‘Shocking’ extent of hate speech in the UK revealed in new poll

The latest Jewish News

Read this week’s digital edition

Click Here

‘Shocking’ extent of hate speech in the UK revealed in new poll

Daughter of Sir Nicholas Winton compares the “dehumanising language” of Nazism to modern hate speech amid shocking survey results

Barbara Winton, the daughter of Sir Nicholas Winton, - compared the “dehumanising language” of the Nazis to that seen in 2018 (Photo credit: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire)
Barbara Winton, the daughter of Sir Nicholas Winton, - compared the “dehumanising language” of the Nazis to that seen in 2018 (Photo credit: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire)

The head of the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust has described as “shocking” a survey showing the extent of hate speech in the UK today.

As the poll results were announced, the daughter of Sir Nicholas Winton – who saved hundreds of Jewish children before the war – compared the “dehumanising language” of the Nazis to that seen in 2018.

It follows a YouGov survey of 2,100 people last month, in which more than a quarter reported witnessing hate speech in the last year, with one in ten witnessing five or more incidents.

Giving examples, many reported hearing anti-immigrant or anti-refugee rhetoric, racist abuse or anti-Muslim comments – hate speech can refer to a person’s race, religion, ethnic origin, sexual orientation, disability or gender.

Olivia Marks-Woldman, chief executive of the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust, said the findings were “shocking” and pertinent, given the theme for Holocaust Memorial Day 2018 is ‘the power of words’.

Olivia Marks-Woldman speaking at a Holocaust Memorial Day event

She said: “It shows just how prevalent hate speech is today, and how powerful our words are. We know the repeated use of words normalises dangerous language and allows hatred to take root, which can ultimately lead to persecution.”

She added that Holocaust Memorial Day was “about remembering the atrocities of the Holocaust and subsequent genocides, but also about finding ways to make sure they can never happen again… Recognising the power our words have is an important first step”.

Of the respondents who said they had witnessed hate speech, four in ten said it was based on the person’s race or ethnicity, 59 percent said they saw it on social media, 41 percent said they heard it in the street, 23 percent cited public transport and 24 percent said they’d seen it in a pub or shop.

Barbara Winton, whose father was nicknamed the ‘British Schindler’ after it came to light that he had rescued 669 children from Nazi occupied Czechoslovakia in 1939, drew comparisons to the pre-war environment.

“In 1939, as today, there were those including mainstream media who used dehumanising language against refugees fleeing destruction and violence and seeking shelter in Britain,” she said.

“Against that current, my father set out to change views and encourage compassion by writing to papers and magazines to present the moral and humane case for accepting vulnerable refugee children and giving them a home. He used the power of words to stir consciences. His rallying cry then seems to me to be just as relevant today.”

Joan Salter, 77, who was separated from her Polish-Jewish family during the war, likewise remarked on the recent “splintering of social cohesion” and “the growing willingness to express extreme views and the ability of some to act out their intolerance with violent acts”.

She said: “The lack of respect for those of different cultures means we live in dangerous times. We each have a responsibility to learn the lessons of the past, and not allow hatred to take root.”

Help perform the greatest mitzvah: save a life

While life in Israel has returned to normal and hopes are high that Britain is set for a summer without restrictions thanks to vaccines, for billions around the world there is no such imminent light at the end of the tunnel. In the majority of countries around the globe, particularly the poorest, the vaccine rollout has barely kicked off.

That's why Jewish News, the leading source of news and opinion for the entire UK community, is throwing its full weight behind UNICEF’s VaccinAid campaign by using this platform usually reserved for encouraging donations towards our own journalism to instead urge our readers around the globe to perform the greatest mitzvah: saving a life.

We have never before done this for any charity fundraiser but it's hard to recall a campaign that affects so many people, and indeed an entire planet aching for a return to normality. Just like the Chief Rabbi and Rachel Riley, we hope to boost the mission to deliver two billion vaccines, 165 million treatments and 900 million test kits around the world by the end of this year.

Please donate as much as you can, in the spirit of the Talmudic sages: “to save one life is to save the world entire”

read more: