Reported anti-Semitic incidents hit record high in UK

Over 100 reported each month in 2018

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The Jewish Leadership Council and the Board of Deputies of British Jews stage a protest in March 2018 against anti-Semitism in the Labour Party in London.

Reported anti-Semitic hate incidents in the United Kingdom hit a record high in 2018, with more than 100 recorded in every month of the year, according to the Community Security Trust (CST), a charity that fights anti-Semitism.

The total for 2018 -- 1,652 incidents reported nationwide -- was a 16% increase on the previous year, and represented a record annual total for a third year running, according to the CST report. CST has been recording anti-Semitic incidents since 1984.

Last year was the first time that more than 100 incidents had been recorded in every month of a calendar year but the figures can be seen as part of a trend since January 2016, CST said in a media release accompanying the report.

"This pattern of consistently high incident totals suggests an enduring situation in which people with anti-Semitic attitudes appear to be more confident to express their views; while incident victims and reporters may be more motivated to report the antisemitism they experience or encounter," it said.

The highest number of recorded incidents was in May, followed by April, August and September, CST said. "It is likely that these higher monthly totals were partly caused by reactions to political events in the UK and overseas, involving the Labour Party and violence on the border of Israel and Gaza, during those months."

Allegations of anti-Semitism have dogged Britain's opposition Labour Party and its leader, Jeremy Corbyn, since he took the helm in 2015 and came to a head last summer.

Corbyn has insisted that "people who hold anti-Semitic views have no place in the Labour Party" -- long considered a natural home for British Jews -- but continues to face accusations that he has done too little to stamp out anti-Semitism in the party's ranks.

Meanwhile, a sweeping CNN survey on anti-Semitism last year found that anti-Semitic stereotypes are alive and well in Europe, while the memory of the Holocaust is starting to fade.

Almost three-quarters of the incidents recorded by CST in the UK last year were in London and Manchester, which have the country's largest Jewish communities.

The most common form of reported incident "involved verbal abuse randomly directed at visibly Jewish people in public," the charity said. However, there was a 17% decrease in the number of violent anti-Semitic assaults, from 149 in 2017 to 123 in 2018, the report said.

Close to a quarter of the total number of incidents recorded by CST last year involved social media, it added.

Home Secretary Sajid Javid said the government was working with the Jewish community to tackle "utterly despicable" anti-Semitism. "The Jewish community should not have to tolerate these attacks and we are doing all we can to rid society of these poisonous views," he said.

Shadow Secretary of State for Communities Andrew Gwynne, of the Labour Party, said the report showed much more needed to be done to challenge anti-Semitism. "There is no place in British society, and in British politics, left or right, for anti-Semitic views," he said.

Moshe Kantor, president of the European Jewish Congress, said it was worried by the findings -- but even more so by signs of significant under-reporting of anti-Semitic incidents, suggesting that the problem is larger still.

"We must all beware of the evil that can manifest when extremism is allowed to flourish unchallenged," Kantor said, adding that the apparent correlation between spikes in incidents and the row over anti-Semitism in the Labour Party was shocking but "sadly unsurprising."

"The time is now long overdue for Jeremy Corbyn to act once and for all to stamp out the scourge of anti-Semitism from his party," he said.

Marie van der Zyl, president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, also sounded the alarm over the CST figures, saying they are "very worrying" for Jews living in the UK.

"Overall, the UK remains a happy place for its Jewish community but this report shows that there is no room for complacency," she said. "Defeating the evil of anti-Semitism will take a concerted effort by the country's political leadership -- in all parties -- and civil society. We must strive to make our country a just, safe and respectful society. There can be no room for racism and hatred."

Jemma Levene, deputy director of Hope not Hate, an anti-racism advocacy group, said Jewish people faced "growing hatred from an increasingly violent fascist threat" at the same time as anti-Semitic tropes feed conspiracy theories and some on the left push anti-Semitic memes online.

"The same old evil is being reinvented with new faces, pushed increasingly online and by a younger generation. It's vital we stand up to this most pernicious form of hatred and act against it wherever we find it," she said.

Karen Pollock, chief executive of the Holocaust Educational Trust, said the CST report showed how important it was that people continued to be educated about the Holocaust.

"In 2018," she said, "almost a third of all incidents involved discourse based on the Nazis, including swastikas and references to the Holocaust; a 7% increase on 2017."

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