Survey reveals UK Jews' fears of antisemitism

Nicolas Anelka’s now notorious quenelle gesture and the debate over Tottenham Yid chants may have made the headlines in recent months.

But UK Jews come across antisemitic comments far more in academic or educational circles than they do at sporting events.

Whereas only six per cent of UK Jews experienced antisemitism recently at a sporting occasion, 37 per cent said they had done so in an academic or school setting.

The findings were based on a 2012 poll commissioned by the European Union’s Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) – the largest survey ever carried out among the continent’s Jewish population.

While anxieties about antisemitism were lower in Britain than among other Jewish communities, particularly in France and the Hungary, nevertheless just under half of UK Jews – 48 per cent - thought it a very, or fairly, big problem.

Two-thirds of UK Jews felt the problem had worsened over the previous five years, with nearly one in five having suffered verbal harassment or a physical attack.

As elsewhere in Europe, the most common place Jews encountered negative remarks about them was on the internet.

But Institute for Jewish Policy Research director Jonathan Boyd, in a new analysis of the British figures, revealed this week that most victims of incidents had not reported them either to police or an organisation such as the Community Security Trust.

“There are very high levels of non-reporting, particularly the less serious or harder-to-prove cases of verbal harassment… the sort of nastiness that leaves a bitter taste in people’s mouths,” he said at a seminar jointly organised by JPR, the Pears Institute for the Study of Antisemitism at Birkbeck and the All-Party Parliamentary Group against Antisemitism.

Forty-six per cent of instances of anti-Jewish vandalism had not been reported, along with 57 per cent for physical violence and 71 per cent for verbal abuse.

When it came to the perpetrators, victims of such incidents pointed the finger more at those with extremist Islamic or left-wing political views than more traditional agents of antisemitism such as the far-right.

Those who identify as Orthodox or Charedi and are more visibly Jewish - by wearing a kippah in the street for example - are more likely to have experienced, or be anxious, about antisemitism than the non-Orthodox.

Nearly three out of five UK Jews said that the conflict in the Middle East had considerable impact on how safe they felt.

While only six per cent regarded criticism of Israel as antisemitic, some 67 per cent believed that boycotting Israel was definitely or probably so, and 77 per cent, comparing Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians to the Nazis.

Pears Institute Professor David Feldman said that FRA survey gave a “valuable and disturbing picture” of Jewish anxieties across Europe but that the findings should be approached with care.

There were differences between measuring antisemitism based on the perceptions of victims and other definitions, he observed. Research on those who were perceived to be the perpetrators was urgently needed.

Last updated: 10:45am, March 21 2014