The Jewish community remains in the “front line” of possible targets for international terrorists, jihadis and far-right extremists, a leading expert has told Limmud Festival participants.
Mike Whine, the Community Security Trust’s government and international affairs director, said the presence of unarmed security guards outside Jewish schools and shuls was the biggest deterrent.
In a Limmud session looking at the severity of the terrorist threat to the Jewish community, Mr Whine outlined a number of groups which he said were the leading sources of concern.
They included Daesh, “the most visible threat” which is known to have considered Jewish targets in the UK; Al Qaeda, which Mr Whine said was being resurrected and was encouraging supporters to kill Jews in the wake of the United States’s decision to move its Israeli embassy to Jerusalem; Iran, Hizbollah and their surrogates; and the far-right.
But the government adviser said extreme right-wing groups in Britain had a lower level of professionalism than jihadi organisations and while they had bomb-making abilities and a track-record of radicalisation, they were less capable of carrying out mass-scale attacks.
Mr Whine said: “They are legitimate concerns and we have to realise the Jewish community is very much in the front line.
“The British tend to be on top of the problem. The failure comes with the number and pace of attacks being planned.
“The authorities are trying to juggle responsibilities and consider what is the biggest threat.”
Mr Whine said the fact the community had an “over-bearing presence” outside its institutions was a “very real deterrent”.
“Guards outside a school or shul won’t stop an attack, but they can monitor the build up and gather intelligence.
“Having an overt deterrence outside a Jewish building prevents the early part of intelligence gathering on an institution.”
He said that while there was a “real terror threat” facing Britain, the country did not face the level of threat posed to Belgium, France or other European nations. This was a result of better cooperation between security authorities and a lack of a “silo mentality” in this country.
But Mr Whine warned that governments must do more to fund Jewish community security across Europe and worldwide. He cited the case of one central European community which spends 25 per cent of its budget on security – money which, Mr Whine said, could be spent on education or care for the elderly.
Britain’s departure from the European Union was unlikely to hamper security efforts, he added, because “these issues override any presence in the EU. I don’t think there will be any effect from Brexit”.