Anti-Palestinian activists guilty of harassment

Jonathan Hoffman and Damon Lenszner harassing boycott activists. (InMinds)

Two infamous anti-Palestinian activists in London pleaded guilty to charges of harassment and threatening behavior on Wednesday.

Jonathan Hoffman, a former leader in the Zionist Federation, and Damon Lenszner changed their earlier not-guilty pleas in exchange for government prosecutors dropping related assault charges.

The incident took place in October last year when the pair attacked Palestine solidarity protesters calling for the boycott of a Puma store in Carnaby Street, central London.

Hendon Magistrates’ Court, in Northwest London, imposed a fine and costs totaling $350 on Hoffman, and about $300 costs and charges on Lenszner, whose lawyer said he was unemployed.

The court also imposed an eight-week community sentence of a curfew on Lenszner, meaning he must stay at his Hendon home between the hours of 9pm and 6am.

The order is to be enforced with an electronic ankle tag.

In addition, the court imposed an “indefinite” restraining order on the pair, barring them from any contact with three activists from the Palestine solidarity group InMinds.

Hoffman and Lenszner are barred from coming within 10 meters of the three and face a potential maximum prison term of five years should they violate the order.

“Bullying behavior”

After government prosecutors showed him video of the incident, the judge, Nigel Dean, said the pair’s actions amounted to “aggressive, bullying behavior.”

The video shows them surrounding, screaming at, and – in Lenszner’s case – striking the boycott activists. They had intended to “prevent the protest,” the government lawyer argued.

Lenszner’s defense lawyer, Daniel Berke, admitted his client had “crossed the line” and had gone beyond acceptable free speech, claiming he had “snapped.”

Hoffman’s lawyer argued for his client to receive a conditional discharge instead of a fine – but the judge did not allow it.

He ruled that the pair’s “wholly unacceptable” actions were “intimidating,” which risked provoking a reaction. Both were in the protesters’ faces “hectoring” them and encroaching on their personal space.

They had “tried to drown out what was being said” by the boycott protesters and they had been “counterproductive” to their own cause, the judge said.

Hoffman immediately responded to his conviction on his blog, calling it a “disgrace” based “on lies.”

In March, Hoffman and Lenszner failed to attend their initial hearing in Westminster Magistrates’ Court and warrants were issued for their arrests.

They surrendered the next day, claiming not have to have been notified.

Bigots

Jonathan Hoffman is a notoriously aggressive anti-Palestinian activist who has been harrassing Palestine solidarity meetings in London for years.

Lenszner moved to London from Plymouth only last year, but has already become infamous for his thuggish behavior.

He appeared in a BBC documentary as part of a group of British Jews visiting the occupied West Bank, during which he walked out of a discussion with a Palestinian activist.

He was also filmed by TV news media at the height of last year’s manufactured Labour anti-Semitism crisis screaming through a megaphone at left-wing lawmaker Chris Williamson about supposed “Labour fascists.”

The pair can also be seen in the video above as part of a group harassing attendees of an October meeting with shadow finance minister John McDonnell in discussion with Jewish Voice for Labour co-chair Jenny Manson.

Some of the pair’s supporters turned out in court today. They included Richard Millett, an anti-Palestinian blogger with a long record of disrupting meetings, often in tandem with Hoffman.

Millett is suing Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, it emerged in press reports last week.

In 2017, Hoffman and Millett were forcefully ejected from a Palestinian Return Centre meeting by parliamentary police for their abusive disruptions.

Also supportive is David Collier, another anti-Palestinian blogger. He submitted a statement to the court, lawyers said.

One supporter was absent though: former Jewish Labour Movement chair Jeremy Newmark. Writing sympathetically on a thread on Hoffman’s Facebook page in March, Newmark called the case “appalling.”

Updated to add information and video on John McDonnell meeting.

Correction: This article initially stated that a conditional discharge would have meant Hoffman could have claimed not to have been convicted of a crime. In fact, a conditional discharge still constitutes a criminal record.

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Comments

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Jonathan Hoffman, in his post-verdict blog entry, falsely states that he and Lenzner were acquitted of assault charges. Needless to say, he frames the whole episode as persecution for his noble, righteous battles...

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These are the same people that Jeremy Corbyn once chided with not understanding English irony despite English being their mother tongue, after they had attacked Palestinian ambassador Manuel Hassassian. This incident was mis-quoted to sound like Corbyn was referring to the entire British Jewish community, not these particular Jewish trolls, and became part of a litany of complaints trotted out against Corbyn saying that the UK was no longer a safe place for Jews.

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This is the raw face of British Zionism. Here we observe neither the unctuous bigotry of Jonathan Sacks nor the measured tones of a BBC pundit. Thuggish, repellent figures such as Hoffman and Lenszner represent the actual nature of the movement when stripped of all attempts at lofty rhetoric and dignified presentation. Their sentencing is to be welcomed, even as their disgusting actions are now circulated in video form. And the brave volunteers who stood up to their rotten intimidation are to be heartily commended.

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Give them a heavy, really heavy fine, then see how quickly people like this learn to be civil...Time to take name and number...check these tendencies now or face much worse later...

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I was at a book launch event at London University which Hoffman and his gang disrupted and broke up - the event was abandoned on the advice of the security staff. Hoffman claimed it was his right of free speech which entitled him to shout down the speaker and other members of the audience, a version of free speech which a Nazi might recognise but which most sane people would not.
Subsequently Melanie Philips, writing in the Times, described their actions as "brave". What next Melanie - some brave book burning?

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Asa Winstanley

Asa Winstanley's picture

Asa Winstanley is an investigative journalist and associate editor with The Electronic Intifada. He lives in London. Biography here.