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Antisemitic incidents in the UK 2014

Summary

7 February 2015

The Community Security Trust performs many valuable roles within the British Jewish community including advice on security and providing volunteer marshals for Jewish community events.

One of the most useful things that it does is to provide a reporting mechanism for antisemitic incidents. It has a stable and well thought out methodology for evaluating incident reports to ensure that they are properly classified as antisemitic, and for categorising them. Its annual incidents report is the most authoritative information available on the scale of actual antisemitic activity (as opposed to antisemitic thinking) in the United Kingdom.

The “Antisemitic Incidents Report 2014” was published on 5 February 2015. It rightly received a significant amount of press coverage, for example in the Guardian.

The report is a short 43 pages and I would encourage everyone interested in this important subject to read the report in full. There are three aspects discussed on this page.

Peaks and troughs

The CST explains that, as a result of collecting data for many years, there are clear patterns of peaks when there is a “trigger event” overseas involving Israel.

On page 11 it mentions the conflict with Lebanon in 2006, the Gaza conflict of 2009 and the Gaza conflict of 2014 as trigger events, each of which led to a significant increase in antisemitic incidents in the UK.

Tell MAMA (Measuring Anti-Muslim Attacks) is a similar project for collating anti-Muslim attacks in the UK but which has been running for a much shorter period than the CST’s data gathering. Tell MAMA’s data shows a similar pattern, with for example a sharp increase in anti-Muslim attacks after the trigger event of the murder of Drummer Lee Rigby in Woolwich in May 2013.

Muslim perpetrators

On page 26 the CST is careful to point out that there is no data available on the religion of perpetrators. However there is a limited amount of data on the ethnic origin of some of the perpetrators.

“Bearing in mind all these limitations, a physical description of the offender was obtained in 340, or 29 per cent, of the 1,168 incidents recorded by CST in 2014.

Of these, 148 offenders were described as ‘White – North European’ (44 per cent); five offenders were described as ‘White – South European’ (1 per cent); 26 offenders were described as ‘Black’ (8 per cent); 127 offenders were described as  ‘South Asian’ (37 per cent); 34 offenders were described as being ‘Arab or North African’ (10 per cent); and no offenders were described as ‘East or South East Asian’.

These figures partly reflect the fact that Britain’s Jewish communities tend to live in relatively diverse urban areas, and that street crime offenders (where most antisemitic incidents take place) make up a younger, and more diverse, demographic profile than the population as a whole.”

Historically antisemitism in Britain is associated with far right, often neo-Nazi, organisations. However in recent years a significant number of antisemitic incidents have been perpetrated by Muslims. Since I am a Muslim myself, I am particularly vexed by Muslim perpetrators.

The 37% of identifiable offenders who were “South Asian” and 10% “Arab or North African” are likely to be Muslims. Prima facie this is evidence of appalling levels of antisemitism amongst British Muslims who constitute about 5% of Britain’s population but approximately 47% of identifiable perpetrators of antisemitic incidents.

The CST’s paragraph above gives some of the reasons for the dis-proportionality of these two percentages:

Nevertheless as a Muslim I am dismayed by the extent of Muslim anti-Semitism shown by the CST’s figures.

A section of the CST report commencing on page 29 is headed “Antisemitism and the Israeli/Palestinian Conflict”. It shows how the language of antisemitic incidents changes when the conflict dominates the news. Pages 30 and 31 show that the composition of identifiable perpetrators also changes.

Ethnicity
2014 total January to June July & August only
South Asian
37%
27%
50%
Arab & North African
10%
4%
12%
 
47%
31%
62%

In the first six months of 2014 only 31% of identifiable perpetrators were of “South Asian” or “Arab or North African” ethnicity. However in July and August 2014 when Gaza dominated the news, 62% of identifiable perpetrators were of these ethnicities.

This is dispiriting, both because such behaviour is morally wrong and contrary to Islamic teachings, and because it is foolish. Attacking Jews in Britain does nothing to help Palestinians.

The change in the percentage of Muslim perpetrators when Israel/Palestine dominates the news is consistent with my view in "Antisemitism amongst Muslims – a personal view" that the conflict is the predominant cause of antisemitism amongst Muslims.

During the 2014 Gaza conflict, the Muslim Council of Britain and the Board of Deputies of British Jews issued a joint statement. One key part was: "In spite of the situation in the Middle East, we must continue to work hard for good community relations in the UK. We must not import conflict. We must export peace instead."

Was 2014 a record year?

Much of the press coverage emphasised the “fact” that antisemitic incidents were at an all-time high.

The CST itself chose to emphasise this as the very first paragraph of the report’s Executive Summary states:

“CST recorded 1,168 antisemitic incidents in 2014, more than double the 535 antisemitic incidents recorded in 2013 and the highest annual total ever recorded by CST. This is the first time that CST has recorded more than 1,000 antisemitic incidents in a calendar year.1 This new record annual total of 1,168 incidents is a 25 per cent increase on the previous record high of 931 antisemitic incidents, which was recorded by CST in 2009. The 2013 annual total of 535 antisemitic incidents was the lowest annual total since 2004 and represented a 43 per cent decrease from the 2009 previous record high.”

Unfortunately, in the above paragraph the CST has fallen below its own high standards of accuracy.

Page 13 states “Since 2011, CST has operated an incident exchange programme with Greater Manchester Police, and since 2012 CST has done so with the Metropolitan Police Service in London.” The programme is clearly desirable, and the CST takes great care to weed out any possible duplication of incidents.

However the above paragraph means that the CST’s data for 2010 and prior years is not comparable with data for 2012 and subsequent years. In 2010 and prior, the CST's annual total did not contain figures for any incidents reported via the police since the data exchange programme did not exist.

The previous record year for antisemitic incidents was 2009, and the table below compares that year with 2014.

 

2014

2009

Total incidents in CST report

1,168

931

Incidents received via police as stated on page 8

349

None included

Incidents reported to CST directly

819

931

The only logical way to compare 2014 with 2009 is to exclude the police reported incidents from the 2014 figures, since there is no way to ascertain how many police reported incidents there might have been in 2009. Doing so gives a lower adjusted total for 2014 than the comparable number for 2009.

It is a pity that the CST, despite producing such a high quality report, chose to have such a misleading first paragraph in its Executive Summary.

 

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