Antisemitic graffiti near a London Underground station. The graffiti reads “dirty f***ing Jew” beside an image of a swastika..
(photo credit: COURTESY COMMUNITY SECURITY TRUST)
The UK saw record levels of antisemitic incidents over the course of 2018, the Community Security Trust has reported in its annual review, forming a three year sequence of record-breaking levels of antisemitism in the country.
According to the CST – a Jewish community organization that works in cooperation with the UK police – there were 1,652 reported incidents of antisemitism, a 16% rise from the 1,420 antisemitic incidents recorded by CST in 2017, which was itself a record annual total, as were the 1,375 incidents of 2016.
President of the Board of Deputies of British Jews Marie van der Zyl described the figures as “very worrying for Jews living in the UK.”
She added: “Overall, the UK remains a happy place for its Jewish community, but this reports shows that there is no room for complacency.
“Defeating the evil of antisemitism will take a concerted effort by the country’s political leadership – in all parties – and civil society. We must strive to make our country a just, safe and respectful society. There can be no room for racism and hatred.”
Despite the general rise in incidents, violent antisemitic attacks were down 17% from 2017, with 123 such attacks against Jews in 2018, down from 149 the previous year, although this included one incident of “extreme violence,” where the attack could potentially have led to loss of life.
The CST noted that whereas previous record levels of antisemitic incidents occurred in years when Israel had engaged in armed conflict in Gaza leading to a spike in attacks against UK Jews, the last three years have witnessed no such military campaigns, so therefore there was no single cause for these record highs of anti-Jewish sentiment.
But the organization did point out that the months with the highest levels of antisemitic incidents appeared to correlate with periods in which debate over allegations within the UK Labour Party was at its most intense.
“These periods saw an increased number of incidents directly related to those debates, while the increased attention paid to the issue of antisemitism is likely to have emboldened offenders and encouraged victims to report more incidents,” the CST report says.
The organization said it recorded 148 incidents in 2018 that were examples of, or related to arguments over, alleged antisemitism in the Labour Party, of which a third (49) were recorded in August alone.
The Labour Party has been roiled by allegations of antisemitism among its members in recent years. A large political and media storm erupted over the summer when the party adopted a modified version of an internationally accepted definition of antisemitism, omitting critical clauses.
It eventually adopted the full definition, albeit with a caveat regarding discussion of the Israel-Palestinian conflict.
The CST added that violence along the Israel-Gaza border in the spring likely influenced the peak months for antisemitic incidents in 2018 of April and May.
In total, 173 antisemitic incidents were recorded which were motivated by anti-Israel sentiment, the report found, compared to 70 such incidents in 2017.
Three quarters of the incidents took place in London or Manchester, the two cities with the largest Jewish communities in the UK.
Of the 1,652 total incidents, some 1,300 were incidents of abusive behavior, including verbal abuse, hate mail, antisemitic graffiti on non-Jewish property and antisemitic content on social media.
Incidents of damage and desecration to Jewish property fell by 16%, from 93 in 2017 to 78 in 2018.
Of the total number of incidents, 84 showed far Right motivation or beliefs, 173 showed anti-Israel motivation and 13 showed an Islamist motivation.