Antisemitism

London council cancels Hanukkah celebrations due to Israel-Hamas war

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Havering Council, a municipality located in East London, announced today that the annual Hanukkah installation would not be taking place this year due to “conflict in the Middle East.”

In a statement, the council released: “The Council has taken the difficult decision to pause the planned installation of the Chanukah Menorah outside Havering Town Hall this year. We appreciate this is a hugely sensitive issue but in light of escalating tensions from the conflict in the Middle East, installing the candelabra now will not be without risk to the Council, our partners, staff and local residents. 

“We would also be concerned with any possible vandalism or other action against the installation. There will still be a temporary installation and event to celebrate the beginning of Hanukkah. This will be taken down after the event and we will look at a longer-term installation next year.

“However, due to an increase in the number of hate crimes in Havering, both towards the Jewish and Muslim community, and after consulting with the Leader of the Council, we believe it would be unwise to move forward with the installation, which could risk further inflaming tensions within our communities. When we started work on the installation no one could have foreseen the recent international events and we have been fully committed to installing the candelabra with a number of council teams working to support it.

“Sadly, there are some who are politicising this and making accusations of antisemitism. This is categorically untrue and such statements are likely to incite further unrest in our communities.

A LONDON UNDERGROUND train bridge daubed with ‘Free Palestine’ graffiti near Brent Cross Shopping Centre in north London last month. (credit: Anna Gordon/REUTERS)

“The Council flew the Israeli flag in solidarity following the heinous terrorist attack against the people of Israel and we continue to stand by our local Jewish communities. 

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“However, while the war is ongoing we feel we must postpone the planned installation. This is not a decision we have taken lightly and we will revisit next year when we hope that community tensions will have subsided.

“Havering Council does not take sides in the current conflict and regrets the loss of life, injury and distress on both sides.

“We have informed our community and faith partners and will continue to provide support to all our communities and work with the local Police to ensure that everyone feels safe in Havering.” 

Despite Havering council rejecting that the decision to limit the event was due to politics or antisemitism, the council has not made statements suggesting that the festivities of any other religious or ethnic groups be canceled. The council affirmed that the Christmas events would be taking place on 17 November, 4 October and affirmed that Black History Month would be commemorated in a 2 October statement.

Additionally, while the council has stated that they flew the Israeli flag following Hamas’s October 7 attack, no statement can be found on their website condemning the violence.

Condemning the Council’s decision

Andrew Rosindell, a Member of Parliament representing Romford condemned the Council’s decision. “By not allowing the Jewish community to celebrate and practice their faith properly, we are capitulating to terrorism,” he told the Independent. “The Jewish community are amongst the most patriotic people in Britain and so, it is our obligation to stand with them during their time of need. We cannot allow antisemitism to win in Britain.”

Gary Mond, Chairman of the National Jewish Assembly, told the Jerusalem Post “Havering Council’s decision to cancel the installation of a Chanukah memorial constitutes nothing less than a surrender to those forces who preach intolerance and the refusal to accept the diverse nature of British society.” 

“There is no connection whatsoever between events taking place in Israel and Gaza, and the celebration of a major Jewish festival in Havering in the UK. The Council should heed carefully the words of the local MP, Andrew Rosindell, and understand that what they are doing is a grave insult to Jewish communities in the borough and should reverse their decision immediately. This type of ruling is in fact antisemitic.”

Romford Rabbi Lee Sunderland told Havering Daily, “This is an opportunity to stand up to the hostility that would silence Judaism or any form of diversity and celebrate it to its fullest.

“This may be a Jewish festival but it is a lesson for the whole world and for every generation. Most especially, please let us celebrate this in public and begin to bring the citizens of Havering together now.”

Antisemitism and Jewish life in Havering 

Antisemitic hate crime in the United Kingdom has increased by 1350% since Hamas’s October 7 terrorist attack on Israel. The attack, which took the lives of 1200 people and enabled Hamas to kidnap over 200 more, was the beginning of a global trend of antisemitism. 

Havering is the second most densely populated area in London, with a population of 262,100, according to a 2021 census. 

Despite Havering’s large population, the number of Jews living there is relatively small with only 0.5% of the population identifying themselves as Jews on the last census. The majority (52.2%) of residents identified themselves as Christian and only 6.2% identified themselves as Muslim.





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