CST signs information sharing agreement with Nottinghamshire Police

September 18th, 2014 by CST
Deputy Chief Constable Sue Fish of Nottinghamshire Police and CST's Northern Regional Director Amanda Bomsztyk

Deputy Chief Constable Sue Fish of Nottinghamshire Police and CST’s Northern Regional Director Amanda Bomsztyk

CST and Nottinghamshire Police today signed an information sharing agreement to help our joint work combating hate crime. This agreement enables us to share anonymised information about antisemitic incidents and hate crimes that occur across Nottinghamshire and follows similar agreements with Greater Manchester Police and the Metropolitan Police in London.

Research shows that most people who report antisemitic incidents will call either CST or the Police, but not both. By sharing information, we increase our ability to support victims and tackle hate crime.

Nottingham University has the largest Jewish Society in the country so today’s agreement will be particularly helpful in our work protecting Jewish students from any antisemitism that they may face on campus.

We are proud of our close partnership with the Police across the UK in tackling hate crime and we look forward to signing similar agreements with other Police forces in the future.

 

Politicians opposing antisemitism

September 12th, 2014 by Mark Gardner

Many Members of Parliament from each of the parties have voiced their opposition to antisemitism in recent weeks, including leading Government figures.

Prime Minister David Cameron wrote to Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis on 10 September to mark the annual pre-High Holy Day Conference of Rabbis. The PM stated:

…as we reflect on events this summer, it is more important than ever that Britain says loudly and clearly that there can never be any excuse for antisemitism.

As a Government we are committed to doing everything we can in the fight against antisemitism…

We are working with our police and universities to stop the spreading of divisive messages on our university campuses and we have excluded more foreign preachers of hate on the basis of our strategy for preventing extremism than ever before…

…a Jewish friend once asked me whether it will always be safe for his children and grandchildren to live in Britain. The answer to that question will always be “yes”. I hope that in years to come we will reach a point where that question will not even be asked.

The message was echoed by Communities and Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles, who addressed the rabbinical conference in person and was warmly received. The minister had stated this opposition on previous occasions, including in the Daily Telegraph on 5th September:

…Whatever one’s view about the politics of Israel and Gaza, everyone who believes in British liberty should stand up for the Jewish community’s right to practise their faith and go about their lives without fear. A cursory glance at European history shows the worst atrocities can begin with turning a blind eye to seemingly small acts of discrimination.

Home Secretary Theresa May was equally clear when addressing a Conservative Friends of Israel event on 9th September:

I have been appalled by recent reports from the Community Security Trust indicating a rise in anti-Semitic attacks in the UK. Yesterday I along with Theresa Villiers met Mike Freer MP, David Burrows MP and Lee Scott MP to discuss their concerns and the action the Home Office is taking to combat anti-Semitic hate crime.

Accounts of Jewish people being verbally abused on the street, placards displaying loathsome threats, and bricks being thrown through synagogue windows are – like any form of hate crime – abhorrent and unacceptable.

A straw poll conducted by the Jewish Chronicle also found that 63 per cent of Jewish people in north London questioned their future in the UK amid the rise of anti-Semitic attacks. This picture is being mirrored in other European countries. France has recently been reported as the leading country for Jewish emigration to Israel for the first time.

I am clear that everyone in this country should be able to live their lives free from racial and religious hatred and harassment. No one should live in fear because of their beliefs or who they are. That’s why we have provided over £2.3 million of funding to organisations and schools to help prevent hate crime, increase reporting and improve the operational response.

…This country has one of the strongest legislative frameworks in the world to protect communities from hostility, violence and bigotry. But I am clear that we must keep both the operational and legislative response under constant review. There is absolutely no place in our country for anti-Semitism whatever form it takes.

