An American organisation which monitors antisemitism has said that the Nazi swastika will no longer automatically be considered a hate symbol.
The Anti-Defamation League said the swastika, until now inextricably linked with the Holocaust and the murder of six million Jews, has for some people “lost its meaning as the primary symbol of Nazism and instead become a more generalised symbol of hate.”
The ADL released its annual audit of antisemitic incidents last week and said that numbers had fallen from 1,352 in 2008 to 1,211 the following year.
But the national director, Abraham Foxman, said that the drop owed more to changes in how antisemitic incidents were recorded than an overall reduction in cases of harassment, vandalism or threats against Jews.
Mr Foxman said the change was part of an ongoing evaluation of how the ADL measures anti-Jewish behaviour.
He said: "To make the audit as accurate as possible in measuring antisemitic incidents in America, we have decided to take a more conservative approach to counting certain types of incidents, including graffiti and swastikas.
“We are being more careful to include graffiti incidents that specifically target Jews or Jewish institutions.”
The Community Security Trust, which monitors antisemitism in Britain, said they had spoken to the ADL about the change - and were not concerned.
A spokesman said: “The ADL of course continue to stress the power of the swastika as a hate symbol.
“It is simply that their analysts found some occasions when the swastika was not being used in a manner that they believed constituted an antisemitic hate crime."
But William Helmreich, a sociology professor of New York’s City University, voiced concern about the decision.
He said: “I don’t feel they should stop taking note of swastikas in general because they do represent a symbol of hatred.
“Why not just differentiate it in the report?”