Antisemitism on rise in UK: Belfast synagogue windows smashed, racist posters, Hitler chants and smashed-up gravestones
Incidents of antisemitism in Britain rose by more than a third in the first six months of this year, indicating rising hate crime against Jews prior to the current conflict in Gaza and Israel, according to new figures.
The Community Security Trust (CST), which monitors attacks on the Jewish community, said it had recorded 304 incidents in the first half of 2014, including the desecration of a Manchester cemetery, physical assaults and a poster displaying an antisemitic image of a hook-nosed man pasted on a Hertfordshire street.
The rise of 36 per cent in incidents compared to the first half of 2013 comes after it was revealed that there has also been a doubling in the number of attacks on British Jews since the start of Israel’s operation in Gaza last month to about 130. The figure is the highest monthly figure since February 2009, which coincided with the wake of the last conflict in the Occupied Territory.
The CST said the sharp rise in incidents, which range from graffiti on homes to a gang attack by UK-based Polish extremists, had no clear cause but may be due to a real-terms increase in assaults as well as improved reporting to police and its hotlines.
The organisation warned there was potentially a worsening problem with antisemitism in Britain. Mark Gardner, the CST’s spokesman, said: “Even more worrying is that since the period covered by this report, CST has already recorded over 130 further antisemitic incidents.
He said: “There is no excuse for this wave of racist intimidation and violence and we call upon all good people to unequivocally condemn it.”
The figures coincide with figures published last month which showed Britain’s Muslim community is also the target of large numbers of hate crimes.
A study by Tell MAMA, which monitors anti-Muslim attacks, and academics at Teesside University recorded 734 incidents over 10 months between 2013 and 2014. In the weeks following the murder of off-duty soldier Lee Rigby in May last year, assaults rose by almost 400 per cent.
The report found that Muslim women wearing traditional dress were the most likely to be targets of physical assault with victims reporting they had been spat at and veiled garments pulled or ripped as well as lit cigarettes thrown at them.
The CST study found that the majority of incidents against Jews - 232 - related to abusive behaviour such as verbal abuse in the street, graffiti on family homes and antisemitic abuse via social media.
There were also 22 physical assaults, including an incident in north London park in June when a music festival was attacked by a group of up to 20 far-right Polish activists, during which a man’s kippah skull cap was pushed from his head and another man was stabbed. Organisers of the festival in Tottenham said the skinhead attackers were from a group naming itself “Emigrants United - London” previously associated with racist graffiti in the park where the event had been held.
The total number of physical assaults nonetheless represented a fall from the same period last year and was the lowest for the first six months of the year since 2001.
The report found there had also been a marked increase in antisemitic incidents in London with a total of 144 attacks, a rise of more than half compared to 2013.
In nearly two thirds of the incidents across the country where the ethnic appearance of the offender could be identified, the attacker was described as white northern European (58 per cent) with 27 per cent described as south Asian.
There were also 27 incidents of damage to Jewish property or monuments including an incident in June when gravestones in a cemetery in Blackley, Greater Manchester, were smashed and pushed over as well as being sprayed with graffiti. Two 13-year-old boys have been charged with criminal damage in connection with the incident.
Social media is increasingly being used to transmit threats or abuse targeted at British Jews with 54 incidents compared to 35 over the same period last year.
Politicians voiced concern that as the Israeli military action continues in Gaza, a backlash of antisemitism against British Jews will grow.
The highest figure for antisemitic incidents over a six month period - 629 - was in 2009 and coincided with the last major Israeli bombardment of Gaza.
Incidents since the start of Operation Protective Edge began three weeks ago include an assault on a rabbi near a Jewish boarding school in Gateshead and bricks being thrown through the windows of a Belfast synagogue.
In another incident, a group of men in four or five cars drove through a Jewish area of Manchester shouting “Heil Hitler” while throwing eggs and drink cans at pedestrians.
John Mann, the Labour chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group Against Antisemitism, said: “From the feedback we are receiving, it is likely that the volume of antisemitic incidents will increase significantly before the year’s end.”
Based on a drawing by a French artist, a poster showing a hook-nosed Orthodox Jewish man was found in Hertfordshire in June. It was adorned with stickers in Polish, one of which appeared to blame pornography and prostitution on Jews.
An increasing number of antisemitic attacks occur via social media. An expletive-strewn message on Twitter declaring “war against the Jew in Britain” to ensure “this nation again belongs to our own folk” was posted in June.
The homes of British Jews have been scrawled with antisemitic slogans. In one incident in February, a house in London was defaced with graffiti describing Jews as “rats” and a crossed-out Star of David.
In June, the Jewish cemetery at Blackley, Greater Manchester, was vandalised. Some 40 gravestones were pushed over or smashed. It followed another incident in the same week where anti-semitic graffiti and Swastikas was discovered scrawled on tombs.