The speech repeated the strong message that the Home Secretary gave the Jewish Chronicle on 28th August (read it here). At the CFI event, she also told journalists of her forthcoming meeting with CST, Board of Deputies and Jewish Leadership Council, adding:

We are working closely with a number of organisations including the CST to see what more can be done in terms of ensuring hate crime is dealt with properly by the police but also that there is protection

Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers is another politician who has seriously grappled with antisemitism in recent weeks, as mentioned in Theresa May’s CFI speech, along with Mike Freer, David Burrows and Lee Scott. For example, in this clear message on her website, including:

Over recent days I have spoken to a number of my constituents about their fears and concerns about the current situation, including the chair of Barnet Synagogue who told me of a heated meeting held at the shul to discuss this issue. I have also received a detailed update from the police on the action they are taking and their plans for keeping people safe in Barnet during the forthcoming high holy days. I am also grateful to the Community Security Trust for keeping me informed on these very worrying developments

Jim Murphy MP is not a member of Government, but despite the pressure of being one of the leading Scottish Labour advocates against Scottish independence, he has continued his record of standing against antisemitism. For example, writing an analysis of the problem in the Glasgow Herald on 13th August that concluded:

…Many Jewish constituents have been in touch with me in recent days. It shouldn’t be left to Jews to speak out against the existence of anti-Semitism in our midst. It is all of our human and democratic responsibility – no matter our faith and regardless of our view on the Middle East – to renew our opposition to the world oldest hatred.

Finally, there was the searing speech against antisemitism and its drivers by the Chief Whip Michael Gove, at the annual dinner of the Holocaust Educational Trust on 9th September (see most of it here). It was extremely well received by those present and included the following:

…We need to stand together against prejudice, against hate, against the resurgent, mutating, lethal virus of antisemitism — now more than ever.

The Holocaust Educational Trust was established a quarter-of-a-century ago by men and women who knew that, unless future generations were taught about the Holocaust and inoculated against the virus of antisemitism then prejudice could recur…

…In the aftermath of the Second World War, everyone was agreed. Antisemitism could have no place in a civilised society. The articulation of prejudice towards the Jewish people was the gateway which led to Auschwitz by way of Nuremberg — exclusion and then extermination…

…Or so it seemed back then. Today, across Europe, there has been a revival of antisemitism that the enormity of the Holocaust should have rendered forever unthinkable…

And we must not think that Britain — gentle, tolerant, civilised Britain — is immune. The Community Security Trust (CST) monitors instances of antisemitism throughout the UK. It is careful to distinguish between explicitly antisemitic incidents and more general protests about Israeli policy…

When banners at pro-Palestinian rallies carry slogans such as “Stop Doing What Hitler Did To You” or “Gaza is a Concentration Camp” then a line has been crossed. In July this year, CST recorded 302 antisemitic incidents, a fivefold increase from July 2013. In 101 of those cases, there were explicit references to the Holocaust, including attempts to equate Israel’s actions in self-defence with Nazi crimes. On our streets, our citizens have marched with swastikas superimposed on the Israeli flag.

We need to be clear about what is going on here. There is a deliberate attempt to devalue the unique significance of the Holocaust, and so remove the stigma from antisemitism…

…And even as this relativisation, trivialisation and perversion of the Holocaust goes on, so prejudice towards the Jewish people grows…

We need to speak out against this prejudice. We need to remind people that what began with a campaign against Jewish goods in the past ended with a campaign against Jewish lives. We need to spell out that this sort of prejudice starts with the Jews but never ends with the Jews. We need to stand united against hate. Now more than ever.

I believe that, in the face of this prejudice, there has, so far, been insufficient indignation: an insufficient willingness to recognise that civic freedom is indivisible: that an attack on one is an attack on all.

The British rightly pride themselves in their long and relatively peaceful political evolution based on a widespread acceptance of British values. But this can have an unfortunate consequence: complacency in the face of threats from those who care nothing for peace, democracy or British values.

…I believe that, in the face of this prejudice, there has, so far, been insufficient indignation: an insufficient willingness to recognise that civic freedom is indivisible: that an attack on one is an attack on all.

The British rightly pride themselves in their long and relatively peaceful political evolution based on a widespread acceptance of British values. But this can have an unfortunate consequence: complacency in the face of threats from those who care nothing for peace, democracy or British values..

 

 

 

Antisemitic incidents reach record level in July 2014

September 4th, 2014 by CST

Antisemitic reactions to this summer’s conflict between Israel and Hamas resulted in record levels of antisemitic hate incidents in the UK, according to new figures released by CST today.

CST recorded 302 antisemitic incidents in July 2014, a rise of over 400% from the 59 incidents recorded in July 2013 and only slightly fewer than the 304 antisemitic incidents recorded in the entire first six months of 2014. A further 111 reports were received by CST during July but were not deemed to be antisemitic and are not included in this total. CST has recorded antisemitic incidents in the UK since 1984.

