Mark Gardner

We cannot relax as ‘normal’ torrent of abuse resumes

This year, thankfully, the numbers of antisemitic incidents have fallen but the proportion of incidents that involve violence has increased

August 04, 2022 11:17

Last year was an awful year for antisemitism in Britain. The conflict in Israel and Gaza in May 2021 led to a record spike in anti-Jewish hate, exemplified by those car convoys driving through Jewish neighbourhoods waving their flags and shouting abuse at Jewish people on the streets.

Then at Chanukah we had to bear the sight of Jewish teens being attacked on a bus on Oxford Street and other vicious assaults in Stamford Hill, West Hampstead and elsewhere.

This year, thankfully, this torrent of hate has slowed. The war that has grabbed everyone’s attention this year is in Ukraine rather than in Israel (although interestingly, it has not been greeted by a comparable wave of anti-Russian hate crime in the UK). The rows over antisemitism in the Labour Party have quietened down, and even the pandemic is receding in the public consciousness.

It is no surprise, then, that the first six months of 2022 saw the lowest number of antisemitic hate incidents reported to CST since the first half of 2017.

It gives us a baseline from which to work in the future: what antisemitism looks like when nothing specific happens to stir up all those hatreds that we know lie just beneath the surface of society.

What it shows is not comforting. The proportion of incidents that involve violence, although low, has increased and is back to where it was before we were all forced apart through lockdowns and social distancing.

Similarly, the proportion of incidents taking place offline — verbal abuse on the streets, graffiti, hate mail and the like — increased, while online incidents fell.

The picture it suggests is one of antisemitism returning to what passed for “normal” before the pandemic: crude, in-your-face, up-front hatred, and there is still far too much of it. More than 100 anti-Jewish hate incidents every single month, when that total used to be a rare occurrence.

Most worryingly, the proportion of incidents where perpetrators are described as minors has gone up — it is now double what it was two years ago — even in a year when incidents taking place in and around schools fell.

Of course, none of this can ever be accepted as normal. We should welcome the fact that antisemitic incidents reduced in number this year, but there is no knowing when the next war, pandemic or economic crash might happen.

Respite is no reason for those of us charged with protecting the Jewish community to relax. CST will continue to push for more prosecutions, more education, and more regulation to limit the flow of anti-Jewish hate.

Mark Gardner is Chief Executive of the Community Security Trust

August 04, 2022 11:17

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