Hate crimes reach an unprecedented 609 incidents in the first half of 2009.
By JONNY PAUL, JPOST CORRESPONDENT IN LONDON
The number of anti-Semitic hate crimes against the Jewish community in Britain reached an unprecedented high in the first half of 2009, according to figures released on Thursday by a Jewish community organization.
The Community Security Trust (CST), a charity which monitors anti-Semitism and provides security for the Jewish community in Britain, recorded 609 anti-Semitic incidents across the UK from January to June this year, over double the 276 incidents recorded for the same period last year.
The charity said that this is the worst year since 1984, when records began, and that the number of incidents in the first half of this year is higher than the 598 incidents recorded in all of 2006, during the Second Lebanon War, and the 544 in all of 2008.
The charity records incidents reported by members of the Jewish community, organizations and witnesses of crimes and incidents. A further 236 incidents were reported to CST during this period but not included in the report, due to insufficient evidence for classifying them as anti-Semitic.
CST attributes the record high to "anti-Semitic responses" to Operation Cast Lead, with 286 recorded incidents occurring in January of this year. During the Lebanon conflict of July and August 2006, CST recorded 134 incidents of anti-Semitism during the 34 days of fighting.
Over half of the incidents, 158, included direct references to the Gaza conflict, making January the worst single month ever recorded. October 2000 was the previous highest month, with 105 recorded incidents.
"British Jews are facing ever higher levels of racist attack and intimidation that threaten the well-being of our otherwise happy and successful Jewish community," said CST spokesman Mark Gardner. "There is no excuse for anti-Semitism, racism and bias and it is totally unacceptable that overseas conflicts should be impacting here in this way." Anti-Semitic incidents continued to surge in February with 111 anti-Semitic incidents and continued to rise until April.
"These terrible figures show that anti-Semitism is once more a very real problem in our society. It is Jewish people who are currently facing the hatred, but this is a warning to all of our society, a warning that the damaging forces of extremism and scapegoating are again on the march," said Denis MacShane, chair of the European Institute for the Study of Contemporary Anti-Semitism and author of Globalising Hatred: The New Antisemitism.
Out of the registered 609 anti-Semitic incidents from January until June of this year, CST recorded 77 violent assaults, compared to 44 in the first half of last year. There were two cases of extreme violence - attacks that posed a risk to life. There was also 63 incidents of damage and desecration to Jewish property, compared to 32 in the first half of last year, including "Kill Jews" written on the steps of a London synagogue and "Stop the killer Jewz" on a wall in Manchester.
Anti-Semitic threats rose to 34, compared to 28 in the whole of 2008. There were 391 incidents of abusive behavior - including hate mail, verbal abuse and anti-Semitic graffiti on non-Jewish property - which is the highest ever recorded in this category in a whole year. The charity also recorded 44 mass-mailings of anti-Semitic literature, in paper form or by e-mail, sent to an array of recipients including a community rabbi in the Midlands.
"This rise in anti-Semitism is not just concerning for the British Jewish community but for all those who see themselves as decent human beings," said Minister for Cohesion Shahid Malik.
"The fight against anti-Semitism is a fight that should engage us all. This country will not tolerate those who seek to direct hatred towards any part of our community. Of course it may be legitimate for individuals to criticize or be angry at the actions of the Israel Government but we must never allow this anger to be used to justify anti-Semitism."
"We should condemn anti-Semitic attacks without exception, but I am especially concerned by the rising number of incidents involving Jewish schools and schoolchildren," said Michael Gove, the shadow secretary of state for children, schools and families.
"Teachers and staff bear a vital responsibility to ensure that all forms of political hatred and racism are kept out of our schools and playgrounds. We have to educate against extremism, but we must also be willing to back our words with disciplinary action when necessary," Gove said.
Commenting on the CST report, Foreign Office Minister Ivan Lewis said, "I am deeply concerned by the rise in the number of anti-Semitic incidents as reported by the CST today. The British government is firmly committed to
tackling and reducing all forms of racism including anti-Semitism. We simply cannot tolerate those who seek to use foreign conflicts to justify racism and criminal acts against any UK citizen.
"The UK's Jewish community is an integral part of the rich fabric that makes up modern Britain and must be able to live free from fear of verbal or
physical attack. The government was in regular contact with senior community figures and the CST during the Gaza conflict and remain alert to their
Jon Benjamin, chief executive of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, said that "lazy or malicious commentators" who talk about "Jewish lobbies and Zionist influence" should "reflect on the impact of their words."
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