The 302 antisemitic incidents recorded in July 2014 is the highest ever monthly total recorded by CST. The previous record high of 289 incidents in January 2009 coincided with a previous period of conflict between Israel and Hamas. CST also recorded at least 150 antisemitic incidents in August 2014, making it the third-highest monthly total on record. The totals for July and August are expected to rise further as more incident reports reach CST.

Anti-Israel and antisemitic leaflet inserted amongst Israeli produce at a supermarket in Norfolk, July 2014

155 of the 302 incidents recorded in July (51%) involved direct reference to the ongoing conflict in Israel and Gaza. All incidents require evidence of antisemitic language, targeting or motivation alongside any anti-Israel sentiment to be recorded by CST as an antisemitic incident.

101 antisemitic incidents recorded in July involved the use of language or imagery relating to the Holocaust, of which 25 showed evidence of far right political motivation or beliefs. More commonly, reference to Hitler or the Holocaust was used to taunt or offend Jews, often in relation to events in Israel and Gaza, such as via the twitter hashtag #HitlerWasRight. 76 of the 302 incidents in July (25%) took place on social media.

Antisemitic image circulated on social media, July 2014

Antisemitic image circulated on social media, July 2014

CST obtained a description of the offender for 107 of the 302 antisemitic incidents recorded during July 2014. Of these, 55 offenders (51%) were described as being of south Asian appearance; 32 (30%) were described as white; 15 (14%) were described as being of Arab or north African appearance; and 5 (5%) were described as black.

There were 21 violent antisemitic assaults recorded by CST, none of which were classified as ‘Extreme Violence’, which would involve a threat to life or grievous bodily harm (GBH). None of the 21 assaults resulted in serious injury. There were 17 incidents of Damage & Desecration of Jewish property; 218 incidents of Abusive Behaviour, which includes verbal abuse, antisemitic graffiti, antisemitic abuse via social media and one-off cases of hate mail; 33 direct antisemitic threats; and 13 cases of mass-mailed antisemitic leaflets or emails.

Antisemitic letter sent to synagogues in London, July 2014

Antisemitic letter sent to synagogues in London, July 2014

CST recorded 179 antisemitic incidents in Greater London in July 2014, compared to 144 during the whole of the first half of 2014. There were 52 antisemitic incidents recorded in Greater Manchester, compared to 96 in the first six months of the year. 71 incidents were recorded in other locations around the UK during July.

CST spokesman Mark Gardner said:

These statistics speak for themselves: a record number of antisemitic incidents, few of them violent, but involving widespread abuse and threats to Jewish organisations, Jews in public places and on social media. It helps to explain the pressures felt by so many British Jews this summer, with its combination of anti-Jewish hatred and anti-Israel hatred.

The high proportion of offenders who appear to come from sections of the Muslim community is of significant concern, raising fears that the kind of violent antisemitism suffered by French Jews in recent years may yet be repeated here in the UK.

CST will continue working with Police and Government against antisemitism, but we need the support of others. Opposing antisemitism takes actions not words. It is particularly damaging for public figures, be they politicians, journalists or faith leaders, to feed these hatreds by comparing Israel to Nazi Germany or by encouraging extreme forms of public protest and intimidation.

Prosecutors also have their part to play. Those who have used social media to spread antisemitism are identifiable and should be prosecuted.

Opposing antisemitism: an appeal to put words into action

August 27th, 2014 by CST

The past two months have seen the number of antisemitic incidents in Britain approach record levels Much of this has been due to extreme reactions to the conflict between Israel and Gaza that reached its latest ceasefire yesterday. This problem, and its link to extreme manifestations of anti-Israel sentiment, has been covered extensively in the British media.

Some pro-Palestinian activists have recognised this problem and spoken out against it. The Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) has said that antisemitism has no place in its activities, and Owen Jones wrote a column for the Guardian in which he warned of the need to take antisemitism seriously. In particular, he wrote:

Antisemitic themes are depressingly constant: of Jews being aliens, lacking loyalty to their countries, acting as parasites, wielding disproportionate influence. Sometimes this hatred is overt, other times more subtle and pernicious.

