Antisemitism is still alive and well

By Mark Gardner, February 3, 2011

Since 2000, we have seen a significant increase in antisemitic incidents triggered by repeated antisemitic reactions to events in and around Israel and the Middle East. In 2010 there was no comparable "trigger event", but CST still recorded the second-highest number of incidents since we began this work in 1984. Why?

Detailed analysis of over 600 antisemitic incidents reported to CST showed that the most common type of antisemitic incident was random verbal abuse on the street, directed at people who are visibly Jewish. The most common type of perpetrator was a white adult male, and if they shouted something abusive, it was more likely to be about Auschwitz than about Gaza.

At root, this is basic, street-level antisemitism, coming from racists who would just as readily attack other minorities too. We saw the same basic picture in 2007 and 2008 when the Israeli-Palestinian situation was also (relatively) quiet, yet there were still many hundreds of antisemitic incidents.

We should not over-simplify the analysis: those who commit antisemitic attacks do so for lots of reasons and many of the 2010 incidents still included references to Israel.

But what we learn is that when Israel is in the news, two things seem to happen. Firstly, it dominates the thinking and actions of anti-Jewish bigots, be they white, Muslim or of whatever origin.

Secondly, some get so carried away by their hatred of Israel that they lose control and attack Jews, revealing deep prejudices which they probably never knew they had.

When Israel is not dominating the news, this layer of Israel-related antisemitism is stripped away, and we see the bedrock of unadulterated antisemitism that persists year in, year out. This then provides the starting point for even worse incident levels should a significant "trigger event" occur, such as the Gaza conflict in 2009.

There is much talk of a "new" antisemitism, although "contemporary" would be more accurate. This is important, but risks distracting us from the fact that, beneath the surface, the "old" antisemitism is still there - and growing.

Mark Gardner is CST's Director of Communications

Last updated: 2:28pm, February 3 2011