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UK anti-Semitism soars to record high, up 7% since 2018, says watchdog

Britain’s Community Security Trust records 1,805 anti-Semitic hate incidents, including 158 violent assaults, nationwide in 2019

Anti-Semitic graffiti in the Hampstead neighborhood of northwest London, photographed on December 29, 2019. (Twitter screen capture)
Anti-Semitic graffiti in the Hampstead neighborhood of northwest London, photographed on December 29, 2019. (Twitter screen capture)

The British Community Security Trust (CST), a charity that monitors anti-Semitism and provides security for the Jewish community in Britain, said it recorded 1,805 anti-Semitic hate incidents nationwide in 2019, the highest total it has ever recorded in a calendar year.

This is the fourth year in a row in which the CST has reported record-high totals of anti-Semitic cases, with a 7 percent increase over the 1,690 incidents in 2018. The organization has recorded anti-Semitic incidents since 1984.

The report cited 566 additional cases that were reported to the CST but were deemed not anti-Semitic.

“2019 was another difficult year for British Jews and it is no surprise that recorded anti-Semitic incidents reached yet another high,” said CST Chief Executive David Delew. “It is clear that both social media and mainstream politics are places where anti-Semitism and racism need to be driven out, if things are to improve in the future.”

Members of the Jewish community hold a protest against Britain’s 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/Tolga Akmen)

Nearly two-thirds of the recorded incidents occurred in Greater London (947 incidents) and Greater Manchester (223), the districts containing the largest concentrations of Jewish residents. While incidents rose overall, in the Manchester area the total number of incidents fell by 11%.

For the second year in a row, over 100 anti-Semitic incidents were recorded in every month of the year. The highest monthly totals in 2019 were December (184 incidents) and February (182), two months that saw prominent and intense debate over allegations of anti-Semitism in the Labour Party — in December due to the elections, and in February due to several Labour MPs defecting to form a new party.

In total in 2019, CST recorded 224 anti-Semitic incidents in which the offenders or the abuse they expressed were related to the Labour Party — an increase from 148 such incidents in 2018.

Labour has grappled with anti-Semitism since its far-left leader Corbyn was elected party chief in 2015, with fresh scrutiny coming after a number of former party officials accused him and his allies of interfering in efforts to address the issue, in a BBC program aired this summer. Corbyn has come under prolonged attack — including from within the party — for allegedly allowing anti-Semitism to spread in the party and for initially refusing to adopt fully the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of anti-Semitism in Labour’s new code of conduct.

Much of the fear of Corbyn was spurred by revelations about his past record that have emerged since he became Labour leader. These include him describing Hamas and Hezbollah as “friends”; defending an anti-Semitic mural in East London; and a seeming willingness to associate with alleged anti-Semites, terrorists and Holocaust-deniers.

Corbyn promised to step down after December’s general election in which Labour faced its worst defeat since 1935. Some Labour members have blamed the loss on their leader’s “repeated unwillingness to stand up to the stain of anti-Semitism” and several candidates running to replace Corbyn have signed a pledge “to address anti-Semitism in the party.”

A chart published on February 6, 2020, showing anti-Semitic incidents recorded in Britain by the Community Security Trust (CST) between 2007 and 2019. (Courtesy CST)

According to the CST report, some 39% of the cases, 697, occurred online — mostly on social media — marking an 82% increase over 2018. That is considered the primary cause of the overall increase in cases of anti-Semitism.

The CST said that the actual number of online cases was much higher. Targeted campaigns directed at individual victims often involve dozens of social media accounts and hundreds or even thousands of posts, but each campaign is recorded as a single incident.

Incidents involving social media are only recorded by the CST if they have been reported to it by either the victim or a witness, if the content shows evidence of anti-Semitic language, motivation or targeting, and if the offender is based in the United Kingdom or has directly targeted a UK-based victim.

Last August, the CST issued a report claiming that a small number of online social media accounts have driven the discourse on anti-Semitism in the British Labour Party.

A breakdown of anti-Semitic incidents recorded by Britain’s Community Security Trust (CST) in 2019. (Courtesy CST)

Such hate was not merely confined to the internet, however. The CST recorded 158 violent anti-Semitic assaults over the course of 2019, a 25% increase over the previous year and the highest annual tally of such incidents ever recorded by the group.

Nearly half of these incidents occurred in just three boroughs: Barnet (29 assaults), Hackney (28) and Salford (15). According to the CST, there were 88 incidents of Damage & Desecration of Jewish property, 98 direct anti-Semitic threats and 1,443 incidents of abusive behavior, a category which includes verbal abuse, anti-Semitic graffiti, abuse via social media and one-off cases of hate mail. There were also 18 cases of mass-mailed anti-Semitic leaflets or emails.

While the majority of incidents occurred in the Greater London and Manchester regions, there were also significant numbers of incidents elsewhere, with 76 anti-Semitic incidents recorded in Hertfordshire, 58 in Northumbria, 56 in Merseyside, 38 in West Yorkshire, 28 in Scotland, 27 the West Midlands and 16 in Wales.

“It’s appalling that we have seen another increase of sickening abuse against the Jewish community,” said Home Secretary Priti Patel. “We need to do much more to tackle anti-Semitism and the intolerance this creates across society. As Home Secretary, I am pushing for greater collaboration, both across government, policing, the courts and community groups, to remove this shameful stain on our society.”

“Who could have imagined that 75 years after the end of the Holocaust, anti-Semitism would be on the rise in the UK and across Europe,” agreed Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick. “There is no place for anti-Semitism in our society. It is a scourge on us all and the record high number of recorded incidents in 2019 is completely unacceptable.”

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