We welcome these statements from supporters of the Palestinian cause, just as we previously welcomed PSC’s rejection of the equation of Israel with Nazi Germany. And because we consider these statements to be important and necessary, we hope and expect that the people who made them will live up to their words and the sentiments behind them.

It is for this reason that we appeal to PSC and to Owen Jones to reconsider the inclusion of Tim Llewellyn as a speaker at a PSC meeting tomorrow evening, 28th August, on “Gaza: let down by the BBC and mainstream media?” We appeal to PSC as the organiser of the meeting and to Jones as one of the other speakers.

Our objection is not to the meeting itself. We do not oppose your right to hold public meetings in support of the Palestinians, or to criticise Israel, or to critique media coverage of the conflict between the two.

Our objection is specifically to the inclusion of Llewellyn as a guest speaker on this topic because he has a record of statements that illustrate exactly what Jones warns against: themes “of Jews being aliens, lacking loyalty to their countries, acting as parasites, wielding disproportionate influence.”

For example, last year at a meeting in London that was also about media coverage of Israel, Llewellyn claimed that the BBC is intimidated by the “Jewish lobby”. When he was challenged on this by the chair of the meeting, he resisted criticism of his choice of phrase. The full exchange ran as follows and can be viewed here on the CST Blog:

Llewellyn: “Is it because… I can see it in the BBC. They’re frighten’, these people are quite aggressive, right. The Jewish Lobby is not much fun. They come at you from every direction.”

Off camera, another speaker says “no”, then, “its the pro-Israel lobby”. It is not exactly clear who says what after this, but it includes the chair Mark McDonald talking over Llewellyn, stating:

“I mean that’s a very important thing to say, that its not a Jewish lobby. Can I interrupt a second. Its not a Jewish lobby. It might be a Zionist lobby. It may be a pro-Israel lobby.”

Llewellyn replies: “Yes, but they use Jewish connections to get you.”

This statement by Llewellyn was not a one off. It fitted a long record of statements and writings that mix “Jewish” with “Zionist” while alleging that both hold undue and nefarious influence in British public life. For example, in 2006, Llewellyn wrote the following in the Foreword to a new edition of Publish It Not: The Middle East Cover-Up by Michael Adams and Christopher Mayhew:

No alien polity has so successfully penetrated the British government and British institutions during the past ninety years as the Zionist movement and its manifestation as the state of Israel…the Zionists have manipulated British systems as expertly as maestros, here a massive major chord, there a minor refrain, the audience, for the most part, spellbound.

…this cuckoo in the nest of British politics…

… Israel had worked its spells well, with a lot of help from its friends: these lined the benches of parliament, wrote the news stories and editorials, framed the way we saw and heard almost everything about the Middle East on TV, radio and in the press. History, the Bible, Nazi Germany’s slaughter of the Jews, Russian pogroms, the Jewish narrative relayed and parlayed through a thousand books, films, TV plays and series, radio programmes, the skills of Jewish writers, diarists, memoirists, artists and musicians, people like us and among us, all had played their part.

…the fervent Zionist Labour MPs, some of them little better than bully-boys, Richard Crossman (not a Jew), Ian Mikardo, Maurice Edelman, Emmanuel “Manny” Shinwell, Sidney Silverman, Konni Zilliacus et al, are, mercifully, not only no longer with us but have not been replaced, not in such virulent form.

… the Union of Jewish Students, which elbows and induces Zionistically inclined undergraduates towards influential positions in British public life, especially the media, the banking sector and information technology.

Llewellyn mixes “Zionist” with “Jewish”, describing both as “alien” to Britain; and alleges undue and negative influence and manipulation of the media, politics and “the banking sector”. These allegations all have clear antecedents in antisemitic conspiracy theories.

Another example: in 2004, Llewellyn was quoted in the Jewish Chronicle as describing former US ambassador Dennis Ross in these terms:

He also denounced broadcasters who invited the “insidious” former US ambassador to the Middle East Denis Ross, without fully identifying him.

Mr Llewellyn said: “What a lovely Anglo-Saxon name! But Denis Ross is not just a Jew, he is a Zionist, a long-time Zionist… and now directs an Israeli-funded think tank in Washington. He is a Zionist propagandist.”

The suggestion that broadcasters should identify an interviewee as “a Jew”, lest their viewers be fooled by an “Anglo-Saxon name”, is scurrilous and prejudiced.

