LONDON – Britain’s Jewish community has seen an almost unprecedented doubling of anti-Semitic incidents over the last few weeks, the Jewish Community Trust reported.
While incidents were not as violent as those on continental Europe, the CST advised Jewish leaders to ensure the community takes extra security precautions in the face of growing anti-Israel demonstrations.
Latest statistics indicate approximately 60 recorded incidents ranging from verbal abuse to physical attacks on buildings and people over the first two weeks of July and over half of which were attributable to the current situation.
CST said that the majority have been nonviolent in nature, but after a specific incident in central London’s Oxford Street, a crowded center for Londoners and tourists alike, Mark Gardner, the CST’s director of communications, told The Jerusalem Post that the anger in anti-Israel demonstrations “risks getting out of hand.”
Gardner added “we are already seeing examples of intimidation and anti-Semitic abuse from groups of demonstrators. There is no excuse for this, but it comes as no surprise.
The organizers of these demonstrations, whether Islamist groups or their far Left allies are playing with fire; and we have made the Metropolitan Police fully aware of this specific concern.”
The Oxford Street incident occurred on Tuesday evening when a 57-year-old Jewish shopper from South Woodford, Northeast London described how she was surrounded and harangued by dozens of anti-Israel activists who had just completed a vigil outside the new BBC Headquarters protesting at what they claimed was bias in the BBC’s coverage of the Gaza conflict.
She had been shopping when the demonstrators came marching down the road shouting “Free Palestine” and “Zionist murderers.”
As they marched along Oxford Street during the evening rush hour they evidently overheard the woman discussing the Gaza situation on her cellphone. “As they passed by with their disgusting chants I said ‘Why are the Palestinians firing rockets at my daughter in Tel Aviv?’ At that point they cried out ‘get her’ and several of them left the march and came on to the pavement. They surrounded me, pushing and yelling ‘Jew/Zionist/murderer/thief.’” She was surrounded by about 50 protesters who had broken away from the main march and a man wearing a keffiyeh wrapped around his face then grabbed her phone. A steward who witnessed what happened was able to recover it five minutes later.
By then she had fled into a nearby store in floods of tears where she said a young Muslim man tried to help her. “I was shaking and my neck now hurts. It was awful for me – how is this possible in Oxford Street in 2014?” she added.
The CST confirmed that another group from the BBC demonstration, some 400-strong marched toward St John’s Wood an affluent area of Northwest London inhabited by many prominent Jews. At least one member of the Jewish community was verbally assaulted by this group.
They were not followed and it is possible their intended destination was the Regent’s Park mosque, instead of nearby St Johns Wood itself.
In London the CST was notified about a Swastika that was daubed in blue paint on a house in Hendon, Northwest London.
Meanwhile in north Manchester where there is a substantial haredi community, the local Jewish newspaper reported that a group of pro-Palestinians drove through the Broughton Park area shouting “Heil Hitler.” They were in a convoy of four or five cars and described as being of South-Asian ethnic appearance.
It had followed a similar anti-BBC demonstration outside the BBC’s Manchester headquarters in Salford Quays. A Jewish man told Manchester police that he was pelted by cans of drink from passengers in cars on which Palestinian flags were displayed.
Greater Manchester police said they treated the incident as a hate crime.
The CST described the activity in Manchester as “a worrying set of incidents” where groups of cars were driven through the heavily Jewish area of Broughton Park waving Palestinian flags, shouting anti-Semitic abuse and throwing cans and eggs at Jewish pedestrians, which occurred on the same day as the pro-Palestinian demonstration.
In Glasgow last Saturday following a anti-Israel march a man of South- Asian appearance was heard shouting “f***ing kill the Jews.”
The Palestine Solidarity Campaign are believed to have organized at least 20 protests around the UK including a large noisy demonstration on Friday of the previous week near the Israeli embassy in London.
The police had to close the main road as the crowd was so great, and some protesters climbed on the roofs of stationary London buses.
The Palestine Solidarity Campaign held a large demonstration outside Downing Street on Friday.
The CST noted that most of the demonstrators have been of Muslim or South-Asian appearance and while there is some relief that none of the incidents have reached the levels of violence seen in France and elsewhere in Europe, they have warned that the situation “could deteriorate significantly.”
The Zionist Federation along with several other Zionist organizations has called for a counter demonstration, a “rally for Israel” to be held near the Israeli Embassy on Sunday afternoon.