Worst year on record as antisemitism soars in Britain

Antisemitic graffiti in a tunnel in south London

The Jewish Chronicle – The number of antisemitic incidents in Britain reached the highest level on record in 2016, according to new figures published by the Community Security Trust.

The CST’s annual statistics show there were 1,309 incidents of Jew hatred last year — a 36 per cent increase on the previous 12 months.

While no single factor is blamed for the alarming rise in hate incidents, experts said the increase came amid an “overall climate” of racism, including the high-profile allegations of antisemitism within the Labour Party.

The CST’s Antisemitic Incidents Report 2016, published today, revealed that there were 107 violent antisemitic assaults last year — an increase of 29 per cent compared to 2015.

There were 81 incidents of damage and desecration of Jewish property, including attacks on synagogues, cemeteries and homes — up 25 per cent on similar incidents in the previous year.

Abusive behaviour accounted for 1,006 incidents — including verbal abuse, antisemitic graffiti, abuse of Jews via social media and one-off cases of hate mail.

The report also detailed how 100 incidents involved direct threats to Jewish individuals, families or organisations.

These totals for abusive behaviour and threats were the highest CST has ever recorded.

The previous record high of 1,182 antisemitic incidents was recorded by the charity in 2014 — but the conflict in Gaza and Israel that summer was recognised as a major factor in triggering that surge.

The number of cases reported to the police by CST is also at an all-time high — with 34 per cent of incidents being passed on for criminal investigation in 2016 compared to 32 per cent in 2015 and 30 per cent in 2014.

Dave Rich, Deputy Director of Communications at the CST, said: “I think there is an overall climate rather than one specific thing that is responsible for the rise in incidents.

“At the end of April you had Ken Livingstone and the MP Naz Shah both being suspended by the Labour Party and that put antisemitism firmly on the front pages.

“Low and behold, from April to May is when you get the biggest jump in incidents of the whole year. Then the following month you had the Brexit vote, which kept the pot boiling, so to speak. It’s a combination of things that are to blame.”

Responding to the report, Home Secretary Amber Rudd said: “Antisemitism is a deplorable form of hatred that has absolutely no place in a tolerant, open and diverse Britain that works for everyone. It is vital we ensure the safety and security of our Jewish community and this government will continue to do all we can to stamp out these vile attacks and encourage those who experience them to come forward.”

Labour’s deputy leader Tom Watson said: “The findings of this report are extremely distressing. I don’t want to live in a country where any member of the Jewish community feels unsafe, afraid or discriminated against and it is shocking that the number of antisemitic incidents is on the rise in the UK.”

Incidents detailed in the report include gas canisters thrown at Jewish shoppers in London by men who shouted “Heil Hitler”; the desecration of 16 gravestones at a Jewish cemetery in Manchester; a brick thrown through the window of a Jewish home in Liverpool; and a Jewish girl in Manchester approached by three youths who shouted: “We will call Hitler to shoot you.”

The worst month was May when CST recorded 135 examples of Jew-hatred.

From May to December there were over 100 incidents per month — an unprecedented run of high figures, says the report. In the decade prior to 2016, monthly totals over 100 occurred only six times.

Over three-quarters of the 1,309 incidents recorded last year took place in Greater London and Manchester, the cities with the two largest Jewish communities in the UK.

In the 36-page report CST said there were 813 recorded antisemitic incidents in Greater London – an alarming 65 per cent increase on 2015’s figures.

Some 267 antisemitic incidents, one third of the total for Greater London, took place in the borough of Barnet, home to the largest concentration of Jews in the UK.

There were 89 recorded incidents in the borough of Hackney, 77 in Redbridge, 22 in Brent and 17 in Harrow and 17 in Tower Hamlets. In Greater Manchester there were 205 incidents, which represented a fall of nine per cent on the previous year.

Elsewhere, 291 incidents were reported in 96 locations around the country, including 35 in Hertfordshire, of which 17 were in Borehamwood.

There were 21 incidents in Leeds, 16 in Gateshead, 13 in Liverpool and nine in Brighton and Hove.

Mr Rich said: “The worrying thing is that the monthly total from May is much higher than we were used to.

“Once that continues for month after month you do start to think ‘well, this is just how it is going to be’.”

The report reveals Jewish schools, pupils and teachers were targeted in 83 incidents — a small dip on the 86 similar cases in 2015.

There were also 41 incidents where the victims were Jewish students or academics — a significant rise on the 21 reported in 2015.

Despite the high levels recorded, CST said it feared there was still “significant under-reporting of incidents” both to themselves and to the police.