In 2012, Llewellyn wrote of

massive media distortion, and … Zionist penetration and manipulation of our institutions – the media, universities, local education, political parties…

He went on to describe as Britain’s

real enemies… the ambitious and greedy British politicians and insidious political influence, in this case spawned by an alien state and strengthened by its friends in our midst, people who put Israel’s interests above that of their own nation.

(From The Battle for Public Opinion in Europe: Changing Perceptions of the Palestine-Israel Conflict, eds. Daud Abdullah & Ibrahim Hewitt, not online). Again, this echoes the classical antisemitic allegation of ‘dual loyalty’, whereby British Jews are accused of lacking loyalty to the country of their birth.

If the important and welcome statements by PSC, Owen Jones and others about their opposition to antisemitism and determination to exclude it from pro-Palestinian activism have real meaning, then there should be no place for Tim Llewellyn at a PSC meeting. This is not an abstract argument: the sharp increase in antisemitism in Britain in recent weeks demonstrates that fact. Words lead to actions, good and bad. We now invite PSC and Owen Jones to put their valuable and worthy statements and principles into practice. A discussion of media coverage of the Israel-Palestine conflict must not give room to those who believe that there is a Zionist conspiracy to control, manipulate or influence the British media, politics, banking and education, as Tim Llewellyn has suggested. Nor should pro-Palestinian activism be a home for those who believe that Jews are an alien presence, disloyal to Britain, who change their names to disguise their true loyalties. Put your words into action, and remove Tim Llewellyn from your platform.

 

The antisemitic pressure cooker

August 15th, 2014 by Mark Gardner

The last six weeks have seen an outpouring of antisemitism in Britain and across Europe. Previously, CST has stated that over 200 antisemitic incidents have been reported to us from across the country, the 2nd worst month on record. That figure now stands at 240 antisemitic incidents, with 10-20 arrests and other cases under active Police investigation. Incident reports are still reaching CST, so the July total will get closer still to the unprecedented 289 incidents of January 2009.

The actual data is bad enough, but cannot convey the mood of the Jewish community, with many people telling us that they have never felt so bad, have been under such pressure, nor worried so much about what the future may hold.

Regarding the short term, CST has received many enquiries from parents who are extremely concerned about their children going back to school; and about Jewish students returning to campuses, following the National Union of Students recent anti-Israel boycott motion (which itself follows the notorious UCU lecturers boycott). CST is holding urgent conversation with Jewish schools, our Streetwise Jewish youth programme, and the Union of Jewish Students. We have also raised our concerns with Government.

In the longer term, there is the confirmation of what we already knew: British Jews, like those elsewhere, will continue to suffer local antisemitic impacts from overseas events and global ideological trends, especially political Islamism and violent Jihadism. This is why CST has invested so many millions of pounds in communal security measures since its establishment as a charity in 1994, shortly after Hizbollah’s murder of 84 people at the Jewish community centre in Buenos Aires, and two non-fatal anti-Israel car bombings in London.

There is also the striking proof that even if antisemitic incident levels now fall, we have yet again seen what is boiling away underneath. In February 2014, CST welcomed the fact that the 2013 antisemitic incident total (529 recorded) levels had fallen by nearly 20% from the 2012 total (649 recorded). Writing in the Jewish Chronicle, I warned:

the worst antisemitism increases surround Israel and major Jewish issues. Thankfully, 2013 was relatively peaceful, with no big “triggers” for antisemitic surges…Israel passions continue, as do malign chatter against Jews and Zionists. The lid stayed on the antisemitic pressure cooker in 2013, but the heat is still on.

This latest war between Israel and Hamas blew the lid off the pressure cooker.

It shows that nothing will fundamentally change whilst the hatred continues to fire underneath. Hatred and rage will find a physical target. Anti-Israel and anti-Zionist hatred will find Jewish targets: as they always do. This, before even discussing how much of that hatred is actually antisemitic, ranging from what Hamas would actually do to Jews given the chance (hint: see ISIS right now), to the many idiots who actually believe that all British supermarkets are owned by Jews and give 25% of their profits to the Israeli military (where to begin unpicking that antisemitism?). Also, how to explain what we might call ‘Holocaust Tourette’s Syndrome’, whereby so many people cannot resist throwing Nazi, Holocaust and genocide insults and reference points at Israel and mainstream Jewish communities.

