Anti-Semitism in UK hit record levels last year, according to the Community Security Trust’s (CST) latest report, which recorded 1,168 incidents, a 25 per cent rise on the previous record high in 2009. It more than doubles the figures from 2013 and the first time the charity recorded over 1,000 incidents in a calendar year after monitoring anti-Semitism since 1984.
The single biggest contributing factor to this rise was the conflict in Gaza, in July 2014 alone, the CST recorded 314 anti-Semitic incidents. But when ‘trigger events’ like this conflict trigger latent anti-Semitism in others the figures still rose in spite of the above. In the first six months of 2014 (prior to the conflict) the number of attacks (308) marked a 38 per cent increase from the 223 incidents recorded over the same period in 2013.
London and Manchester marked the highest number of incidents. The former increased by 137 per cent to 583 – and in Greater Manchester, the numbers rose by 79 per cent to 309 incidents. Both contain the largest Jewish communities in the UK but the trend of anti-Semitism is nationwide. In areas like Bradford, Liverpool, Leeds and Hertfordshire, the CST reported a number of hate crimes.
Verbal abuse aimed towards Jewish people at a street level was the highest single type of incident. Of the 585 incidents of verbal anti-Semitic abuse, at 190 on them targeted visible members of Jewish communities, due to their religious clothing, school uniform or jewellery.
Social media abuse accounted for a fifth of cases and minority fell into the ‘threat category’. But the CST does not actively trawl accounts for abuse yet it highlights how Jewish voices are attacked online. In an academic sense, the CST report highlighted a number of incidents aimed towards students in schools and universities.
Synagogues, Jewish community organisations and cemeteries suffered in this unprecedented wave of bigotry.
Some extreme examples of abuses included a case in London, where a Jewish man was called a “Jewish c***” then hit with a glass and baseball bat. In Manchester, youths kicked a Jewish man after forcing him off his bicycle.
Four teenagers were sent to young offenders after being found guilty of racially aggravated common assault, the ringleader of the gang expressed a desire to go ‘Jew Bashing’ in a text message. Returning to London, the report detailed how individuals would target Jews by throwing eggs and stones at them.
Other cases saw how children became targets of abuse. In Edinburgh, a 12-year-old boy sprayed deodorant onto a Jewish girl in his year group while saying, “Gas the Jews.” Five girls from a Jewish secondary school received anti-Semitic abuse and death threat from a man as they attempted to use the London Underground. The man grabbed one of the girl’s by the wrist and said, “Come with me and be a Christian”. But the girl escaped by kicking the individual in the shin and running away.
In a statement, CST Chief Executive David Delew said:
“The Jewish community should not be defined by antisemitism but last year’s large increase in recorded incidents shows just how easily antisemitic attitudes can erupt into race hate abuse, threats and attacks. Thankfully most of the incidents were not violent but they were still shocking and upsetting for those who suffered them, and for the wider Jewish community. CST will keep working with our community, Police and politicians to find ways to reduce antisemitic hate crime, and to better prosecute and convict those who carry it out.”
After the anti-Semitic terrorism at a Paris kosher shop, security increased around synagogues and other Jewish venues in Britain. Prime Minister David Cameron told parliament: “I would hate it for British Jews not to feel that they have a home here in Britain – safe, secure and a vital part of our community.”
The entire 41-page is available here and it even addresses the ‘anti-Semitic or anti-Israel’ question. A question it acknowledges is complex issue that “it would not be acceptable to define all anti-Israel activity as antisemitic; but it cannot be ignored that contemporary antisemitism can occur in the context of, or be accompanied by, extreme feelings over the Israel/Palestine conflict.”
In 2014, the CST received 498 potential incidents it did not classify as anti-Semitic and some were anti-Israel in nature but were not counted due to it not involving explicit anti-Semitic language or imagery. For example, a case in Manchester, where a Jewish individual by chance received two £10 notes with #FreePalestine and #BoycottIsrael written on them was not counted.
Context and the associated political discourses may help the CST determine if anti-Israel statements cross over into anti-Semitism. It compared how equating Israel with Nazi Germany is normally recorded as anti-Semitic. Yet a comparison between Israel and apartheid South Africa normally would not. Why? Because “the charge that Israel practises apartheid upsets many Jews, it does not contain the same visceral capacity to offend Jews on the basis of their Jewishness as does the comparison with Nazism”.
Anti-Semitic or not, these incidents still impact on the CST’s work to provide security to Jewish communities in Britain.
The full report is available here.