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Huge Rise In Antisemitic Abuse In UK Since Hamas Attack, Says Charity

The scale of the surge in antisemitism in the UK since Hamas’s attack on Israel on 7 October has been revealed, in data showing a 589% increase in the number of incidents compared with the same period in 2022.

The Community Security Trust (CST), which monitors anti-Jewish abuse and attacks and provides security for UK Jewish communities, said the unprecedented increase was a “watershed moment for antisemitism in the UK”.

It recorded 4,103 antisemitic incidents in the UK in 2023, the highest total in a calendar year reported to the organisation. Two-thirds of the 2023 incidents occurred after 7 October – 2,699, compared with 392 over the same time period in 2022.

James Cleverly, the home secretary, said the rise in anti-Jewish hatred and abuse was “utterly deplorable”, and Yvette Cooper, his Labour counterpart, said it was a “stain on our society”.

The CST said Hamas’s attack on Israel on 7 October was a “trigger event [that] had a seismic effect on antisemitic incident levels in the UK … and the impact was instant”.

It received the first report of antisemitism at 12.55pm on 7 October after Hamas’s attack. A vehicle with a Palestinian flag attached, and with the occupant shaking their fist in the air through an open window, had driven past a synagogue in Hertfordshire. Thirty-one incidents were reported on that day.

The number rose over the following days, reaching a peak of 80 on 11 October – the highest incident total for any single day recorded by the CST.

The CST pointed out that there had been previous spikes in antisemitism during and after conflicts in Gaza in 2021, 2014 and 2009.

It said: “There is one key difference this time: antisemitic incidents skyrocketed in the immediate aftermath of a terror attack responsible for the highest Jewish death toll on any day since the Holocaust, before Israel had coordinated any substantive military response.”

The organisation recorded a sharp rise in the number of incidents of anti-Jewish hatred and abuse in schools and universities.

In 2023, there were 87 incidents recorded at Jewish schools, compared with 20 the year before. A further 111 incidents involved Jewish children away from school, compared with 41 in 2022, and 127 involving Jewish children or staff at non-faith schools.

The number of incidents at universities and other higher education institutions also broke records in 2023, with 182 recorded compared with 60 the previous year.

The CST said the most frequent form of antisemitic rhetoric in 2023 “either referenced or was linked to Israel, Palestine, the Hamas terror attack or the subsequent war”. Between 1 January and 6 October, 19% of reported incidents included “Israel-related antisemitism”; between 7 October and 31 December, the proportion rose to 56%.

“In at least 427 instances, the phrase ‘Free Palestine’ was employed in speech or writing. Although not an inherently antisemitic statement, in each of these cases it was targeted at Jewish people or institutions simply because they were Jewish, or formed part of a larger tirade including overtly anti-Jewish sentiments,” the CST said.

The phrase had “become a formalised, almost anthemic slogan of anti-Jewish abuse, which offenders know will offend or intimidate their target”, said its report.

The types of incidents recorded include assault (up 96% on 2022) damage and desecration of Jewish property (up 146%), threats (up 196%) and abusive behaviour (up 149%). Online antisemitism rose by 257%.

Conspiracy theories were evident in 319 of the 4,103 incidents reported in 2023, almost double the 2022 figure. The vast majority “spoke of malign Jewish power over global politics, media, finance and other walks of life”.

Incidents were concentrated in areas with significant Jewish populations. These “remain the principal targets of antisemitism”, says the report, but “for the first time ever, CST recorded an antisemitic incident in every single police region in the UK in 2023”.

Mark Gardner, the chief executive of the CST, said: “British Jews are strong and resilient, but the explosion in hatred against our community is an absolute disgrace. It occurs in schools, universities, workplaces, on the streets and all over social media.

“Our community is being harassed, intimidated, threatened and attacked by extremists who also oppose society as a whole. We thank the government and police for their support, but this is a challenge for everyone and we condemn the stony silence from those sections of society that eagerly call out racism in every other case, except when it comes to Jew hate.”

Cleverly said the government had taken “strong steps to confront” antisemitism, including increasing funding for security at Jewish schools and synagogues and “working with the police to ensure that hate crime and expressions of support for the terrorist organisation Hamas are met with the full force of the law”.

Cooper said: “We must not allow events unfolding internationally to play out in increased hatred and prejudice here in our communities. These record high levels are an urgent reminder of the responsibility on all of us to stamp out the scourge of antisemitism wherever it is found.”

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