Record surge in antisemitism driven by UK politics, not news about Israel, says CST

Record year for incidents blamed on 'antisemitic politics' and 'deliberate excluding of Jews from anti-racist norms'


Last year saw a record number of incidents involving Jew-hate in the UK, a fact that comes down to “antisemitic politics” and “the deliberate excluding of Jews from anti-racist norms”, the Chief Executive of Community Security Trust has said.

CST figures show 1,652 antisemitic incidents were reported in the UK in 2018, a 16 per cent increase on the previous year.

While the incidents were mainly non-violent, they took place at an alarmingly regular rate over the 12 months: over 100 incidents were recorded in every month for the first time ever in any calendar year.

Reacting to the publication on their latest report on Thursday, CST Chief Executive David Delew said: “Since the early 2000s, there has been growing awareness that overseas conflicts cause sharp, sudden increases in domestic antisemitism. Of course, this was most obvious when Israel was in the news.

“Now, 2016, 2017 and 2018 are all the worst years on record, but there is a very different dynamic. Put simply, Israel has not been fully at war and this latest antisemitism is about the condition of Britain today. It cannot somehow be blamed upon anti-Israel hatred, acted out against British Jews. Nor can it somehow be blamed upon British Muslims, as some people might rush to do.

“Right now, we and our communal partners must challenge antisemitic politics and the deliberate excluding of Jews from anti-racist norms.”

The month with highest number of incidents, 182, was May, followed by April with 151 incidents and August with 150 incidents.

In the past three years, there have only been five months in which the monthly incident total has dropped below 100; in contrast, in the decade prior to 2016 there were only six months in which CST recorded more than 100 antisemitic incidents.

Escalation of violence in the Middle East involving Israel and the Palestinians has traditionally been a reason for a spike in antisemitic incidents in the UK.

Mr Delew warned that given the fact there has been no major war involving Israel since 2016, “if or when Israel is next at war, the impact of that will physically occur on top of our current situation”.

While April and May did see a rise in incidents at home – as numerous Palestinians were killed and many injured in violence connected to protests at the border between Israel and Gaza – the rest of the year did not see as much high-profile coverage of the Middle East dispute.

Sixty-six antisemitic incidents in 2018 targeted synagogues; 30 incidents involved shul congregants on their way to or from prayers.

In 221 incidents, the victims were Jewish community organisations, communal events, commercial premises or high-profile individuals, compared to 141 such incidents in 2017.

Ninety-six incidents targeted Jewish schools, schoolchildren or staff in 2018, compared to 88 incidents the previous year.

There also seemed to be a connection between an increase in incidents and the prominence of ongoing arguments about antisemitism in Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party.

CST recorded 148 antisemitic incidents in 2018 that were examples of, or took place in the context of, arguments over alleged Labour antisemitism.

The Enough Is Enough demonstration outside Parliament Square in March, which took place after Mr Corbyn was revealed to have defended the artist behind an antisemitic mural, and the continued row last summer over Labour’s reluctance to adopt the IHRA definition of Jew-hate, all seem to have sparked an increase in antisemitism in the following weeks.

Of these 148 incidents linked to disputes about Labour and the Jewish community, 49 occurred in August, 16 in September and 15 in April.

CST also recorded 173 antisemitic incidents in 2018 that showed anti-Israel motivation alongside antisemitism, of which 47 incidents – over a quarter – occurred in April and May.

The last 12 months also saw an increase in the number and proportion of antisemitic incidents that used political or extremist language and imagery.

Forty-five per cent of the incidents recorded by CST in 2018 involved the use of extremist language or imagery alongside antisemitism, compared to 30 per cent of incidents recorded in 2017.

Not all of these incidents revealed a clear, single ideological motivation: many involved the varied and confused use of different extremist motifs, drawn from a broad reservoir of antisemitic sources.

Of the 1,652 antisemitic incidents recorded during 2018, 456 involved language or imagery relating to the far right or the Nazi period; 254 involved references to Israel and the Palestinians, alongside antisemitism; and 29 involved references to Islam and Muslims.

All-Party Parliamentary Group Against Antisemitism Chair John Mann MP said: “Sadly, these figures are not surprising, indeed they are predictable.

“If you consider the whole antisemitic onslaught on social media as just one incident then, in fact, the problem is bigger than the incident figures suggest.

“It is now time for everyone in Parliament to stand up, be counted and to stand alongside CST in the fight against antisemitism.”

In 483 incidents, the victims were Jewish people, male or female, attacked or abused while going about their daily business in public places.

In at least 224 incidents, the victims were visibly Jewish, usually due to their religious or traditional clothing, school uniform or jewellery bearing Jewish symbols.

A total of 724 incidents involved verbal antisemitic abuse.

CST recorded a 17 per cent decrease in the number of violent antisemitic assaults, from 149 in 2017 to 123 in 2018.

One of these violent incidents was classified by CST as ‘Extreme Violence’, which means it involved potential grievous bodily harm (GBH) or a threat to life.

There were 384 antisemitic incidents that involved the use of social media in 2018, comprising 23 per cent of the overall total. This was an increase of 54 per cent from the 249 such incidents CST recorded in 2017.

Almost three-quarters of the 1,652 antisemitic incidents were recorded in Greater London and Greater Manchester, where the two largest Jewish communities in the UK live. CST recorded 950 antisemitic incidents in Greater London in 2018, a rise of 21 per cent from the 784 incidents recorded in London in 2017.

In Greater Manchester, 250 antisemitic incidents were recorded, a fall of five per cent from the 264 incidents recorded there in 2017.

Beyond these two centres, CST recorded 452 antisemitic incidents across the United Kingdom in 2018, compared to 386 incidents in 2017.

This included 55 in Hertfordshire, 34 in Gateshead, 23 in Leeds, 19 in Liverpool, 16 in Sheffield, 12 in Glasgow and 11 in Birmingham.

Disturbingly, the CST’s Antisemitism Incidents Report 2018 states it is “likely that there is significant under-reporting of antisemitic incidents to both CST and the police, and that the number of antisemitic incidents that took place is significantly higher than the number recorded in this report.”

It makes reference to a 2018 survey by the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights, which found that only 21 per cent of British Jews who had experienced antisemitic harassment over the previous five years had reported it to the police or to any other organisation.

Responding to the CST’s new survey, Communities Secretary James Brokenshire said: “It is completely unacceptable to see the number of antisemitic incidents continue to rise again, particularly at such an alarming rate. I am shocked and saddened that the Community Security Trust recorded over 100 incidents each month last year.

“Antisemitism may be felt most acutely by the Jewish community, but it is a disgrace that concerns us all. It is as important as ever to eradicate antisemitic discourse from our society and ensure that it is challenged and rooted out from wherever it is found. “

Home Secretary Sajid Javid said: “All acts of antisemitism are utterly despicable and have no place in society.

“The Jewish community should not have to tolerate these attacks and we are doing all we can to rid society of these poisonous views.

“As part of our Hate Crime Action Plan we work closely with the Jewish community and soon I will be co-chairing an antisemitism roundtable to discuss how we further tackle these issues.”

Shadow Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Andrew Gwynne MP said: “These statistics make for hard reading, and show that much more needs to be done to heal the deepening divides within our society and to challenge the growing confidence of those who preach hate, holocaust denial and inversion, and antisemitism.

“There is no place in British society, and in British politics, left or right, for antisemitic views.”

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