Anti-Semitic attacks hit record high in UK amid warnings over rise of 'hatred and anger'

Lizzie Dearden
Members of the Jewish 'Shomrim' security patrol team are pictured in north London: Getty

A record number of anti-Semitic incidents have been recorded in the UK as monitors warn of “unprecedented” reports of attacks, abuse and harassment.

The Community Security Trust (CST) recorded 80 violent assaults targeting Jews in the first six months of this year, as well as verbal abuse, graffiti, vandalism, hate mail and abuse via social media and the internet.

A total of 767 incidents were reported between January and June – a rise of almost a third on the same period in 2016 and the highest since the CST’s records began in 1984.

“Some of this may be down to improved reporting, but it is sadly clear that the overall situation has deteriorated,” said David Delew, the organisation’s chief executive.

“Anti-Semitism is having an increasing impact on the lives of British Jews and the hatred and anger that lies behind it is spreading.”

The CST said the rise may partly be driven by growing concern over anti-Semitism, as well as increased reports from security guards and information sharing agreements with British police forces.

A brick with anti-Semitic graffiti thrown through window of a Jewish home in January (Shomrim)

But analysts said those factors do not explain the “unprecedented” increase alone, which is more likely to stem from a “general, sustained rise” in attacks.

Sajid Javid, the Communities Secretary, described the rise as “completely unacceptable” and said the Government would work to ensure offenders were subject to the full force of the law.

“Everyone in this country has a right to live without fear of abuse or attack and we must as a nation firmly condemn this hatred and all other forms of bigotry,” he added.

The Shadow Minister for Diverse Communities, Dawn Butler, condemned the “very worrying trend” of continually rising anti-Semitic incidents, adding: “We must combat and tackle the root cause of this criminality and seek to build a society that is fair, tolerant and free of all forms of racism and discrimination.”

Verbal abuse was the most common form of incident recorded, targeting men, women and children who were “visibly Jewish” due to their clothing, school uniform or other symbols.

Almost a fifth of incidents involved the use of social media, including targeted hate campaigns, neo-Nazi posts and anti-Semitic conspiracy theories on “Jew banker wars”.

Anti-Semitic graffiti was reported 111 times, including a swastika with the phrase “dirty Jews resign or die” scrawled on a wall at the University of Birmingham in March.

There were also 51 incidents of the damage and desecration of Jewish property, in one case seeing a window smashed by a brick emblazoned with the word “Jew” and a swastika.

Anti-Semitic graffiti at the University of Birmingham in March (CST)

The CST recorded 80 anti-Semitic assaults – the highest figure ever recorded for the time period – and another 56 direct threats, some by offenders using knives, bats, sticks or vehicles.

Its data included 51 incidents at people’s homes, 35 at synagogues, 22 at schools, 16 targeting Jewish public figures and four at Jewish cemeteries.

Almost three-quarters of the incidents were recorded in London and Manchester, which are home to the two largest Jewish communities in the UK, as well as 64 other locations.

Although the identity of offenders was not clear in all cases, the vast majority were men, more than half white and 115 were believed to be from the far-right, 49 anti-Zionist and 12 Islamist.

Amber Rudd, the Home Secretary, said the Government’s hate crime action plan had improved the authorities’ response and was encouraging more victims to report incidents directly to police.

“Anti-Semitism has no place in this country, which prides itself on openness, diversity and tolerance,” she added.

“I am clear that one such incident is one too many and we will continue to do everything we can to stamp out the hatred and division that blights our communities.”

Ms Rudd said the Government was providing £13.4m to protect Jewish sites and making another £900,000 available for schemes to tackle hate crime.

John Mann, chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group Against anti-Semitism, said the CST’s figures should be of “serious concern” to everyone in Britain.

“If we are to pride ourselves on being a diverse, equal and welcoming country we have to reverse this worrying trend,” he added.

The report came after authorities were accused of betraying British Jews by failing to crack down on anti-Semitic crime, with offences recorded by police forces around the UK increasing by 14.9 per cent in 2016, according to the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism.

At the same time, the group found the number of charges fell “drastically”, with alleged perpetrators charged in fewer than a tenth of cases, leaving anti-Semitic crime to become the “new normality” for British Jews.

Gideon Falter, chairman of Campaign Against Anti-Semitism, said the CST’s report corroborates its own research, indicating that 2017 was “likely to be the worst year on record for anti-Semitic crime” and the fourth record-breaking year in a row.

“The reason for this rise appears to be a failure to enforce the law,” he argued.

“Over the past several years, anti-Semitic crime has been rising dramatically whilst there have only been a paltry number of prosecutions. This emboldens anti-Semites who increasingly fear no consequences for their actions.”

The group recommended specialised training for police officers and prosecutors, a review of police forces’ responses to anti-Semitic crime and the appointment of dedicated senior officers, while calling on the Crown Prosecution Service to publish data on the outcome of cases.

Assistant Chief Constable Garry Shewan, the National Police Chiefs’ Council’s lead for anti-Semitic issues, said police were taking the threat seriously and working to promote cohesion while protecting the Jewish community.

He said: “I want to encourage anyone who is targeted in this way to report to their local police – you will be listened to, taken seriously, and officers will do all they can to bring offenders to justice.”