The organisation charged with defending British Jews from antisemitism has said Jew hatred played “an unusually prominent role” in British public life last year.
In its report on antisemitic discourse in 2017, published this week, the Community Security Trust (CST) said antisemitic comments and images were spurred by world events such as the Grenfell Tower fire or Donald Trump’s decision to move the US Embassy to Jerusalem.
The CST addressed claims of antisemitism in the Labour Party as well as by right-wing populist politicians such as former UKIP leader Nigel Farage, exploring how political criticism of Israel sometimes blurs into antisemitism.
“The expression and transmission of antisemitic attitudes about ‘Zionists’ or Israel, including conspiracy theories and the abuse of Holocaust memory, are more common than explicit hostility to Jews,” the report said.
The boundary between legitimate criticism and Jew hatred increasingly unclear because the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is “sometimes inserted into unrelated discussions about antisemitism and other Jewish-related issues,” the CST said.
The report is produced annually by the charity, which monitors antisemitism in the UK and whose volunteers secure shuls and communal buildings.
In the first All Party Parliamentary Inquiry against Antisemitism in 2006, MPs recognised the impact of discourse, saying it was “hard to identify because the boundaries of acceptable discourse have become blurred to the point that individuals and organisations do not know when these boundaries have been crossed”.
This week’s report, which does not pass judgement on which comments are antisemitic or not, summarises key events, such as the airing of a controversial four-part TV documentary by Al-Jazeera, featuring undercover reporting of pro-Israel lobbyists in the UK, including a since-expelled Israeli diplomat.
“The purpose of this report is to help reduce antisemitism by furthering the understanding of antisemitic discourse and its negative impacts on Jews and society as a whole,” the authors say. “Antisemtitic impacts may arise from entirely legitimate situations that have no antisemitic intention.”
During the course of the year, the Labour Party continued to dominate the headlines, but the CST also notes a major poll of British attitudes to Jews and Israel, in which “the prevalence of antisemitism on the far-right was found to be considerably higher than on the far-left”.