Our Jewish community’s critics and enemies never tire of telling us that antisemitism, anti-Zionism and “criticism” of Israel are all different things and must never be confused with each other. It is not us who need telling!

And yet there is, nevertheless, a complex reality whereby most British Jews are indeed Zionists, with varying levels of emotional and familial attachment to Israel. This is another type of pressure, that which builds within people’s heads, in their families, social circles and communities. It contains not only fears about British, European and global antisemitism per se, but also fears for the well being of Israel, including what it does, what is done against it, and how this is represented in media, politics and street demonstrations. It is all wide open to an infinite number of subjective and objective interpretations.

France shows why this is so important. In recent years thousands of Jews have left France, due partly to worsening antisemitism: which (unlike in Britain) also resonates with France’s historical relationship to antisemitism as a real political force, and carries much anti-establishment rage and alienation. That particular antisemitism is overwhelmingly coming from French Muslims, be they actual Jihadis (such as the murderer of Jewish children at Ozar HaTorah school in Toulouse in 2012), or just plain thugs (such as those who kidnapped, tortured and murdered Ilan Halimi in 2006).

France is home to Europe’s biggest Jewish and Muslim communities. The impulse is to say that where it leads, the rest of Europe will follow: but smaller Jewish communities such as Brussels, Amsterdam, Malmo may have largely packed their bags by then. This, literally, is what is at stake.

Whether or not Britain fits the same pattern is less clear cut. Indeed, within Britain there are differences. For example, the dwindling Scottish Jewish community cannot really be compared with those in London or even Manchester. The front page of the Jewish Chronicle carries a straw poll in which 150 people were asked, “have you or your friends had a discussion about whether there is a future for Jews in the UK?”. 63% replied yes, which is then turned into a somewhat more dramatic headline: “63% say there may be no future for Jews in UK”.

Regardless of the paper’s accuracy, methodology and headline, the overall point still stands. This latest overseas war will have caused more Jews to question their futures than was previously the case.

There are two parts to this - those who were already concerned about antisemitism, anti-Israel boycotts, anti-Israel demonstrations, media coverage of Israel etc and now feel so much worse; and those who were previously unconcerned, but are now taken aback by what they themselves are now actually seeing and feeling.

Jews are well used to accusations of paranoia, so it is perhaps those who had previously doubted their fellow Jews’ concerns that are the most useful barometer of the pressure right now. On an anecdotal level, my CST colleagues and I and have had many examples of personal friends and acquaintances who have made a point of contacting us to apologise for having previously doubted the importance of our work. Now, they say that they really “get it”.

One particular newspaper article summed this up. It was by Hugo Rifkind in the Times, headlined “Suddenly it feels uncomfortable to be a Jew”:

I was the only Jew at my Edinburgh boarding school. Honestly. The only one.

…I have never, really, had Jewish friends or Jewish interests or moved in Jewish circles…occasionally, when I have heard fellow Jews talk of a world out there in which it is uncomfortable to be a Jew, I have found myself getting the hump. Because that’s my world they are talking about. And I like it. And frankly, I’ve been comfortable as anything.

Well, that was then. This is now. And do you know what? Suddenly I’m not. Something is afoot. It is creeping and it is tentative, but it is definitely there. And it scares me.

…Never before have I had the sense that I have now of a body of people actually itching for Israeli villainy, so that they can scream out the anger they already feel…Never before have I been so reluctant to write what I really think about Israeli policy towards Palestinians — which is not complimentary, or even nearly — for fear of the slugs and monsters who would crawl into the sunshine to agree.

Most of all, never before have I felt that attitudes towards Jews in Europe — and even, albeit less so, in Britain — could grow far, far worse before a whole swathe of supposedly progressive thought was even prepared to notice.

It is not a nice feeling, this last one. More than anything else it is lonely, and being a Jew has never made me feel that before. Not even when I was the only one.

 

July 2014: UK antisemitism reflections

August 6th, 2014 by Mark Gardner

July 2014 now joins January 2009 as a month when war between Israel and Hamas caused antisemitism to spew forth across Britain. If this latest round of Middle East violence has now ended, then we may expect the antisemitism to gradually diminish: but this hatred has again been revealed, even if most of the time it lies beneath the surface. Are British Jews (and those elsewhere) to be forever held hostage to a seemingly intractable conflict in which totalitarian Jihadists are sworn to destroy Israel at whatever cost?

