THE Holocaust Memorial Day marking the genocides of the 20th century was marred on Sunday when a gang of youths stoned Jewish tourists on a guided tour of London's East End.
A group of 96 visitors looking at sites of Jewish interest were attacked by youths hiding behind a fence in a back street in Whitechapel.
Two were struck by the missiles, an American woman just starting a new post at London's Metropolitan University and a Canadian lecturer.
The woman had blood pouring from her head and needed hospital treatment.
The tour was organised by leading local historian Clive Bettington, who was later asked by police if he wanted officers to accompany him in future, but declined.
"That would be admitting there are 'no go' areas," he said.
"I won't be intimidated. We have a right to walk our streets unmolested."
He has now written to Tower Hamlets chief executive Martin Smith for an urgent meeting.
Sunday's incident was outside a former Jewish maternity home in Underwood Road, now used as social services offices, which was on his tour as a place of interest where playwright Arnold Whesker and showbiz comedian Lionel Bart were born.
An eye-witness said: "Stones started to come down on us and some in the group were scared and ducked.
"I looked over the fence and saw four Asian youths throwing stones. They were laughing, then ran away."
The woman who was injured, a New Yorker now living in London, started her job running the IT department at the Met University the following day.
"It wasn't exactly a nice welcome to the East End," she said.
"You're just so surprised standing in a large crowd like that being pelted with stones."
"I was shocked and didn't know what happened at first, then realised I was bleeding and knew I had been hit. My head was cut open."
She was treated at the Royal London Hospital and had to miss an inter-faith mdmorial service she was going to at the East London Central synagogue.
Her friend, Canadian Eric Litwack was hit by a missile, but did not need stitches.
He said: "It was obviously we were being targeted on a tour talking about Jewish history."
There was condemnation across the political spectrum at the multi-faith service at the synagogue later.
The Mayor of Tower Hamlets blamed it on "narrow religious views" in the community.
"It's horrifying this could happen in the East End in this day and age, on Holocaust Memorial Day of all days," Cllr Ann Jackson told the Advertiser.
"We must mediate between the narrow religious views of some in the Bangladeshi community. There is narrow mindedness in all communities. Everyone must realise ours is a tolerant society."
Lib Dem's Louise Alexander said: "I'm shocked this took place on my doorstep. It's a 'wake-up' call that highlights we are not there yet."
The Labour leader of Tower Hamlets council, Denise Jones, later issued a joint statement with all Opposition group leaders on the authority, Conservative, Liberal Democrat and Respect, apologising on behalf of the community.
"We totally condemn the behaviour of those that intimidated and attacked people on the Holocaust Memorial walk," the Town Hall statement said.
"It is utterly disgraceful that the insensitive, aggressive and quite possibly criminal actions of a few tarnished this important time of reflection.
"We apologise on behalf of Tower Hamlets to the people who were subjected to the abuse and give assurance that we are supporting the police investigation into the incident."
Tower Hamlets' newly-appointed senior police officer responsible for youth involvement, Ins Paul Sloan, is treating the incident as "an anti-Semitic attack and as a 'race hate' crime."
He said: "The injured woman certainly felt it was anti-Semitic because she's Jewish and the attack was motivated by the fact a lot of Jews were present.
"We're keen to work with the organiser to stop this happening again.
"We might accompany them in future. That's one of the tactics we would employ, but that's not routine.
"We have to get to the root of the problem and need to know how often it's happened before."
The Met's new police liaison officer for the area, Ins Brian Mitchell, was immediately informed about Sunday's incident in which he said youths shouted at the tourists, 'if you go any further you'll die.'
He added: "It gets flagged up as 'racial' because of the victims' perception of what happened."
Seems rather a dumb comment about how it gets flagged as 'racial'. A bunch of Bangladeshi (it is not stated but Bangladeshis are Muslim) youths attack Jews at Holocaust Memorial Day. If it were white skin-heads, would he have made such a bone-headed comment about "victims perceptions" and why it was "flagged as racial"?