LONDON – The number of anti-Semitic incidents in the UK set a new high in 2009, the most since records began, according a report released on Friday.
The Community Security Trust, a charity that monitors anti-Semitism and provides security for the Jewish community in Britain, recorded 924 anti-Semitic incidents in 2009.
The high number of incidents was attributed to “unprecedented levels of anti-Semitism” during and in the immediate aftermath of Operation Cast Lead. This included 288 incidents last January, during the conflict, and 114 in February, after the cease-fire. These compared with a previous highest monthly total of 105 incidents in October 2000.
The 36-page report stated that 212 of the 924 incidents, 23 percent of the total, recorded by CST in 2009 included some form of reference to Operation Cast Lead. In January, 158 of the 288 incidents made reference to the Gaza conflict.
A further 489 reports of incidents were received by CST, but were not deemed to be anti-Semitic and are not included in this total.
As a result, it was the worst year since records began in 1984, marking a 55% increase from the previous record high of 598 incidents in 2006, the year of the Second Lebanon War; and a 69% increase from the 546 incidents recorded in 2008.
“These record figures show that anti-Semitism is
an increasingly significant problem for British Jews,” CST spokesman Mark Gardner said. “The trend must be reversed and we call upon decent people to speak out against anti-Semitism in all its forms.”
According to the report, 124 violent assaults occurred in 2009, 41% more than the 88 that occurred in 2008. However, violent assaults fell to 13% of the total, from a high of 21% in 2007.
Responding to the findings of the report, Prime Minister Gordon Brown said: “Anti-Semitism is one of the most ancient of hatreds – and yet it constantly adapts to modern times, requiring ever greater vigilance from all of us who are determined to stand up for tolerance and for the truth.
“Whether online, on campus or on the streets, there is absolutely no place for racism or discrimination of any sort, and the CST has my whole-hearted support in its work with the police and the Jewish community.”
Regardless of strength of feeling on the conflict, nothing justifies any form of extreme action, the prime minister added.
“The increase in anti-Semitic incidents recorded by CST in the early part of last year is deeply troubling and I want to be unequivocal today; I am a proud friend of Israel and welcome a robust debate about how we ensure both a secure Israel and a viable Palestinian state existing side by side. The debate is welcome, but no strength of feeling can ever justify violent extremism or attacks and we will stand firm against all those who would use anti-Israeli feeling as an excuse or disguise for anti-Semitism and attacks on the Jewish community,” Brown said.
“Britain’s Jewish citizens face a real and growing danger,” said Michael Gove, the Conservative Party’s shadow secretary of state for children, schools and families. “The dramatic increase in anti-Semitic incidents over the last year proves that the oldest of prejudices has been given a new lease of life. Everyone in public life has to recognize that this growth in anti-Semitism is a stain on our society. “History tells us that whenever Jewish individuals feel less safe, society as a whole is becoming less free. We must learn the lessons of the past, recognize that prejudice against the Jewish people leads to a growth in hatred and intolerance overall, and therefore we have to be tough on both anti-Semitism and the causes of anti-Semitism.”
Gove said the Conservative Party is pledged to work with the CST, the police and others to counteract anti-Semitism wherever it is found.
“We need to be more vigilant in countering extremist groups such as the [far-right nationalist party] BNP and [radical Islamist group] Hizb-ut-Tahrir, more determined to counter extremism on campus and intimidation of young people, more aware of the new ways in which hatred is spread. Crucially, we need to understand that preachers of hate are exploiting events in the Middle East to peddle prejudice on our streets. It is up to all of us to challenge those spreading hate against British citizens,” Gove said.
“This steep rise in anti-Semitic crime is shocking and shameful,” Liberal Democrat shadow home secretary Chris Huhne said. “We must do everything we can to prevent foreign conflicts from spilling over onto British streets and campuses. The police must work with all communities to stamp out anti-Semitism and hate crime in all their forms and to promote cohesion and tolerance.”
“This report makes for disturbing reading,” said John Mann, chairman of the All-Party Group Against Anti-Semitism. “While incident figures continue to climb, we must be doing all that we can to ensure such hatred is met with our resolute determination to stop it. This underlines the need for all the recommendations of our All-Party Inquiry report to be implemented without delay.”
Denis MacShane, chairman of the 2006 Parliamentary Inquiry into Anti-Semitism; chairman of the European Institute for the Study of Contemporary Anti-Semitism; and author of Globalising Hatred: The New Anti-Semitism
, said: “This sudden rise in anti-Semitic incidents should be a warning sign that hate against Jews is on the march.
“But when the anti-Semitic BNP win seats as MEPs, when university campuses host preachers of anti-Jewish hate, or when a British ambassador says Jews should not serve on public inquires, why should we be surprised? The open hate of Israel fanned by jihadi Islamist ideologues is creating an unacceptable climate of fear for Jews. Politicians need to take the lead and say loudly and clearly that British Jews should not have to face intimidation and threats.”