Members of the public expressing fears and concerns to CST have referenced this in different ways. One said she felt “stuck in a swamp“. Another said that the hatred had come from “ordinary people, not what or who we expect it from…its the underlying antisemitism, and now that they’ve put it out there, how are we supposed to put it back?“. It may sound trite to speak of Jews defriending others on Facebook, but anecdotally, this seems to be happening again and again, with Jews deeply upset by what this conflict has revealed about those whom they believed to be their friends (in all meanings of the word).

Bare statistics do not, cannot, explain the emotion that many people are feeling right now: but they are stark. CST has now recorded over 200 antisemitic incidents for July 2014, making it very clearly the second worst month we have seen since our records began in 1984. (The worst was Jan’ 2009, when 288 incidents were recorded. The second worst was Feb’ 2009, with 114 incidents.) The July 2014 total is not yet finalised, because it takes time to properly analyse and categorise all of the reports reaching us from throughout Britain right now, so the figure of 200 is an absolute minimum.

Of course, antisemitic incidents occur every day, week and month of the year. CST recorded 304 between January and June 2014 (a rise of 36% from 2013). We now have over 200 in one month, so the maths are clear. Not every July incident relates to the Israel-Hamas conflict, but the majority do. Without listing every one of them, it is almost impossible to convey the scale and the impact of the invective, but each and every incident involves at least one victim and at least one perpetrator. They come randomly at Jews and Jewish locations throughout the country. Many of them appear to be perpetrated by Muslim youth and adults, but by no means all. That this racism is perpetrated in the name of human rights (for Palestinians) is bizarre, but nothing new: although it does help explain the deafening silence from the self-titled anti-racism movement. (Hope not Hate does not fit this category and is a strong exception.)

The hatred is showing clear trends. Shouting “Free Gaza” on a pro-Palestinian demonstration is not antisemitic: but obviously is when yelled at a random Jew in the street, or when daubed on a synagogue wall.  The same goes for screams of “child murderer”, shouted at Jews or pinned on a synagogue. Then, there is the ever present antisemitic fixation with Nazism. This comes two ways, Jews being told that they are the new Nazis, or Jews being told that “Hitler was right” (a phrase that trended on Twitter).

Child murderer has a long history in antisemitism, almost 2,000 years longer than Nazism does. The accusation of Jews having killed Jesus, the embodiment of innocence, moved into medieval blood libels. Some Jews perceive sections of the UK media as having focussed to such an extent upon Gazan child victims in this latest conflict that it somehow indicates that these blood libels still lurk somewhere deep. Others would counter that this kind of ‘unconscious antisemitism’ argument is ridiculous and that the media could not focus upon dead and injured children if they did not actually exist, nor in such numbers. The fact remains: British Jews are being called child-murderers.

The Nazi slanders and threats are not in mainstream media, but the question ‘why didn’t Jews / Israel learn the lessons of the Holocaust?’ has been. This is surely repellent to the overwhelming majority of Jews. It comes posed as a question, but really it is a demand. Whatever its motivation, it smells of Jew-Israel-Nazi equivalence and ‘we are holier than thou’.

The super-heated arguments of how the media covers Israel are not strictly CST’s business; and neither are boycotts of Israel. Nevertheless, it is impossible to discuss how Jews feel right now without noting how both things impact upon antisemitism, upon how Jews are perceived and how Jews themselves feel.

One need not be a dyed in the wool defender of Israel, nor even a Zionist, to suspect that no other country on earth appears to evoke such passion and hatred. We need not cite Syria right now, nor Sri Lanka in 2009, because Britain itself has killed civilians in the Middle East in recent years, children included. Yet it is only one section of British society that is called “child-murderers”, or “Nazis”, or is told that Hitler should have wiped them all out.

Less rhetorically, we must note that antisemitic incidents will subside along with the images on people’s television screens, but the long term damage to Jews of anti-Israel boycotts will persist. Dry statistics help us to measure the raw impact of this. If someone engages in “criticism of Israel” then 6% of British Jews consider that person “definitely antisemitic” and 27% answer “probably antisemitic”. If that person supports a boycott of Israel, then 34% of British Jews consider them “definitely antisemitic” and 33% “probably antisemitic”. So, boycott of Israel is a tipping point for most Jews in regarding criticism as being antisemitic or not. One consequence of this latest Israel-Hamas war will be a lot more boycotts, either through choice (such as trade unions and cultural venues) or through intimidation (such as commercial outlets). Just as Israel is being singled out for scrutiny and boycott, so many Jews are going to feel the same way.

