A rabbi who was on board a bus that was spat at by a group of men in central London has described it as a “bigoted antisemitic attack”.
Shneor Glitsenstein, director of the Chabad Israeli Centre Golders Green, was with around 40 young Jewish people on the open-top party bus in Oxford Street on Monday when the men shouted and made obscene gestures at them.
He said: “Let me be clear: on Monday evening we were attacked on the streets of London for being Jewish and celebrating Hanukkah.
“While our bus contained no references to Israel, we were clearly a Jewish group.
“The young men who surrounded us were not engaged in political protest; this was a bigoted antisemitic attack in the heart of London, seen by dozens of others, who stood by silently.”
Video shared online appears to show the attackers making Nazi salutes at the passengers and banging a shoe against the side of the bus.
The rabbi said the men approached the group while they were dancing in Oxford Street.
The bus had stopped at the famous shopping destination as part of a city tour to mark Hanukkah, the Jewish Festival of Lights.
He said: “They quickly became aggressive, and began making profane gestures and yelling ‘Free Palestine!’”
“Just as everyone returned to the bus, the young men began shouting profanities at the group, throwing at least one projectile on the top of the bus, spitting at the bus, and banging on the windows with their shoes.”
The bus then drove off and the “Hanukkah party on wheels” continued, according to the rabbi.
The bus tour from north-west London was organised by the religious organisation Chabad, which arranges public menorah (candelabra) lightings and events to celebrate Hanukkah.
This year’s festival runs from November 28 to December 6.
In the video, people on board the bus can be heard saying “We are Jewish” and “We need to go”.
When the vehicle eventually pulls away, one of the men can be seen running alongside the bus and smashing his arm against the windows.
The Metropolitan Police are investigating the incident, which is being treated as a hate crime.
Officers were called to Oxford Street at around 8pm on Monday, but met the bus at another location after it moved on to “avoid any further confrontation”, police said.
The Met said: “The group shown in the video could not be located at the time of the incident and there have been no arrests.”
The attack was also reported to the Community Security Trust (CST), a charity which monitors antisemitic incidents and is working with the police to support the victims.
Dave Rich, CST’s director of policy, told the PA news agency: “They were quite frightened that the group who were threatening them were going to physically assault them, they were spitting at them.
“They were pretty scared and they definitely felt it was because they were Jewish that they’d been targeted, there was absolutely no doubt about that.”
In a statement, CST said: “London is a city where Jewish people must be able to celebrate our festivals and enjoy an open, confident Jewish way of life.
“This disgusting incident goes against everything this city stands for and should be condemned by all.”
London Mayor Sadiq Khan tweeted: “Antisemitism has no place whatsoever in society and I utterly condemn these disgusting acts. No-one should have to experience this.”
Mr Rich said there has been an increase in antisemitic hate crimes in the UK.
“In the first six months of this year, we had the highest number of antisemitic incidents ever reported to CST in the first six months of any year,” he said.
Police urged anyone who recognises the men in the video, or who has any other information, to call 101 with the reference 6187/29NOV.
Information can also be provided anonymously to Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.
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