Members of the Jewish community in north London .
(photo credit: REUTERS)
LONDON – A 53 percent increase in the number of anti-Semitic incidents in Britain during the first six months of 2015 can be ascribed to greater communal awareness of the problem coupled with better reporting, the Community Security Trust reported on Thursday.
There have been 473 reported incidents this year, compared to 309 for the same period last year, and 223 in the first half of 2013.
Despite the rising trend, the figures do not come close to the 629 incidents reported in 2009 – the year in which most of the fighting in Operation Cast Lead (against Hamas in Gaza) took place.
The CST monitors anti-Semitism and provides security for Britain’s Jewish community.
In its latest survey, it noted that there were 44 incidents of violent assaults, two of which they classified as “extreme violence” causing grievous bodily harm, or a threat to life. Thirty-five of the reported incidents involved damage or desecration to Jewish property. Thirty- six incidents were direct anti-Semitic threats.
The CST also recorded five instances of mass-mailed leaflets or emails and 365 incidents involving abusive behavior, which the CST defined as verbal abuse, anti-Semitic graffiti, abuse by email as well as one case of hate mail.
They added that 178 incidents were registered as attacks on random Jewish individuals in public.
In at least a third of the incidents, the victims were visibly identifiable as Jews due to their wearing “religious or traditional Jewish clothing.”
The increasing use of social media for anti-Semitic attacks was demonstrated by the increase from 88 incidents made through that method this year as compared to 55 over the same period in 2014. Due to the increase, the CST has been making special efforts to enter into dialogue with social media companies to find ways to reduce the impact of online hate.
The CST also disclosed that it had descriptions of the ethnic appearances of the offenders in 176 cases this year. From the analysis, 95 (54%) of incidents involved white or North European offenders.
Five (3%) of those responsible were South European white.
Twenty-three (13%) were black.
Forty-two (24%) were South Asian in appearance. Eleven (6%) of the offenders were described as Arab or North African.
In 122 of the incidents, the attackers made reference to rightwing issues. In just 32 incidents, reference was made to Israel, Zionism or the Middle East. London was the site of the most incidents (224), which represented a 54% increase on the previous year. Britain’s second largest Jewish community, Manchester, registered 135 cases.
CST Chief Executive David Delew said that “The terrorist attacks on European Jews earlier this year, following the high levels of anti-Semitism in 2014, were a difficult and unsettling experience for the Jewish community. We welcome the apparent increase in reporting of anti-Semitic incidents but regret the concern and anxiety about anti-Semitism that this reflects.”
Previous evidence supports the CST’s claim about reporting. A survey in 2013 found that 72% of British Jews who had been the subject of anti-Semitic harassment over the previous five years had neither reported it to the police nor any other organization. Fifty-seven percent who had experienced violence or the threat of violence had failed to report it, and 46% of those who had suffered anti-Semitic vandalism to their car or home had not reported the incident. On that basis, the CST assumes that most incidents are not reported, either to it or the police.
CST’s Communications Director Mark Gardner told The Jerusalem Post that this year’s figures may have included a real rise in incident levels, “but our analysis strongly suggests that the primary explanation is a greater willingness by people to report anti-Semitism, either to CST or the police.”
He added that the rise mainly occurred in January, February and March. Those months had twice as many incidents as in 2014. “This was a time when British Jews felt especially concerned by anti-Semitism, having seen the terrorist attacks in Paris and Copenhagen, and also experiencing close media attention on the subject of anti-Semitism.”
Gardner noted, however, that neither Paris nor Copenhagen displayed the features of previous anti-Semitic “trigger events,” when escalations occur suddenly and sharply, and perpetrators often reference the “trigger event” when abusing victims. “In contrast, this recent escalation took longer to manifest and there were relatively few references by perpetrators to Paris and Copenhagen.”