Anti-Semitism in the UK reached “unprecedented” levels in 2016, after a rise of 36 percent in the number of incidents.
Following Thursday’s release of its annual figures, the Community Security Trust (CST) said there were now more than twice as many anti-Semitic incidents per month than four years ago, with the level of hatred eclipsing that seen during the Gaza War in 2014.
While charity bosses said incidents were now far more likely to be reported, they were nevertheless left gobsmacked by the huge and sustained increase, with 1,309 incidents reported last year – the highest on record.
This compares to 960 incidents in 2015 and 1,182 the year before, when Israel launched military action against militant groups in the Gaza Strip, provoking a strong backlash against Jewish communities across the world, something the charity called
a “trigger event”.
Labour Party Deputy Leader Tom Watson MP described the latest figures as “extremely distressing”, while John Mann MP, the chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group Against Antisemitism, said the statistics were “very worrying”.
Labour MP Mann blamed “the rise of nationalist populism” as well as the “failure to boldly oppose anti-Semitism,” a comment seen as critical of his party leader, Jeremy Corbyn.
CST chief executive David Delew said: “While Jewish life in this country remains overwhelmingly positive, this heightened level of anti-Semitism is deeply worrying and it appears to be getting worse… Some people clearly feel more confident to express their anti-Semitism publicly than they did in the past.”
The Union of Jewish Students (UJS) noted the doubling of recorded anti-Semitic incidents affecting students, including an on-campus assault at Cambridge University, and an off-campus assault at an undisclosed location.
A UJS spokesman said the stats were “of great concern,” especially on the back of a report into disturbances at UCL, adding: “Both reports should serve as a wake-up call to the student sector.”
Jonathan Arkush, president of the Board of Deputies, said the record figures were “deeply worrying, particularly in light of the fact that there was no single trigger event in 2016”.
He added: “Combating anti-Semitism will take a concerted effort by the country’s political leadership, government and civil society. In these uncertain times, we should strive to make the UK a beacon of a society that abhors racism and champions respect between all its citizens.”
Simon Johnson, Chief Executive of the Jewish Leadership Council said: “The Jewish Leadership Council warmly welcomes the forthcoming meeting between Prime Ministers Netanyahu and May.”
“It is entirely appropriate that a meeting such as this between the leaders of two allies should be taking place. There are many ties between the two countries, and these should be strengthened.”
“The complex nature of the challenges in the region and those faced by Israel in particular should be high up on their agenda.”
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan reacted to the report saying: “This significant rise in deplorable hate crimes against Jewish Londoners is shocking and deeply concerning. Any type of anti-Semitic offence is unacceptable in our city.
“We need to send the message far and wide that anti-Semitism can never be justified and we’ll act to stamp out it out whenever it rears its ugly head.”
“I have adopted a strict zero-tolerance approach to anti-Semitism and all hate crime”.
More than half of all UK incidents were reported in London, although for online incidents, such as hateful messages left on social media sites, London may represent the location of the reporter, not the offence.
Overall, there was a huge 55 percent increase in the amount of online abuse being recorded, with 287 incidents overall.
More worryingly, the number of incidents classed as ‘abusive behaviour and threats’ was 1,006, which is “the highest CST has ever recorded in those categories”.
There were 107 ‘violent anti-Semitic assaults,’ the highest level since 2010, but none were classed as ‘extreme violence,’ meaning grievous bodily harm or threats to life.
The Union of Jewish Students said “the overwhelming majority” of young people “have a broadly positive experience on campus, the figures released today highlighting a doubling in anti-Semitic incidents affecting students are of great concern. This rise in overall reported and recorded anti-Semitism on campus also includes two incidents of assault and dozens of examples of abusive behaviour.”
“UJS are determined to ensure NUS (National Union of Students) Students’ Unions, and University authorities take a zero tolerance approach to anti-Semitism.
Writing for Jewish News this week, CST director Mark Gardner urged the community to “balance the negatives against the daily reality of Jewish life, which I hope for most of us, most of the time, is overwhelmingly positive”.
In seeking to explain the figures, Gardner said there was “a big worrying trend being called populism, used to explain everything from Jeremy Corbyn to Brexit to Donald Trump.”
He added: “In relation to anti-Semitism, this rests upon notions such as ‘us versus them’ and blaming unspecified ‘elites’ for the complicated and troubled state of the world.”
Dr Moshe Kantor, President of the European Jewish Congress, said: “These findings are a shocking reminder that the things we value in our society – tolerance and being understanding of the beliefs of others – are in danger of slipping out of our grasp.”
It is deeply worrying that in modern Britain, Jewish people cannot go about their normal daily business.. without the threat of being verbally or physically attacked in the street, simply because of their religion.”
The Council of Christans and Jews (CCJ) the report “is cause for deep concern”, adding that “people of faith and none must unite in the face of hatred. No one should ever have to suffer persecution or discrimination on the basis of their faith.”
On the back of the findings, Kick It Out, football’s equality and inclusion organisation, released a statement. It said: “Kick It Out is not surprised by the statistics published by CST. There is much concern over the recorded rise in incidents of hate and there is justifiable alarm with CST’s latest statistics demonstrating a 36 percent increase in anti-Semitic reports from 2015. Equally concerning are the comments from CST, in which they state that 2016 has seen ‘no obvious single cause for the record total of antisemitic incidents’, and no specific ‘trigger events’ which can lead to temporary spikes in reporting.
“Tackling anti-Semitism is an important aspect of Kick It Out’s work and the organisation has been proactive in taking steps to raise awareness of how to combat the issue, including through an anti-Semitism reporting brochure, produced alongside CST and Maccabi GB in 2016.
“At the beginning of the 2016/17 season, Kick It Out launched the ‘Call Full Time On Hate’ initiative, calling on the collective force of football – including supporters, players, managers, clubs and the authorities – to eradicate hate from the sport. With recent incidents of anti-Semitism blighting the professional game, it is now with greater urgency that the whole of the sport needs to act to prevent it from becoming acceptable across all levels of football.
“Kick It Out believes that the latest statistics from CST must serve as a wake-up call to football to address the rising issue of anti-Semitism.”