Vandals destroyed headstones at a Jewish cemetery in Manchester on Wednesday, in what a senior police officer called “a sickening act of anti-Semitism.”
Police found 14 headstones knocked over and smashed at the Blackley cemetery, in northeast Manchester, the Guardian reported.
Police are treating the vandalism as a hate crime, although no suspects have yet been apprehended, Superintendent Wasim Chaudhry, head of Greater Manchester Police’s North Manchester Division, said in a statement.
“This is a sickening act of anti-Semitism which we are taking very seriously. I believe this was a deliberate and targeted attack and there is no place for such abhorrent behavior in our communities,” Chaudhry told UK press.
“I cannot begin to get into the mind of someone who would commit such an atrocity. I know this will cause a lot of anxiety and distress in the local community and we as police officers and my colleagues at Manchester City Council share that distress.”
Chaudhry stressed that the incident “has been recorded as a hate crime because of the clear racial motivation,” and urged residents of the surrounding area to help the police to identify the perpetrators.
“Someone will know who is responsible and I would urge those people to do the right thing, do the decent thing… think of those are suffering and speak to us, in confidence if needed,” he said.
The Blackley Jewish cemetery was previously vandalized in June 2014, when swastikas were drawn on graves and headstones were knocked over.
The recent defacement underlines growing concerns over a rise in anti-Semitic attacks and racially charged statements throughout the UK in recent years.
Anti-Semitic attacks in the UK reached the highest level ever recorded in 2014, the Guardian reported in February last year, after the Community Security Trust, a Jewish charity which runs an incident hotline, recorded 1,168 attacks against Jews throughout the year.
An All Party Parliamentary Report on Antisemitism, commissioned by non-Jewish Labour MP John Mann in February 2015, found that terrorism against Jews was on the rise in the UK, and recommended that “a government fund be established to cover both capital and revenue costs for the security of British synagogues.”
Violence against Jews in the UK rose to such a degree during 2014, that British Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis organized a London-based rally attended by thousands in September, demanding zero-tolerance of anti-Semitism under British law.
In December 2014 Danny Cohen, then-director of BBC Television, said rising anti-Semitism has made him question the long-term future for Jews in the UK.
Recently, Britain’s Daily Telegraph reported that the UK Labour Party “secretly suspended” 50 of its members for anti-Semitic and racist comments, among them former London mayor Ken Livingstone, who said that Hitler supported Zionism before he “went mad and ended up killing 6 million Jews.”
As of 2014, the UK was found to have the sixth lowest ratings of anti-Semitism by the Anti-Defamation League global survey across 100 nations and territories. According to the survey, over a quarter of the UK respondents (27 percent) believed Jews to be more patriotic toward Israel than the UK. Nearly a fifth of those surveyed (19 percent) said “Jews have too much control over the United States government.”