Anti-Semitic incidents soar in UK, reflecting ‘overall rise in hate crime’

Protesters march against anti-Semitism in London in this file photo.(AFP)
Updated 28 July 2017
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Anti-Semitic incidents soar in UK, reflecting ‘overall rise in hate crime’

LONDON: The number of anti-Semitic incidents in the UK rose to an all-time high in the first half of the year, according to a charity that aims to protect British Jews. The Community Security Trust (CST) reported a 30 percent increase over the same period in 2016.
That increase in reported incidents reflects “a general overall rise in hate crime, and as hate crime increases so does anti-Semitism,” Simon Johnson, the chief executive of the Jewish Leadership Council, told Arab News.
He added that the yearly increases are no longer connected to escalating tensions between Israel and Palestine in the Middle East.
“We previously saw a pattern that when there was a major conflict in the Middle East involving Israel, then anti-Semitism would spike, and that happened in 2014. The problem is that those figures now are continuing to rise and the Israel-Palestine situation is doing nothing other than being as tense as normal, so it’s clear therefore that there are domestic factors influencing the rise in reported anti-Semitic incidents.”
There were 767 anti-Semitic incidents — mainly abusive behavior or assault — in the first six months of 2017, the CST reported.
Hate crime is also on the rise against Muslims in the UK. Figures released in early June by Mayor of London Sadiq Khan showed a fivefold increase of Islamophobic incidents in the days following the London Bridge terror attack, and a 40 percent increase in racist incidents, compared with the daily average in 2017.
Reported anti-Muslim-motivated hate crimes rose to 20 per day, up from an average of 4 per day, following the attack, and hate crime overall rose to 54 incidents per day, up from a daily average of 38 per day for 2017, according to Metropolitan Police figures for London.
Following the Manchester bombing, hate crimes in the city rose 500 percent on May 22, according to Tell MAMA, a group that monitors anti-Muslim attacks. The organization also reported a 326 percent rise in anti-Muslim abuse through 2015, with women being especially targeted by teenage perpetrators.
The increase in anti-Semitic hate crime in 2017 “may be down to improved reporting, but it is sadly clear that the overall situation has deteriorated,” CST Chief Executive David Delew was quoted as saying by Reuters. “Anti-Semitism is having an increasing impact on the lives of British Jews and the hatred and anger that lies behind it is spreading.”
Mark Gardner, head of communications for CST, said the charity struggled to pinpoint the trigger behind the increase, but said anti-Semitism could be an indicator of the state of society as a whole.
“It may be that it sits with a general rise in racism or just an increase in the division in society. There is an anger or frustration that seems to be the ambient mood out there,” Gardner said.
The Jewish Leadership Council’s Simon Johnson said that the “majority of the perpetrators are white European, which suggests a deep-ingrained hatred, and people are finding more visible ways to express that hatred. Many of those incidents are linked to a rise in xenophobia, but there’s a core of people who have anti-Semitic views who are expressing these views.”
Johnson added that the rise in reported cases could also be down to factors including more awareness and training within the police, ease of reporting online, and also because of “the government’s investment of about £40 million ($52 million) per year into professional guards at Jewish schools and institutions.”
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan, who has launched a first-of-its-kind police unit to tackle online hate crime and improve support for victims across the capital, said in a statement: “Anti-Semitism and all hate crime is deplorable and has absolutely no place in our city. I urge anyone who is a victim of anti-Semitism to report it to the police immediately.”
The mayor’s office added that his administration is also working with the London and British Transport Police to tackle hate crime on the city’s transport network.
About 74 percent of anti-Semitic attacks so far in 2017 have occurred in the main Jewish areas of London and Manchester, according to Reuters. The CST recorded 56 direct threats against Jews in the first six months of 2017, 25 of them involving direct face-to-face verbal abuse, a 27 percent increase from the same period a year before.
Ten of those threats involved knives, bats or cars. The CST said abuse on social media made up 142 of the anti-Semitic incidents in 2017, up from 136 incidents in 2016.
“Social media has become an essential tool for those who wish to harass, abuse or threaten Jewish public figured and institutions,” the CST said. The CST also said 23 percent of the incidents were politically motivated, with far-right leanings connected to the majority of those incidents.


US wants Afghan-led peace talks with Taliban, Ghani says

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani speaks during a news conference in Kabul. (REUTERS/Mohammad Ismail)
Updated 17 July 2018
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US wants Afghan-led peace talks with Taliban, Ghani says

  • The US media on Monday, citing anonymous US officials, reported that Washington was keen to hold direct talks with the Taliban.
  • Secretary of State Michael Pompeo visited Afghanistan last week to reinforce US support for the talks.

KABUL: A spokesman for President Ashraf Ghani on Tuesday said that the US wants peace talks with the Taliban to be led by the Afghan government, dismissing reports that Washington was open to holding direct talks with the militants to end the 17-year war.

“The United States of America is jointly working with the government of Afghanistan on a strategy for peace process,” Duranai Waziri, spokeswoman for President Ashraf Ghani, told Arab News.

“Any talks that will be held about the political future of Afghanistan will be between the Afghan government and the Taliban under the leadership of the Afghan government,” she said. 

Waziri said Washington would, however, facilitate the talks.

The US media on Monday, citing anonymous US officials, reported that Washington was keen to hold direct talks with the Taliban, a longstanding demand of the militants for ending the conflict.

The top US commander in Afghanistan, Gen. John Nicholson, in a statement late Monday night, also rejected media reports that quoted him talking about engaging the Taliban in direct talks. 

“Resolute Support refutes reports by the media that the Resolute Support commander said the US is ready to join direct negotiations with the Taliban during a visit with Afghan provincial and government representatives in Kandahar, July 16,” the statement said.  “The United States is not a substitute for the Afghan people or the Afghan government,” the statement said. 

Gen. Nickolson said that he was only affirming Secretary of State Michael Pompeo’s statement in which he said peace talks would include a discussion of international forces and that the US was ready to work with the Taliban, the Afghan government and the Afghan people toward lasting peace.

Sayed Ihsan Taheri, a spokesman for the Afghan High Peace Council, said that the US role would be to speed up the peace process and that any talks would be held under the Afghan government’s umbrella and  owned by Afghans.

“This engagement is only for speeding up the Afghan led and owned direct talks to start between the Afghan government and the Taliban,” he told Arab News.

The Taliban did not officially respond to confirm or deny the reports. 

The group has long refused direct talks with the Afghan government, demanding instead to negotiate with Washington, and has shown a preparedness to speak with Kabul only when all foreign troops have left the country.

The Taliban have been standing firm on their stance despite Ghani’s unilateral extension of a holiday cease-fire last month in the hope of encouraging the militants to come to the bargaining table.

After the Taliban stepped up deadly attacks, Ghani ordered government forces to resume military operations this month.

Asked if the US is willing to hold direct talks with the Taliban, the State Department said on Monday that the US was “exploring all avenues to advance a peace process in close consultation with the Afghan government,” the Associated Press reported.

The department added that “any negotiations over the political future of Afghanistan will be between the Taliban and the Afghan government.”

Last August, President Donald Trump announced a new strategy for Afghanistan which saw a surge in the number of offensives against the militants.

Secretary of State Michael Pompeo visited Afghanistan last week to reinforce US support for the talks. He said that the US was ready to “support, facilitate and participate” in discussions with the Taliban over the role of international forces in Afghanistan but that the peace process would be Afghan-led.

The US in an invasion toppled the Taliban government in Afghanistan following the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, and ousted the Taliban regime that had hosted Al-Qaeda. 

The US currently has about 15,000 troops in Afghanistan, mostly for training government forces.