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

Protesters march against anti-Semitism in London in this file photo.(AFP)
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.