9% of incidents related to Labour Party anti-Semitism

UK anti-Semitism breaks record high for 3rd year in a row, says watchdog

Community Security Trust, which monitors and protects British Jews, reports 16% increase in incidents in 2018, indicating upward trend for Jew-hatred

Yaakov Schwartz is The Times of Israel's deputy Jewish World editor.

Members of the Jewish community hold a protest against Britain's then-opposition Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn and anti-Semitism in the  Labour party, outside the British Houses of Parliament in central London on March 26, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / Tolga AKMEN)
Members of the Jewish community hold a protest against Britain's then-opposition Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn and anti-Semitism in the Labour party, outside the British Houses of Parliament in central London on March 26, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / Tolga AKMEN)

The number of recorded anti-Semitic events rose 16 percent in the last year, to 1,652 incidents around the UK, according to British Jewry’s watchdog and security group.

This represents the highest number of incidents against Jews since Community Security Trust (CST) began keeping track in 1984.

In a report released Thursday, CST said that 2018 marked the third consecutive record high year for reported anti-Semitic incidents. In 2017, there were 1,420 and in 2016, the organization recorded 1,375.

The numbers come after a year that saw Britain’s Labour Party grapple with accusations of anti-Semitism. Almost 150 incidents were linked to the party, according to CST.

According to the CST, the consistently high figures indicate that people who hold anti-Semitic opinions feel more comfortable expressing those views, causing the increased levels of anti-Semitism to now be the standard rather than the exception. In addition, the CST report said, victims or witnesses may be more motivated to report about anti-Semitism they encounter.

The figures reflect what Jewish leaders in the US and Europe have pointed to as an alarming rise in anti-Semitism, much of it linked to the rise of far-right populists. An EU report published in December found some 90 percent of Jews across the Continent felt that anti-Semitism had increased where they live.

The CST report noted a decrease in the overall number of violent assaults reported to the group in 2018, down to 123 violent assaults compared to 149 in 2017. However, this year saw the first case of “Extreme Violence” since 2015, characterized as “any attack potentially causing loss of life of grievous bodily harm.”

Adam Thomas and Claudia Patatas, alleged neo-Nazis living in the UK who named their baby after Hitler. (West Midlands Police via BBC)

In that case, the CST report said, “the victim was attacked and cut with a knife, punched and kicked, while the offender stated ‘I’m going to kill you, you f***ing Jew.’”

There are over 263,000 Jews in the United Kingdom as of the 2011 national census, making it the fifth-largest Jewish community in the world, and the second-largest in Europe. Nearly 75% of the incidents reported in 2018 took place in the Greater London or Greater Manchester areas, home to the two largest UK Jewish communities.

In an incident in May, the perpetrators shouted racist insults at a Jewish man walking to synagogue on Shabbat. They pelted him with food from McDonald’s.

More than 100 incidents — an unprecedented number — were reported in each calendar month of 2018. Prior to January 2016, the entire decade saw only six months in which monthly totals surpassed 100 incidents.

The report theorizes that spikes in incidents over 2018 correlated to events abroad, such as the weekly Palestinian March of Return protests along the Gaza border. Those protests saw a significant number of Palestinians – many of whom were members of the Hamas terror group – killed or injured by Israeli fire during the months of April and May.

The CST study also suggested that an increase in incidents likely paralleled moments when an ongoing debate over anti-Semitism in the Labour party received increased media attention.

According to the report, there were “148 antisemitic incidents in 2018 that were examples of, or took place in the immediate context of, arguments over alleged antisemitism in the Labour Party.”

Illustrative: A swastika and the word ‘kikes’ spray painted on the sign for the Etz Chaim Synagogue in Leeds. (UK Jewish News)

A recent study by the London-based Institute for Jewish Policy Research showed that anti-Israel and anti-Semitic attitudes in the UK were closely linked. In addition, last month one of Britain’s top lawyers said that the country’s Jews faced a “perfect storm of pressure from left and right.”

The CST report stated that 45% of the incidents reported in 2018 involved the use of extremist language or imagery, up from 30% in 2017.

However, the report said, “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.”

According to the CST, 456 incidents involved far-right or Nazi language or imagery, 254 involved Israel and the Palestinians, and 285 contained “more than one type of extremist discourse.”

In 502 cases recorded last year, witnesses gave descriptions of the alleged perpetrators. Among them, 64% were described as Europeans and 37% as Arab, South Asian, or black.

CST has recorded anti-Semitic incidents since 1984. The number of incidents since 2013 has more than tripled from the 535 recorded that year.

With contributions from JTA.

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