 'Jewfication'

To ignore or not to ignore? That's the question being debated in the Jewish community around London, as Neo-Nazis prepare to demonstrate in the British capital on Saturday. The extremists, who originally planned to march in a Jewish neighborhood in the city, threatened to burn Jewish Talmud books and tear Israeli flags in protest of its “Jewfication.”

After a month long campaign to have the event canceled, including calls from MPs and Jewish leaders, on Tuesday the police barred the far-right activists from taking to the streets of Golders Green, in north London, citing the likelihood of a “serious disruption to the life of the community and intimidation of others.” Instead, the extremists were permitted to hold an hour-long static demonstration in Whitehall.

Yet this decision did little to resolve the debate concerning the attention which should be given to what some call an insignificant and “sad little gathering of Nazi admirers.” The change of location didn't lead to the cancellation of the planned counter-demonstrations, and the Golders Green Together (GGT) group, which was formed to mobilize the community against the anti-Semitic protest, also promised to continue its activity.

The Guardian reported that over the past few weeks the organization handed out leaflets, lobbied MPs and the police, and urged local shops to hang gold and green banners and ribbons in opposition to the neo-Nazis. The Community Security Trust, which serves as a security consultant for Jewish communities in the UK, also stated that it is still working with the police to ensure it has a strong presence in the neighborhood over the weekend.

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Others, however, are more concerned with the possibility that these counter measures, following a publicized campaign against the rally, and especially after the proximity threat was eliminated, would actually benefit the extremists' interests. While community leaders warned against direct confrontation with the demonstrators, some thought they should be ignored altogether.

“The organizers are merely a small bunch of ‘air-heads’ whose sole aim is to obtain a reaction and thus, attention and notoriety,” wrote a Jewish News columnist, and advised against a massive counter-demonstration. “It would give them the attention they seek, which is the oxygen they require to breathe.”

Jewish organizations and MPs welcomed this week the decision to relocate the rally, although they initially lobbyed for its cancellation. British law does not allow the authorities do bar a static gathering, but still, Home Secretary Theresa May was urged to take measures. Almost 12,600 people signed the petition calling her to “ban this so called 'protest' to send a signal to any would-be racists and those opposed to democracy, that this country stands firm with its ethnic minorities,” wrote the petition's initiators, the North West Friends of Israel.

The Simon Wiesenthal Center also joint the calls to ban the protest, as well as over fifty British MPs, who reportedly called on the Home Secretary “to consider what further actions the government could take to isolate the politics of hate and division on our streets.”

Even the arrest of one of the demo's organizers, a known right-wing extremist and a self-proclaimed Fascist, wasn't enough to bring about its cancellation. The 22-year-old Joshua Bonehill-Paine was charged Monday with inciting racial hatred, after promoting the Golders Green demonstration with anti-Semitic posts and tweets.

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In one post on his blog, which showed weedkiller being sprayed over Auschwitz, he wrote: “Liberate Golders Green: An anti-Jewification event. We've become complacent and allowed for weeds to grow in the cracks of London. It’s time to clear them out with round-up and liberate Golders Green for future generations of white people. Join us on July 4 for what promises to be an absolute gas!”

In another, he referred to the planned protest as a “party” and called: “Join us for what promises to be an absolute gas!” The post also included a Hitler-smiley and the hashtag #SummerOfHate.

According to local reports, at his court appearance he denied the charges and was ordered to remain in custody till July 13. Previously he was arrested over offensive tweets sent to a Jewish MP.

Last month, Bonehill-Paine declared on his blog that the demonstrators would burn copies of the Talmud, the basis for Jewish law, “in recognition of its racist anti-white teachings.” He also called on the attendees to bring with them Israeli flags, so they could be destroyed. “Israel is responsible for horrific war crimes,” he accused.

Bonehill-Paine also invited far-left politician George Galloway, famous for his stand against Israel, to address the participants. In his blog, he claimed the politician, who is now running for the mayor of London, was supportive of his efforts, but did not specify if he accepted the invitation.

Polina Garaev is the correspondent for i24news in Germany

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