Blame the general rise in racism

August 04, 2016 10:08

Reports of antisemitic incidents to the Community Security Trust and the police are one of our most important tools for understanding anti-Jewish hatred.

Sad to say, therefore, that in the first half of 2016, CST recorded 557 incidents, 11 per cent up on the same period last year. The monthly incident levels are now almost double what they were in 2011-2013, so the problem is worsening.

A further 364 reports were received by CST that we deemed not to be antisemitic. So from January to June our staff recorded over 900 reports, most of which required follow-up with victims or the relevant authorities. But that still underestimates the rising challenge in this specific area of our work.

We have, for example, seen numerous social media campaigns against Jewish politicians and activists, especially women. Each campaign can comprise many hundreds of hateful messages. The terrible murder of Jo Cox MP means nobody can dismiss the seriousness of that hatred, and we give support wherever and whenever possible to those targeted.

I would normally caution against reading too much meaning into one set of statistics over a relatively short, six-monthly timeframe. There can be short-term variations in the percentage of incidents that actually get reported, and surveys suggest that around three-quarters of antisemitic incidents go unreported.

Furthermore, each incident counts equally as one, not showing the strength of impact against the victim, or against our wider community.

Similarly, our communal unease over everything from Jihadist terrorism to Labour Party antisemitism controversies cannot be measured by reference to incidents.

Despite these reservations, it is hard to avoid the conclusion that the problem is simply worsening.

Since 2000, we have seen sharp escalations in incident levels, triggered by conflict in the Middle East, especially, but not only, those involving Israel. There were no triggers working in the opposite direction, properly reducing the antisemitism.

In some individual years, the overall figure showed reasonably good falls, but the important longer-term trends are increasingly clear and increasingly troubling.

There were no significant trigger events this year, but if we continue at the current rate, 2016 will only just fall shy of 2014, when the two-month-long Israel-Hamas conflict pushed the total number of incidents to a record high of 1,180.

Close analysis of the 2016 perpetrators and their language shows that the most probable single cause of today's high level of antisemitism is the general rise in racism and division within our society. Only a relatively small proportion of the incidents mention Israel, so this is something different.

Part of the explanation may well lie in the sheer amount of news headlines in May and June, concerning antisemitism and sections of the Labour Party. This is the kind of media situation that excites antisemites and also causes people to report antisemitism, but it is far from the whole picture.

More importantly, we have to always remember that when there is a general increase in racism, Jews will not magically escape from it. History and logic tell us that divisions within society will find their impact against Jews sooner or later. We seem to be shifting towards a time of anti-establishment politics and populism. In this big picture context, it is hard to see what good those overall current trends can bring for the community.

Then, there is another, more obviously brutal trend. In recent weeks, it has felt as if every day brings news of some other terrorist attack, either by a formal terror group, or by individuals acting in the name of terrorism.

The antisemitic incidents are bad enough in and of themselves, but these are not just statistics, each one impacts against a person, or a family, or a community. A terrorist attack would also count as one incident, as one statistic, but the impact would of course be far worse.

These are the realities we deal with each day at CST, but it could not be done without the co-operation of our volunteers, our supporters and our entire community.

David Delew is chief executive of CST

August 04, 2016 10:08

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