Dramatic rise in anti-Semitic incidents recorded in UK
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Dramatic rise in anti-Semitic incidents recorded in UK

Jewish community’s security authority says 53% increase stems from ‘anxiety’ leading to more reporting

A Community Security Trust guard keeps watch over a Hanukkah celebration in 2014 (Blake Ezra Photography/JTA)
A Community Security Trust guard keeps watch over a Hanukkah celebration in 2014 (Blake Ezra Photography/JTA)

LONDON — Is it safe to walk the streets of London in 2015 as an easily identifiable Jew? New data released Thursday would indicate that some British Jews may begin mulling whether they should remove their skull caps or chai pendants before leaving the house.

Britain’s anti-Semitism figures are up by a staggering 53 percent for the first six months of 2015. But the Community Security Trust (CST), which has collated the statistics, says the rise is due to an increase in reporting of incidents, rather than an increase in anti-Semitism in the United Kingdom.

Between January and June 2015, CST recorded 473 anti-Semitic incidents across the UK — up 53% from the same period in 2014. In the full calendar year of 2014, which included wide-spread blowback from Israel’s Gaza War, CST recorded 1,174 anti-Semitic incidents, and was the highest annual total the organization has ever recorded.

However, in addition to the 473 incidents for the first half of 2015, a further 333 potential incidents were reported to CST which, after investigation, were believed not to be anti-Semitic. The rejected incidents included possible hostile reconnaissance or suspicious behaviour near Jewish locations; non-anti-Semitic crime affecting Jewish property or people; or anti-Israel activity that did not involve anti-Semitic language, imagery or targeting.

CST says that the increase in anti-Semitic incidents was most pronounced during the first three months of the year, in the wake of the attacks in Paris and Copenhagen.

‘Normally, when there is a trigger event — such as Gaza, for example — the anti-Semitic incident, whether it is physical, verbal, or daubing — will contain a reference to it’

“When there is a trigger event, the increase in anti-Semitic incidents usually occurs that day, and the following two days, and then tails off. That didn’t happen with Paris and Copenhagen, in fact we saw an increase about a week and half after those events. And normally, when there is a trigger event — such as Gaza, for example — the anti-Semitic incident, whether it is physical, verbal, or daubing — will contain a reference to it. Again, the incidents in January and February did not refer to what happened in Paris and Copenhagen,” CST deputy director Mark Gardner told The Times of Israel.

Gardner said that CST’s assessment was “communal anxiety” in the wake of the French and Danish attacks, which had led to increased reporting.

The incidents range from those rated as “extreme violence” — two separate events — to 88 anti-Semitic incidents that took place on social media, comprising 19% of the 473 incident total. “Violence and extreme violence” accounted for nine percent of the overall total.

CST classifies anti-Semitic incidents according to six categories: extreme violence; assault; damage and desecration to Jewish property; threats; abusive behavior; and anti-Semitic literature.

There were 35 incidents of damage and desecration to Jewish property recorded by CST in the first six months of 2015, an increase of 30% from the same period last year. These 35 incidents are the highest total for this period since 2011.

Threats and abusive behavior accounted for 389 separate incidents

Threats and abusive behavior accounted for 389 separate incidents between January and June 2015, including direct, face-to-face verbal abuse, anti-Semitic graffiti, social media threats and one-off hate mail. Five more incidents related to mass produced or mass-emailed anti-Semitic literature.

There were 178 anti-Semitic incidents reported to CST in the first six months of 2015 in which the victims were random Jewish individuals in public. In at least 66 of these incidents the victims were visibly Jewish, due to religious or traditional clothing, Jewish school uniforms, or jewellery bearing religious symbols.

Two hundred and six anti-Semitic incidents across all categories involved verbal abuse. In 74 incidents, anti-Semitic abuse was shouted or gestured from a passing vehicle.

An Orthodox Jew walks past the Ahavas Torah synagogue in the Stamford Hill area of north London on March 22, 2015. (AFP/Niklas Halle'n)
An Orthodox Jew walks past the Ahavas Torah synagogue in the Stamford Hill area of north London on March 22, 2015. (AFP/Niklas Halle’n)

Twenty anti-Semitic incidents were recorded at Jewish schools — compared to eight in the same period in 2014. A further 14 incidents involved Jewish schoolchildren or staff on their way to or from school (10 during the same period in 2014), while 10 incidents involved Jewish schoolchildren or staff at non-faith schools (13 in the first half of 2014).

There were also 11 anti-Semitic incidents affecting Jewish students, academics, student unions or other student bodies compared to nine in the first half of 2014. Nine of these 11 anti-Semitic incidents took place on campus, one in the context of student political activity.

There was one anti-Semitic desecration of a Jewish cemetery in the first half of 2015, compared to five in the first half of 2014, and four cases of Jewish websites being hacked in circumstances that involved evidence of anti-Semitism (no such incidents were recorded in the first half of 2014).

Sixty one percent of the victims of anti-Semitism were male; 30% were female and in 23 incidents (nine percent) the victims were mixed groups of males and females.

Just over three-quarters of the incidents took place in Greater London or Manchester

Of the 473 anti-Semitic incidents reported to CST during the first six months of 2015,
the offender or offenders used some form of political discourse in 170 incidents, or 36% of the total. Of these, there were 122 incidents in which far-right discourse was used; 32 in which reference was made to Israel, Zionism or the Middle East; and 16 in which Islamist discourse was used. In 15 incidents, more than one type of discourse was used.

Just over three-quarters of the incidents took place in Greater London or Manchester. Others took place elsewhere in Britain and at least one took place on a train and was investigated by British Transport Police.

Incidents were reported to CST by the police under incident data exchange programs in London and Manchester, whereby CST and the police share anti-Semitic incident reports, fully anonymised to comply with data protection requirements, so that both agencies have as full a picture as possible of the number and type of reported incidents. Any incidents reported to both CST and the police was excluded from this process to ensure there is no “double-counting”of incidents.

In response to the report, British Home Secretary Theresa May said, “Anti-Semitism has absolutely no place in Britain, and we must do everything we can to eradicate it wherever we find it.”

Communities Minister Baroness Williams of Trafford also released a response, stating, “Whilst one anti-Semitic incident is one too many, it is positive that members of the Jewish community now feel more able to speak out against these pernicious crimes knowing that their government will hear their voice and act decisively to protect them.”

But the Paris kosher supermarket shooting and the Copenhagen synagogue attack are not far from British Jewry’s minds this year.

“The terrorist attacks on European Jews earlier this year, following the high levels of anti-Semitism in 2014, were a difficult and unsettling experience for our Jewish community,” said CST chief executive David Delew.

“We welcome the apparent increase in reporting of anti-Semitic incidents, but regret the concern and anxiety about anti-Semitism that this reflects. We will continue to work with police, government and other partners to reduce anti-Semitism and to protect our Jewish community,” said Delew.

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