Worst year on record as antisemitism soars
Jew-hate up 36 per cent Total of 1,309 incidents in 2016 107 violent assaults
THE NUMBER of antisemitic incidents in Britain reached the highest level on record in 2016, according to new figures published by the Community Security Trust.
The CST’s annual statistics show there were 1,309 incidents of Jew hatred last year — a 36 per cent increase on the previous 12 months.
While no single factor is blamed for the alarming rise in hate incidents, experts said the increase came amid an “overall climate” of racism, including the high-profile allegations of antisemitism within the Labour Party.
The CST’s Antisemitic Incidents Report 2016, published on Thursday, revealed that there were 107 violent antisemitic assaults last year — an increase of 29 per cent compared to 2015.
There were 81 incidents of damage and desecration of Jewish property, including attacks on synagogues, cemeteries and homes — up 25 per cent on similar incidents in the previous year.
Abusive behaviour accounted for 1,006 incidents — including verbal abuse, antisemitic graffiti, abuse of Jews via social media and one-off cases of hate mail.
The report also detailed how 100 incidents involved direct threats to Jewish individuals, families or organisations.
These totals for abusive behaviour and threats were the highest CST has ever recorded.
The previous record high of 1,182 antisemitic incidents was recorded by the charity in 2014 — but the conflict in Gaza and Israel that summer was recognised as a major factor in triggering that surge.
The number of cases reported to the police by CST is also at an all-time high — with 34 per cent of incidents being passed on for criminal investigation in 2016 compared to 32 per cent in 2015 and 30 per cent in 2014.
Dave Rich, Deputy Director of Communications at the CST, said: “I think there is an overall climate rather than one specific thing that is responsible for the rise in incidents.
“At the end of April you had Ken Livingstone and the MP Naz Shah both being suspended by the Labour Party and that put antisemitism firmly on the front pages.
“Low and behold, from April to May is when you get the biggest jump in incidents of the whole year. Then the following month you had the Brexit vote, which kept the pot boiling, so to speak. It’s a combination of things that are to blame.”
Responding to the report, Home Secretary Amber Rudd said: “Antisemitism is a deplorable form of hatred that has absolutely no place in a tolerant, open and diverse Britain that works for everyone. It is vital we ensure the safety and security of our Jewish community and this government will continue to do all we can to stamp out these vile attacks and encourage those who experience them to come forward.”
Labour’s deputy leader Tom Watson said: “The findings of this report are
I WAS not surprised when CST’s analysts came to me with our latest statistics, showing a record high number of antisemitic incidents reported in 2016.
I knew the relentless pressure that our teams had been under, responding to over 100 antisemitic incidents per month, urgently providing security responses, victim support and liaison with police.
I saw how many times antisemitism was headline news last year, with all the stress that brought for our community, for my CST staff and for our CST volunteers.
So, the record high was no surprise, but my heart still sank when it was confirmed, because CST’s goal is to protect our community and facilitate its confident, open way of life. We will never conceal the reality of antisem- itism, but we will never hype it either. I fear this record high will now combine with last year’s antisemitism headlines, further obscuring the vital context that most of the time, British Jewish life is overwhelmingly positive and vibrant: even if that daily reality doesn’t make the news.
There is another reason for my concern. Previous record highs could basically be explained by Middle East trigger events. This did not make the incidents in any way better. Indeed, at those times, incidents were often more violent than what we saw in 2016, but the feeling remained that this was somehow a different sort of antisemitism, what some people called “the new antisemitism”.
Make no mistake, another conflict in the Middle East will raise all of that hatred again, but 2016 was not “the new antisemitism”. Rather, the record figures appear to show a lid being lifted off plain old antisemitism. It is basic racism, as if what we hoped was increasingly unsayable is now coming out once again.
In the decade before 2016, we surpassed 100 incidents in a month on six occasions. In 2016, from May to December, it happened eight months in a row. As I write this column, nothing has changed this last month. It is totally unprecedented. We are dealing with something that I am determined not to call a new normal, but it risks becoming exactly that.
All of this makes it more important than ever that police, government and prosecutors not only do their work, but are seen doing it.
At CST, nobody is running scared. We will continue encouraging our community to lead its Jewish life. Simultaneously, we will keep fighting antisemitism at every turn. Ultimately, we can only ever be as strong as our community allows us to be and I invite you all to support us in our work.