Violence over Coca-Cola boycott and threats against MPs show pro-Palestinian bullies have gone too far - Bill Carmichael

Here’s the gist of a surreal conversation I had one evening this week with an old friend of mine I bumped into during my commute home. Him: “Have you heard about the Coke riot in Bradford?” Me: “The what riot?”

Him: “The Coke riot. It happened outside a kebab shop on Leeds Road.” Me: “Coke as in cocaine?”

Him: “No, Coke as in Coca-Cola.” Me: “They are rioting over a soft drink? Seriously?”

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Him: “Yes. The mob accused the owner of being pro-Israeli because he sold cans of Coke, so they turned up and beat the hell out of him.”

People during a pro-Palestine protest in Whitehall, central London. PIC: Yui Mok/PA WirePeople during a pro-Palestine protest in Whitehall, central London. PIC: Yui Mok/PA Wire
People during a pro-Palestine protest in Whitehall, central London. PIC: Yui Mok/PA Wire

This was so utterly bizarre that I reckoned my old friend had downed a drink or three on his way home, and had somehow managed to grab hold of the wrong end of the stick. I’d never heard such nonsense in my life.

But once I returned home curiosity got the better of me and did a quick search of the internet - and knock me down with a feather, but it turns out it was almost completely true.

West Yorkshire Police confirmed that four men aged 30, 34, 46 and 50 had been arrested on suspicion of assault and criminal damage after a “disturbance” outside Salah’s fried chicken shop on Leeds Road in Bradford.

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According to reports, the owner, Salahudin Yusuf, had promised local enforcers two months ago that he would no longer sell Coke. But last Friday evening a mob of around 50 people carrying Palestinian flags turned up and accused him of ignoring repeated warnings and secretly selling the fizzy drink from under the counter.

Insults and abuse were thrown, and windows damaged, and when Mr Yusuf went outside to defend his shop, the crowd beat him over the head with their flagpoles. He reportedly needed stitches for his wounds, although West Yorkshire Police said there were no serious injuries caused.

I don’t know why the Hamas fanboys want to boycott Coca-Cola, and frankly I don’t care. What matters is that it is perfectly legal to sell it under British law, and nobody should be physically attacked for going about their lawful business.

This incident came in the same week as disgraceful scenes in London when genocidal slogans were projected onto the Palace of Westminster, and the Speaker of the House of Commons, Lindsay Hoyle, overthrew Parliamentary convention to appease the baying mob outside.

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Mr Hoyle apologised - twice - and explained that he had capitulated because of very real fears for the safety of MPs who have received credible death threats from pro-Palestinian activists.

Mr Hoyle is a decent man, and his genuine concern for MPs of all parties does him credit. But he got this one badly wrong. You don’t convince a crocodile to turn vegetarian by feeding him lumps of red meat. Similarly, you don’t convince a mob to act lawfully by giving in to their threats of violence.

What these incidents demonstrate is that the “softly softly” approach taken by the police and the authorities to pro-Palestinian demonstrations - despite the openly genocidal chanting and racist placards - has failed miserably to calm the situation.

Instead, appeasing the thugs has simply emboldened them, and increased the threats of violence aimed at MPs, and particularly at the Jewish community. I know from my own postbag that Jews in the UK are increasingly terrified of the bullying and intimidation - and the police’s failure to do anything about it - that besmirches our cities on a weekly basis.

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Events in Bradford also show that persecution often starts with the Jews, but it never ends with the Jews. They will come for anyone who disagrees with them in the end. Just ask Mr Yusuf, who friends say is a supporter of the Palestinians. He didn’t toe the line and the bullies decided he had to be dealt with.

Sir Keir Starmer has denied applying undue pressure on the Speaker to change Parliamentary procedure to save Labour from the embarrassment of a big rebellion on the Gaza vote in the House of Commons. But there is little doubt that the threats faced by MPs were a factor in the decision.

The Labour leader could be our Prime Minister in a few months. That he was so ready to bend the knee to violent hoodlums is deeply worrying. Is it too much to ask that he grows a bit of backbone?

The right to protest is one of our most precious liberties and must be cherished. But when protests stray from being peaceful, and become violent, racist and intimidatory - as the pro-Palestinian marches have - an important line has been crossed, and the authorities need to put a stop to it.

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