Community tensions between Muslims and Jews in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight are “very little” despite the Muslim community’s fear of reprisals, the police and crime commissioner has said.
Hundreds of marches supporting both sides of the Israel-Palestine conflict have taken place during the last week worldwide – including in the UK – with clashes reported in mainland Europe.
However, at the moment, this is not the case in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight, the Police and Crime Commissioner Donna Jones indicated at the Hampshire and IOW Police and Crime Panel on Friday.
PCC Donna Jones said: “There is a lot of fear within the Muslim community at the moment about reprisals on them because people think because of what Hamas has done, there would be a perception in the country that if you are a Muslim person, you are therefore sympathetic towards Hamas and that terrorist organisation.
“We know there is fear on both sides, so I have written to all faith leaders to reassure them that the police force and I are there to support all of them.
“Currently, community tensions and fears across Hampshire and Isle of Wight are very calm. There have been four or five shows of pro-Palestine public support for Palestine. They are led by students of either side of this religious conflict who show their public support for their position."
But despite “little” tensions in the county, Hampshire and IOW Constabulary has a thorough plan to act if the situation becomes delicate.
PCC Jones added: “Particularly in our cities, without wanting to point the finger at them, there can be a tendency for things to go from zero to a hundred very quickly. The police are very mindful of that, and when this started to happen two weeks ago, I spoke to the Chief about it, and he reassured me that there is a plan in place.
“I feel very happy that Hampshire and the Isle of Wight Constabulary have a very solid, well-considered plan for dealing with any incidents happening as a consequence of the situation in the Middle East.”
For its part, the chief constable of Hampshire and Isle of Wight Constabulary, Scott Chilton, indicated that they are working with national authorities to understand the tensions and how that would affect Hampshire communities.
Chief Constable Scott Chilton said: “The event we oversee caused a national response. There is a national infrastructure that involves me on call to understand where some of the tensions might lay because events overseas in other parts of the UK can have an impact on our communities.
“We have changed some of our procedures to accelerate our response when reporting hate crimes through our contact centre. Daily meetings occur within the force to ensure community tension is fully understood, and we report those nationally so we get a national picture.
“We have very little crime associated or reported in relation to this event. So far, things are in check. Is not a case that is a period of time that will stop; we all anticipated that this is going to be a long-ongoing period of conflict that will affect our communities moving forward.”