We recorded 473 antisemitic incidents during the first six months of 2015, 53 per cent more than the same period in 2014
Today’s report of a rise in antisemitic incidents in recent months is a reminder of the impact that antisemitism, terrorism and extremism can have on the stability of communities in Britain.
CST recorded 473 antisemitic incidents during the first six months of this year, 53 per cent more than the 309 incidents during the same period in 2014 (a further 333 potential incidents were reported to CST but not included in the statistics as they didn’t show evidence of antisemitism).
Normally this kind of increase would be caused by a ‘trigger event’ like the conflict in Israel and Gaza last summer, which resulted in 2014 having the highest annual total CST had ever recorded.
The most obvious contenders as trigger events in 2015 were the terrorist attacks on Jewish communities in Paris and Copenhagen in January and February respectively. However, when we analysed the timing and content of the 473 antisemitic incidents, they didn’t fit the normal pattern of a spike that follows a trigger event.
The increase was most pronounced in January, February and March, but it didn’t rise sharply after those two terrorist attacks and, unlike last summer when around half of the incidents recorded involved some kind of reference to the conflict in Israel and Gaza, very few incidents reported to CST this year made any mention of Paris, Copenhagen or jihadist terrorism.
Instead, we saw a general rise in antisemitic incidents of all kinds, in the kind of settings and involving the kind of victims and offenders that we see in any average year.
The most likely explanation lies in the atmosphere of concern and anxiety in the Jewish community following those attacks. The level of media scrutiny on antisemitism and how it was affecting British Jews during the first part of 2015 was unprecedented and lasted for weeks. Much of the reporting was reasonable and constructive, but some of it was hyperbolic and misleading.
It is possible that the high profile of antisemitism in the media during that period excited antisemites and encouraged them to commit more antisemitic hate incidents.
More likely, though, the heightened level of anxiety in the Jewish community about antisemitism meant that more people were willing to report incidents to CST and to the Police. This reflects our experience during January and February, when the demands placed on all of CST’s services – whether reporting hate crime, protecting Jewish events, improving security at Jewish buildings or providing security awareness training – increased dramatically.
Better reporting of hate crime is usually something we would welcome – but in this case it’s double-edged, because the increased reporting was driven by a level of worry about antisemitism that is not at all positive.
All people, Jewish and not, should stand up to hate crime of all kinds. This is axiomatic and informs all of CST’s work. But this is best done from a position of confidence and security, not one of vulnerability or fear.
CST will continue to work with allies from across the political spectrum and from different communities to combat antisemitism, xenophobia, extremism and bigotry of all kinds, to build the kind of diverse, cohesive society in which everybody can feel safe.
Dave Rich is deputy director of communications at the Community Security Trust (CST)Like this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.