The majority of attacks were committed by white males — although CST recorded that a minority of victims reported their attackers as being of “black”, “south Asian” or in a very few cases “Arab or north African” origin.

The report concluded that while “it would not be acceptable to define all anti-Israel activity as antisemitic, it cannot be ignored that contemporary antisemitism occur in the context of, or be accompanied by, extreme feelings over the Israel Palestine conflict.”

There were 236 incidents which showed far-right, anti-Israel or Islamist motivations — making up 18 per cent of all incidents recorded.

There were also 287 incidents that involved the use of internet-based social media — 22 per cent of the total for the year.

The report said: “This reflects the role of social media as a place where Jews encounter antisemitism and the ease with which it can be reported directly to the CST online, rather than being an absolute measure of the amount of antisemitism on social media.”

Despite the increase in attacks, no incident involved extreme violence resulting in loss of life or grievous bodily harm.

John Mann, chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group Against Antisemitism said the figures were “very worrying”.

He said: “The rise of nationalist populism and a failure to boldly oppose antisemitism are both contributing factors to this increase that must be challenged by us all.”

Assistant Chief Constable Garry Shewan, National Lead for Policing of Jewish Communities, said: “These figures demonstrate how important it is in the UK for us to all unite to say a loud collective ‘stop’ to those who engage in hate related activity.

“Antisemitism causes worry in our Jewish communities which must be confronted. If you see, read or hear antisemitism please report it to either the police or CST so that together we can tackle this hate behaviour.”

Labour peer Lord Mendelsohn said he believed the report laid bare “the problem identified in the All Party Group on Antisemitism’s report into the Gaza Conflict in 2014 that there is a major problem in parts of the left and in people who might even consider themselves ‘progressive’. A large group of these people are now members of the Labour Party and it’s not just that this problem has gone unchecked, it has been encouraged by no serious effort from the leadership to tackle it.

He added: “It is a matter of bitter regret that the Labour Party has done little to address the problem and the situation clearly worsens. The Chakrabati report is part of the problem not part of the solution. Those sections of the communal leadership who have been foolish to push for its implementation are missing the point. This is about political leadership and as investigation after investigation gets closed down it tells you that there is little commitment to tackle it. We clearly have much work to do but i fear there may be little willingness where it counts to take this seriously.”

Jonathan Arkush, president of the Board of Deputies, said the figures were “deeply worrying, particularly in light of the fact that there was no single trigger event in 2016.

“It is clear that combating antisemitism 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.”

Tim Farron, the leader of the Liberal Democrats, described the record level of antisemitism as “a stain on our country’s reputation as an open and tolerant place to live and work.”

He attributed the rise in antisemitism to divisions created by Brexit.

He said: “These findings are extremely worrying and it is the duty of politicians from all parties to work together to tackle this heinous crime. Brexit has created nasty divisions in our communities that have spilled over into a rise in hate crime and antisemitism. This is not acceptable and we will continue to work with others to make it clear that there is no place for this deplorable behaviour here.”

Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London, said he was shocked by the increase in antisemitic incidents in the capital, calling the situation “deeply concerning”.

“Any type of antisemitic offence is unacceptable in our city,” he said.

“We need to send the message far and wide that antisemitism can never be justified and we’ll act to stamp out it out whenever it rears its ugly head.

He added: “I want our police officers to have the resources and training they need to investigate hate crime fully, including online abuse, and to ensure we have neighbourhood police teams that understand and reflect the communities they serve.

“We have increased the number of dedicated neighbourhood police officers across the capital and are setting up a new team of specialist police officers to investigate online hate crimes. This is a key part of my pledge to put victims at the heart of our policing plan in London.”

Victim’s story: ‘I was shaken up’

Avrom Topperman, 39, had been walking to his office in Sedgley Park, Manchester when he spotted three teenage boys approaching him.

Mr Topperman, who says he is “visibly Jewish”, sensed danger and began walking quickly towards the office block on December 18 last year.

But as he was about to enter he found himself being pelted with eggs. Mr Topperman realised immediately why he had been singled out.

“I was shaken up by what happened,” said Mr Topperman. “Fortunately the attack happened close to the police training college, and I ran there and reported the incident.

“The police were very good. They told me a couple of weeks later they had found the three lads.”

The youths, aged 13, 15, and 16, were caught, partly with the help of CCTV footage from cameras CST part-funded at a Jewish building near to where the assault took place.

Greater Manchester Police used restorative justice in this case, with the offenders coming face-to-face with their victim to recognise the consequence of their actions.

“I found it a very satisfactory outcome”, says Mr Topperman. “Instead of dragging my case through the courts, even though my evidence was very strong, I managed to get these lads to show regret for what they had done.”


Originally published HERE

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