When the Jewish Film Festival is given a ‘ditch your Israeli Embassy link’ ultimatum by the Tricycle Theatre in Kilburn, it betrays how British Jews’ connections to Israel are the measure by which others judge them. The same applies to the National Union of Students decision to boycott Israel, which promises no end of trouble and intimidation for Jewish students. Then, there are the mass intimidations of supermarkets that dare to sell Israeli goods, some of which have actually been forced to briefly stop trading as a result. (As cheerfully relayed here by a Labour MP.)

Finally, two antisemitic incidents out of over two hundred, giving the merest hint of recent events. The first speaks volumes of how Jews risk being expected to behave: and the reactions they risk upon refusal.

1. Street in Bradford, evening of 26th July. A Jewish man and his wife were driving when they became caught in slow moving traffic due to an accident up the road. Every car in the queue was being stopped by a group of apparently Muslim men and women, carrying buckets and asking for money for Gaza. The Jewish man politely declined to donate, whereupon “you f**king Jewish bastard!” was shouted at him. Then, another man used a loudhailer to also shout “you f**king Jewish bastard!” at him. Next, “Jewish bastard coming down the road!” was shouted down the street to alert each of the other collectors.

2. Synagogue in Hove, 2nd August (photo by F.Sharpe)

Hove pic

 

 

When vitriol turns to violence

August 1st, 2014 by Mark Gardner

This article appears in today’s edition of the Jewish Chronicle

Today, my organisation CST releases its six-monthly report on antisemitic incidents, for January to June 2014. It shows a large increase of 36 per cent: 304 incidents across Britain in the first half of 2014, compared to 223 in the first half of 2013.

The reasons are unclear. It may be better reporting rates or more antisemitism. It is probably both. Last month, July 2014, is another story entirely. Here we know exactly what is happening, a significant escalation in antisemitism, with incident levels having more than doubled during this latest conflict between Israel and Hamas. There have been over 130 incidents in the second worst outburst of antisemitism in recent memory: the worst was in January and February 2009, during and immediately after that year’s Israel-Hamas conflict.

It may be a small mercy to say that events in Britain have not compared with those in France, but the point is vitally important. Scenes of mobs attacking synagogues and police lines have not been repeated here in the UK. We have not suffered the years of deepening antisemitic trauma punctuated by the kidnap, torture and murder of the young man Ilan Halimi in 2006 and the shooting at Ozar HaTorah school in 2012.

These terrible acts have not caused French Israel-haters, mainly young Muslims, to lessen their rage and many observers are now seriously asking if there is a viable future for French Jews, approximately 5,000 of whom are making aliyah

At face value, this month’s events suggest that Britain is not in the same position as France: but the potential for violent antisemitism is still very real.

I raised these concerns last week on BBC Radio Five Live. It was the morning after David Ward MP’s remarks about Hamas rockets and “Ich bin ein Palestinian”, and I summarised some of the many antisemitic incidents reported to CST by Jews from across the country. David Ward’s response was both staggering and utterly predictable, a bored dismissal of our communal concerns, “we’ve heard it all before…criticism of Israel…antisemitism bandwagon”.

The next day, there was a splendid article by Emma Barnett in the Daily Telegraph, explaining her fears as a British Jew about hostile impacts arising here from an overseas conflict. Radio 2 decided to interview both her and Alexei Sayle, who has long been a trenchant (Jewish) critic of Israeli policies. Sayle’s reaction made David Ward look like Gandhi. He began in the same vein, claiming she was abusing antisemitism to discredit Palestinians before denouncing her as “supporting the murder of children, the murder of women…from a fascist, Zionist ideology”.

Sayle’s vignette brilliantly exemplified how and why mainstream British Jews end up being attacked for whatever crimes Israel is being accused of. We are aware of the situation and of the group libels, but stand resolutely against them and lead our Jewish lives. That is what CST aims to do and it is what we would ask each of you to do also.

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