Antisemitic attacks in UK at highest level ever recorded

The number of antisemitic incidents in the UK has reached the highest level ever recorded, with reports of violence, property damage, abuse and threats against members of Britain’s Jewish population more than doubling last year .

The Community Security Trust, a Jewish security charity which runs an incident hotline, recorded 1,168 antisemitic incidents against Britain’s 291,000 Jews in 2014, against 535 in 2013 and 25% up on the previous record in 2009.

Theresa May, the home secretary, described the figures as “deeply concerning” and “a warning to everyone to do more to stop antisemitism in Britain”, while Yvette Cooper, the shadow home secretary, said they were “appalling”.

The Association of Chief Police Officers revealed the figures were consistent with an increase in antisemitic crimes reported in recent weeks following last month’s terror attacks in Paris when four shoppers were killed by an Islamist attacker at a kosher supermarket.

CST said in 2014 there were 81 violent assaults, 81 incidents of damage and desecration of Jewish property, and 884 cases of abusive behaviour, more than double the number in 2013, several hundred of which involved social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter. CST’s logs include a letter sent to a Jewish organisation which read: “Gaza is the Auschwitz. The inmates are fighting back. The Jew wears the jackboot and armband now.”

The charity said the surge in antisemitism was fuelled by reactions to the conflict in Gaza in July and August that claimed the lives of 2,131 Palestinians and 71 Israelis, according to the UN. It appears to reflect an international trend. Last year in France and Austria the number of incidents doubled, according to reports by the Service de Protection de la Communauté Juive and the Vienna-based Forum Against Antisemitism.

In the UK in July alone there were more antisemitic incidents in one month than the previous six months put together, but 2014 was already set to eclipse the previous year as a worse period for antisemitism, CST said. Jewish people were directly abused in the street at a rate of more than one a day, particularly if wearing religious or traditional clothes or a Jewish school uniform. Incidents reported to the CST included a man shouting at a group of Jewish schoolchildren who had boarded a bus in London: “Get the Jews off the bus” and “I’m going to burn the bus.”

On 18 November, the day that worshippers at a synagogue in the Har Nof neighbourhood of Jerusalem were killed by Palestinian attackers, there was a spike of 11 incidents in a day. The SCT logs record that in Birmingham “four south Asian males, one possibly carrying a knife, tried to gain entry to a masonic hall that was formerly a synagogue while shouting: ‘Kill the infidels, you are Satan-worshippers, are there any fucking Jews in there’.” On the same day a rabbi driving through London reportedly had “slaughter the Jews” shouted at him in Arabic by a man running his finger across his throat in a cutting action.

“Last year’s large increase in recorded incidents shows just how easily antisemitic attitudes can erupt into race-hate abuse, threats and attacks,” said David Delew, chief executive of the CST, which started recording antisemitic incidents in 1984. “Thankfully most of the incidents were not violent but they were still shocking and upsetting for those who suffered them, and for the wider Jewish community.”

Prominent Jewish figures have recently talked openly about rising antisemitism and the CST said increased concern about antisemitism could have led to a rise in reporting. Last month the actor Maureen Lipman said she has considered moving to New York or Israel. However, a survey for Jewish Policy Research published last July found only 18% of British Jews had ever considered leaving the UK because they didn’t feel safe, and that fewer British Jews consider antisemitism a problem than their counterparts in France, Germany, Italy or Belgium.

Eric Pickles, the communities secretary, said: “These attacks are not only an attack on British Jews, but an attack on all of us and our shared values. This is totally unacceptable. Those who perpetrate hate crimes of any kind will be punished with the full force of the law.”

One in five of the incidents were threats or abuse on social media, fuelling claims that Twitter, among others, is not cracking down hard enough on hate-speech. In August, Luciana Berger, the shadow health minister, received a message on Twitter from a 21-year-old neo-Nazi, Garron Helm, that showed her with the Star of David on her head. It used the hashtag #Hitlerwasright and called her a “communist Jewess”. Helm was jailed for four weeks.

Berger was then bombarded with more than 2,500 hate messages tagged #filthyjewbitch. After Helm’s release, more antisemitic tweets began to emerge from his Twitter account. When Ed Miliband tweeted a link to his article about Holocaust Memorial Day, the user of the account tweeted back “Burrrn! lol”.

Berger said she was horrified by the CST figures. “I know from the online hate campaign directed at me by neo-Nazis at home and abroad, that antisemites are using every digital platform to intimidate and harass Britain’s Jews,” she said. “Digital media companies, particularly Twitter, need to sharpen up their acts and move faster to remove accounts being used to spread and incite hate. To date, they have been too lax, and moved too slowly, allowing racists a free rein.”

Cooper called on “companies like Twitter to take stronger action against hate crimes on their platforms”. Next week she is expected to outline Labour’s hate-crime strategy which will urge Twitter to speed up its removal of racist and antisemitic tweets, improve its communication of criminal activity online to the police, and prevent offenders simply restarting abuse from fresh accounts from the same IP address.

Antisemitic incidents

Manchester, February 2014

Swastikas and the phrase “Jewish slag” daubed on gravestones at a Jewish cemetery.

Manchester, March 2014

An identifiably Jewish man was cycling to synagogue when youths jumped out at him, causing him to wobble on his bike. They then surrounded him and called him a “Jew”. He slipped and the group kicked him while he was on the ground. He did not suffer serious injury.

London, March 2014

A university student took a photograph of an identifiably Jewish person on a bus and them posted it on Twitter with the comment, “50 retweets and I’ll knock this Jew out”.

Norfolk, July 2014

A leaflet found among Israeli produce in a supermarket featured an image of the Israeli flag with the title “The flag of Zionist racist scum”. It read: “Deny the Holocaust? Of course there was a holocaust. What a pity Adolf and Co didn’t manage to finish the job properly!”

London, October 2014

Five girls from a Jewish secondary school were approached by a man at a London underground station who said: “Being Jewish is wrong. You are going to die if you carry on being Jewish,” and “I will kill you all after school.” He grabbed one of the girls by the wrist and said: “Come with me and be a Christian”. She kicked him and ran away.