A member of the Jewish community walks in north London.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The number of anti-Semitic incidents across the UK in the first half of 2016, rose by 11 percent from the same period a year earlier, the Community Security Trust reported on Thursday.
The organization recorded 557 anti-Semitic incidents in the first six months of this year, up from 500 a year earlier.
The 557 figure was the second-highest total CST has ever recorded for a January– June period. The highest was in 2009, largely attributed to anti-Semitic reactions to Israel’s Operation Cast Lead against Hamas in the Gaza Strip, which ended in January that year.
CST is a charity dedicated to protecting British Jews and has been recording anti-Semitic incidents since 1984. The organization operates in synagogues, schools and community centers in Jewish communities around the United Kingdom.
Some 79% of the 2016 incidents were recorded in London and Manchester. The former saw a 62% increase in incidents since last year, while a 54% decline was recorded in the latter.
Though a sharp rise in hate crimes in general was reported in Britain following the June 23 Brexit referendum, CST did not record a significant increase in anti-Semitic incidents immediately after the vote to leave the European Union. “Often, increases in anti-Semitic incidents have been attributable to reactions to specific trigger events that cause identifiable, short-term spikes in incident levels. However, this was not the case in the first six months of 2016,” the report stated.
It did, however, note that it covered a period during which anti-Semitism
, racism and extremism were reported and discussed prominently in the national media and public debate. Indeed, anti-Semitism had been in the spotlight during those months, due to a scandal in the Labour Party that saw high-profile suspensions from the party.
Labour’s Shadow Home Secretary Andy Burnham described the rise in anti-Semitic behavior, alongside other forms of hate crime, as worrying. “Labour will always lead the way in tackling any form of hatred or prejudice, but we are being hampered in that fight by a small number who are not welcome in our party,” he stated. “I will continue to work with the Community Security Trust and others to be ever-vigilant about anti-Semitism and all forms of extremism. It is repugnant, unacceptable and scars our society. I will take action to make sure people are safe and urge anyone who experiences hate crime of any kind to report it to the police.”
John Mann, chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group Against Anti-Semitism and a Labour MP, said there was a need for decisive action following the conclusion of the Chakrabarti Inquiry into anti-Semitism in the party: “I think all parties should adopt the recommendations of her [barrister Shami Chakrabarti’s] report and that anyone using the word Zionism as a term of abuse should be immediately expelled from the Labour Party and indeed all other parties.”
CST observed that the level of anti-Semitic incidents has remained relatively high since the Hamas-Israel war in the summer of 2014, Operation Protective Edge. Anti-Semitic incidents spiked in reaction to the conflict and since then, the average monthly total of anti-Semitic incidents has ranged between 80 and 100, up from an average of 40-60 two years earlier.
Social media, identified as a problem area by many organizations fighting anti-Semitism, was the source of 24% of the incidents recorded in January-June 2016. CST said the platforms are used “as a tool for coordinated campaigns of anti-Semitic harassment, threats and abuse directed at Jewish public figures and other individuals.”
“This rise in reported anti-Semitism comes at a time when division, intolerance and prejudice appear to be deepening within our society,” CST Chief Executive David Delew said. “Reversing this worrying trend requires real leadership from all political parties, and for the social media companies to take their share of the responsibility.”
Home Secretary Amber Rudd condemned the “deplorable rise in anti-Semitic hate incidents” and vowed to continue working with law enforcement partners and with the Jewish community to ensure their safety and security.”