A summer of antisemitism that left British Jewry searching for answers and protection
The conflict between Israel and Gaza spanned a period of approximately 50 days in July and August 2014. This was an intense period of work for CST, with significantly increased demands for security and a record number of antisemitic incidents being reported to CST offices.
A WAVE OF ANTISEMITISM
In total, 314 antisemitic incidents were reported in July and 228 in August: over 540 incidents, ranging from social media postings to street violence.
July was the highest monthly total CST had ever recorded and saw more incidents reported to CST than the previous six months combined. Taken together, the July and August 2014 totals were higher than all of 2013. Bad though they were, the incidents in Britain did not match the levels of violence seen in France and some other countries.
During the summer, under ten percent of the incidents were violent in any way; and approximately one quarter came via social media. This shows how modern antisemitism is typically transmitted, received and reported here in Britain.
The most common type of incidents were verbal and written abuse, with insults about Hitler or the Holocaust appearing in over 100 of the reports.
Perpetrators came from all parts of society, but where a perpetrator’s description was given, the majority appear to have been of South Asian or Arab appearance.
THE PRESSURE OF ANTISEMITISM
The wave of incidents is vital in understanding and measuring what occurred, but it is only part of the full picture. Very importantly, CST also had to understand the Jewish community’s feelings and stresses during what proved to be an extremely difficult time for many of us.
CST was repeatedly told by members of our community that they had never felt such anxiety or pressure about being Jewish. For some, this was due to fears or experiences of antisemitism; and for others it was due to media coverage of Israel and anti-Israel protests, such as boycotts and demonstrations. For most Jews, it was a combination of the two issues.
THE ROLE OF CST CST
CST performs its work, trains its volunteers and provides its security, precisely because of events such as last summer. The Middle East is a volatile place and Israel seems to be in a conflict situation every two to five years at present. The relationship between these conflicts and antisemitism here in Britain (and elsewhere) is very well known.
Similarly, the danger of terrorism during or after such times is also very well known. These are the times when the Jewish community truly turns to CST for guidance, facts, safety and reassurance. CST staff and volunteers worked tirelessly throughout July and August 2014, delivering exactly what the community needed: from receiving the details of hundreds of antisemitic incidents, through to facilitating whatever public demonstrations occurred throughout the country.
The anti-Israel protests outside the Israeli Kedem store in Manchester were the most intense anywhere in Britain. For weeks, CST staff and volunteers provided security for counter-demonstrators and liaised constantly with Police. At least nine arrests occurred in and around the demonstrations during this period. Many other demonstrations and counter-demonstrations were held, especially in London. These were secured by CST, often working in close co-operation with Police. The media was eager to cover the UK antisemitic aspect of the conflict. CST provided information and interviews to dozens of local, national and international media outlets.
CST’s press releases were carried even wider. On every occasion, CST sought to give a sober and accurate portrayal of what was happening, whilst trying to shield the community from intrusive or unwanted media attention. As the conflict ended, CST security personnel immediately prioritised working with schools, teachers and schoolchildren throughout the country, as school term was beginning and many schools and parents were anxious about security matters.
In many cases, schools looked to urgently upgrade their security measures; and CST met these needs. None of the above would have been possible without long term investment in recruitment, training, and capacity, all of which rely on CST’s close working partnerships with our Jewish communities and the continuing co-operation of the Police and Government in supporting our work.