Around 50 pro-Palestinian protesters stormed the British Museum last week during opening hours, staging a sit-in protest that the museum surprisingly seemed absolutely okay about. The stunt comes as Conservative MP, Tobias Ellwood, faced his own ‘intimidating rally’ with over 60 pro-Palestinian protesters targeting his family home.

The British Museum was targeted specifically because of a new 10-year £50 million deal that the museum made with BP in December. The demonstrators, some of whom were wearing masks, demanded that BP stops drilling for oil off the coast of Israel.  “BP fuels colonial genocide,” echoed the chants as visitors to the museum walked through the famous atrium draped in Palestinian flags.

The British Museum statement said, “The British Museum respects other people’s right to express their views and allows peaceful protest onsite at the Museum as long as there is no risk to the collection, staff or visitors.”

The museum is right about one thing: the risk to staff and visitors should be a priority. Unfortunately, the museum doesn’t seem to have considered how a protest that spews hatred towards Israel might make Jewish visitors to the museum feel. Instead, now that we know protests are welcome on their premises, it is an open invitation for Israel-hate to return.

The demo was organised by ‘Energy Embargo for Palestine’ and the ‘Free Palestine Coalition’. The partnership is no coincidence. It follows reports last year that pro-Palestinian groups were receiving training from climate activist groups. Since then, we have continued to see pro-Palestinian groups adopt disruption tactics such as sit-ins and walk-outs.

The right to protest should not outweigh the right to feel safe in a public museum. The British Museum has over 6 million visitors per year. All should feel welcome.

The extremist climate protests, such as the Just Stop Oil group, have annoyed almost the entire British public with their “right to protest”. But the British Museum make a mistake by categorising pro-Palestinian protests in the same manner. Demos against Israel like that we have seen on the streets of London are vitriolic hatred. They are antisemitic. They support outlawed terrorist groups. They glorify terror against Israel. And they intimidate the Jewish community.

All Members of Parliament also have a right to feel safe. “Sheer intimidation” should not become the norm, according to MP Tobias Ellwood, who this week had 60 pro-Palestinian protesters outside his home. Ellwood and his family had to flee after police had warned them to “stay away”.  Speaking to the BBC, Mr Ellwood said: “We were heading that way, we were advised not to go to the property.. arriving through that crowd would’ve antagonised the situation.”

The Bournemouth East MP praised the police who he said arrived “very, very quickly”.

“Having picked up that intelligence, they blocked my driveway, they protected my property with their vehicles, and an armed response unit was positioned around the corner,” he added.

When asked about the difference between legitimate protest and intimidation, Mr Ellwood said: “All MPs expect criticism from time to time, it comes with the territory, but the bar of acceptable treatment is falling. 

“Advertising the private address, to mobilise an aggressive, intimidating rally at an MP’s residential property, impacting not just on the family but also neighbours as well, for me is a step too far.

“This cannot be normalised in anyway… democracy clearly is not in a good place if this becomes the norm.”

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak appeared to reference the protest when he wrote on X, formerly Twitter, “Democracy is built on free debate – but increasingly MPs have been targeted by aggressive mobs for exercising those freedoms. We will never let those who intimidate prevail.

“It’s paramount MPs’ security is protected, and our democratic values upheld. Nothing is more important.”

There has been rising concern about MPs safety with Mike Freer, Conservative MP for Finchley and Golders Green in London, announcing that he will resign from Parliament at the next election, following more than a decade of death threats from Islamists over his support for Israel. Whilst not Jewish himself, he has been an outspoken defender of the Jewish people against antisemitism. In September 2021, Freer avoided a plot to stab him due to a last minute change in his schedule. The attacker would become the killer of David Amess MP a month later. And on Christmas Eve last year, Freer’s constituency office was targeted in an arson attack, which he says was the ‘final straw’.