LONDON – The Israeli war against Hamas in Gaza may have finished over a month ago, but its effects are still reverberating abroad, not least of all in the UK.
While the range and level of anti-Semitic and anti-Israel activity in Britain has not matched that seen in parts of Europe such as France, the UK Jewish community still felt its effects as never before, as illustrated by near-record levels of incidents reported by the Community Security Trust (CST), the organization responsible for the Jewish Community’s safety.
The CST’s monthly anti-Semitism figures told it all. In July, the CST recorded more than 302 incidents, while the provisional figure for August is already more than 150. The statistics are incomplete as the CST anticipates receiving more detailed information about incidents from regional police authorities and other sources.
But the overall figures do not lie.
The July figure of 302 is just slightly lower than the number of incidents registered in the previous six months, which stood at 304.
Mark Gardiner, the CST’s communications director, has spent most of the last three months fielding media inquiries on what he admits has been the worst period yet for the UK Jewish Community.
While the statistics of anti-Semitic incidents levels helped the organization measure what happened during the summer, “perhaps even more important was the way that British Jews reported actually feeling about what was going on,” he said.
This, he said, ranged from influential newspaper columnists who do not normally talk about their Jewishness, through to the “average Jew in the street.”
“The overwhelming feedback was that they had never felt so singled out, nor so fearful about what this might mean for the future. Now, as time passes, many of those fears will outwardly calm and the community will return to its normal vibrant life, but a negative impact still remains,” he said.
Nevertheless, the CST has stepped up its High Holy Days precautions with enhanced patrols at synagogues and other Jewish- and Israel-related events and venues.
While it is still too early to report on and assess the impact of the Gaza saga on the High Holy Days period, initial reports suggest there were no major physical attacks but several verbal incidents.
Meanwhile, Liverpool Football Club has come under fire after it deleted a “Happy New Year” tweet to its Jewish supporters because of the nature of and intensity of anti-Semitic responses.
The message had read: “Liverpool FC would like to wish all our Jewish supporters around the world a happy new year. #RoshHashanah.”
“Kick It Out,” British soccer’s equality and inclusion organization, contacted Liverpool Football Club to draw its attention to the abuse. Some time later, the club removed the tweet.
A Liverpool Football Club spokesman explained that “due to a number of offensive comments that were attached to a tweet on the official LFC twitter account, the tweet and comments have since been removed from the account.”
A “Kick It Out” spokesman later commented that it was encouraging that a soccer club recognizes holidays and religious landmarks, and noted the club had done the same for Ramadan.
But, he added, “it is extremely sad when a club does that in a proactive manner and gets these responses. Premier League clubs appeal to supporters around the world and it would have been nice for Liverpool’s Jewish supporters to see this message from their club, that’s the bigger issue.”
CST’s Gardiner told The Jerusalem Post that the organization wished that only the anti-Semitic tweets had been removed, rather than the entire Rosh Hashana thread that Liverpool FC had so positively begun.
“The saddest and most important thing here is that a Jewish New Year greeting should have met such a wide anti-Semitic reaction,” he said.
In another anti-Semitic incident two weeks ago, Jewish Chronicle reporter Rosa Doherty witnessed one of the more telling incidents of recent weeks during the late afternoon on London bus route 102, which passes through the predominantly Jewish northwest London suburb of Golders Green.
Traveling on a bus full of Jewish schoolchildren, she watched a man who suddenly started shouting “Get the Jews off the bus”, adding “all they do is f*** us.”
She immediately complained to the bus driver, who chose to do nothing but allow the man off the bus at its next stop. Having heard him threaten to “burn the bus” and “burn the Jews,” her concerns changed to fear and then anger when moments later the bus driver allowed the same man to reboard the bus to continue his verbal tirade.
She called the police, who said: “If the driver does not stop the bus, we cannot send police to you,” the operator said, adding that the man was just shouting abuse and classed it only as anti-social behavior.
Only later did the Metropolitan Police and “Transport for London,” which manages London’s buses, respond. After a CCTV image of the suspect man allegedly abusing the bus passengers was issued, he was quickly arrested and made his first appearance in court at the end of last week.
Ian Campbell, 42, of north London, was charged with a “racially or religiously aggravated public order offence,” using “threatening, abusive, or insulting words or behavior to cause harassment, alarm or distress.”
Doherty said the Metropolitan Police apologized for its initial response.
Steve Burton, Transport for London’s enforcement director, admitted Doherty had witnessed “an appalling incident,” which he said was the subject of urgent inquiry.
“All of our customers rightly expect to use our services without fear of being abused. Offensive behavior like this simply will not be tolerated,” he said.
Campbell was granted bail and ordered to reappear at Hendon Magistrate’s Court on October 9, and was banned from traveling on the 102 route bus in the Golders Green area.