The number of anti-Semitic assaults in the UK rose by more than a third in 2017, new figures have revealed.
In a year in which the number of anti-Semitic incidents reached record highs, there was an incidence of “extreme violence” against Jews because they were Jewish roughly once every 2.5 days.
Most of the assaults recorded by the CST were “random attacks” against Jews on the streets, with most recorded as being against Jews who looked “visibly Jewish, due to their religious or traditional clothing”. Among these, 16 targeted Jewish schoolchildren away from school, while three were targeted on their way to school.
In one incident, Jewish schoolchildren were “hit, kicked and punched” on the bus, but were “ignored” by the driver when they tried to get help. The children fled the bus at the next stop but were followed. The assault only stopped when they entered a kosher shop and raised the alarm.
The shocking statistics were published this week by the Community Security Trust (CST), the organisation charged with protecting the Jewish community and monitoring instances of anti-Semitism across the country.
CST analysts recorded 145 assaults in 2017, at least 40 of which were against Jewish children, and said last year year saw 120 incidents targeting synagogues or synagogue congregants, up from 89 in 2016.
The striking total represents a 34 percent increase on the total of 108 assaults in 2016 and is almost twice the average number of assaults recorded in the four years from 2012 to 2015.
Like last year, almost one in five ‘incidents’ was reported anti-Semitism on social media, while the number of incidents classed as ‘abusive behaviour’ such as shouting on the streets stayed steady at 1,038, comprising the bulk of the total.
The CST, which spends a £13.4 million government security funding grant on behalf of the Jewish community, said improved recording could account for the highest number of annual ‘incidents’ ever, up from 1,346 in 2016 – itself a record year.
“This differs from previous record highs, in 2014 and 2009, when conflicts in Israel and Gaza acted as sudden trigger events, that led to short-term, identifiable ‘spikes’ in incident numbers,” said a spokesman.
The charity said that more than 100 ‘incidents’ have been logged every month since April 2016, which it described as “an unprecedented pattern,” with monthly totals “roughly double what they were five years ago”.
While several factors are cited, the CST noted that the number and visibility of security guards around Jewish religious and communal buildings was increased around 2015-16, in response to terrorism in Europe, with the report’s authors suggesting that this could account in part for the recent rise in recorded incidents.
Interestingly, when analysing trends, the report said there were ten times as many incidents of anti-Semitism described as being “far-right” in motivation (140) as there were incidents described as being “Islamist” in motivation (14). Likewise, there were 67 incidents logged as having an “anti-Israel” motivation.
As with previous years, the majority of incidents were logged in London, with large cities including Manchester, Leeds and Glasgow also registering.
“Hatred is rising and Jewish people are suffering as a result,” said CST chief executive David Delew. “It shows anger and division that threaten all of society.”
He said the Jewish community had the support of both the Government and the Police, but added: “Prosecutions need to be more visible and more frequent; while too many others act in ways that encourage anti-Semites and isolate Jews.”
Home Secretary Amber Rudd acknowledged that the rise in reported incidents “partly reflects the improving response to these horrendous attacks and better information sharing between the CST and police”.
She added: “Even one incident is one too many and any rise in incidents is clearly concerning, which is why this Government will continue its work protecting the Jewish community and other groups from antisemitism and hate crime.”
Rudd’s department is due to shortly update the 2016 Hate Crime Action Plan, which identified an “under-reporting” in the Orthodox Jewish community.
Labour front-bench MP Andrew Gwynne MP, said: “We must root out anti-Semitism… I hope the CST’s report will act as a stark reminder of the work that still needs to be done.”
Communities Minister Sajid Javid said communities “are increasingly confident in coming forward and are reporting incidents” but that more needed to be done to bring perpetrators to justice.
Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner, senior rabbi of the Movement for Reform Judaism commented on CST’s report, saying: “Any rise in anti-Semitic hate crime is a cause for deep concern for the Jewish community, for other minorities and for all Britons. These figures are simply too high; however Britain remains a stable and great place to be Jewish. It is not an anti-Semitic country and I am confident that the vast majority of people stand beside us in rejecting all hatred”.
These worrying figures make our mission more important than ever before – we must redouble our efforts to educate against ignorance and hatred.”