Anti-Semitic incidents in UK surge by one-third in 2021

February 11, 2022 by Faygie Holt
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Anti-Semitic incidents skyrocketed in the United Kingdom in 2021, rising by 34 percent in just one year and crossing a previously unheard-of threshold of 2,000 incidents, according to an annual report put out by the Community Security Trust.

A rally against anti-Semitism in London in December 2019. Credit: Brian Minkoff/Shutterstock.

A total of 2,255 incidents of Jew-hatred were recorded last year across the United Kingdom, including Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. That’s up from the 1,684 recorded the previous year. Last year also saw the highest-ever number of “violent” incidents with 176 reported, including three of which were designated as “extreme violence.”

By contrast, in 2020, 100 “violent” incidents were reported.

Additionally, there were more than 80 incidents of damage and desecration to Jewish property, and 1,844 incidents of abusive behaviour, including verbal abuse, anti-Semitic graffiti and abuse via social media.

“Anti-Semitic incidents in 2021 continued at their sustained high level seen over several years now, where five of the last six years have been record totals,” said Dave Rich, director of policy at CST.

Many of the reported incidents occurred in May when Hamas launched more than 4,000 rockets from the Gaza Strip into Israeli population centers. In that one month alone, the Community Security Trust recorded 661 cases of Jew-hatred, which Rich said was a “significant driver of anti-Semitism in 2021.”

But while the Gaza conflict “pushed 2021’s total to a record high,” Rich pointed out that “every year there is a different excuse that people use to attack Jews. While this is a concerning trend, the U.K. Jewish community continues to be a confident community, and CST continues to strive to ensure that the Jewish way of life can continue unfettered and thriving.”

“Once again, the Community Security Trust has done an outstanding job of exposing the increasing normalization of anti-Semitism in this country,” said Stephen Silverman, director of investigations and enforcement at the Campaign Against Antisemitism. “That number of incidents in 2021—the highest-ever reported—is shocking and disgraceful, but it comes as no surprise to those of us who are working on the front line in this fight to counter this ancient racism.”

Among the other findings:

  • 826 incidents were related to Israel and anti-Zionism;
  • 502 incidents included far-right and/or Nazi-related “discourse” including the desire for another Holocaust;
  • 120 incidents included an explicit call for the destruction of the State of Israel or the idea of a Jewish nation;
  • 182 incidents involved students and/or teachers, triple the number of similar cases in 2020; and,
  • 128 incidents occurred on higher education campuses, up from 44 in 2020.

‘Ample opportunities to put brakes on spread of this poison’

Virtually no part of the country was spared, according to the report; only one police district in Suffolk reported no anti-Semitic incidents in 2021.

While May has shattered an all-time record, June and July were also marked by a significant number of cases of Jew-hatred with 210 and 177 incidents recorded, respectively, as many people headed out in the community after a series of COVID-related lockdowns.

As Rich put it: “Reactions to the conflict’s escalation drove the surge in anti-Semitism recorded during that period, but it also coincided with the time that many of the pandemic restrictions were lifted, enabling more social interaction, public activity, a chance to let off steam and the potential for offenders to identify and target victims.”

One area where the numbers have decreased is in the category of online hate. However, Rich believes that doesn’t mean there is less hate online now than in previous years.

“CST’s report only reflects the number of incidents reported to CST by victims of online anti-Semitism,” he explained. “It is not intended to be a comprehensive measure of all online anti-Semitism, which would obviously be vast. CST does not trawl the internet looking for online incidents to log and will only record online incidents that are reported to CST by a member of the public, and where either the offender or the victim is based in the U.K.”

“Where this is the case,” he continued, “CST will record a coordinated campaign as a single incident, even if it involves multiple tweets, posts, messages or comments. Instead, these totals highlight that online forums continue to be a fertile ground for public expressions of anti-Semitism, sometimes culminating in coordinated campaigns against Jewish public figures and institutions.”

Responding to the report, Marie van der Zyl, president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, said it “incontrovertibly shows that 2021’s surge of anti-Semitism was linked to reactions to the escalation of violence between Gaza and Israel in May 2021. Those who traffic in incendiary rhetoric, conspiracies and demonization campaigns against the world’s only Jewish-majority state need to reflect on how they give succor to anti-Semites, and create and foster a hostile environment for British Jews.”

Silverman told JNS that “there have been ample opportunities to put the brakes on the spread of this poison in recent years, and they’ve all been missed.”

“The report today shows we are now seeing the consequences of those failures,” he said. “We need to see genuine zero-tolerance enforcement of the law. We need an education program that deals not just with schools and campuses, and we also need to look at deradicalization because we know that anti-Semitism is a gateway to extremism.”

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