Hate crime targeting Jews in the UK has escalated for the third year running, reaching the worst level on record according to a new report. The shock result has prompted a warning from Jewish people that they are enduring “intolerable” levels of hate crime.
At the same time the number of charges for those perpetrating hate crimes against Jews fell “drastically”, with alleged perpetrators charged in fewer than a tenth of cases, campaigners say. They also claim a “paltry” 15 cases were prosecuted last year.
Antisemitism is the discrimination against, denial of, or assault upon the rights of Jews to live as equal members of whatever society they inhabit. The new antisemitism involves the discrimination against, denial of, or assault upon the right of the Jewish people to live as an equal member of the family of nations, with Israel as the targeted collective Jew among the nations.
The new antisemitism is seen by most – but by no means all – of those who give it credence and promote its use as synonymous with anti-Zionism. As such, they find it not only in the Arab world but also in the political left, anti-globalization movements, jihadist and Islamist movements as well as the Muslim world more generally, the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign, the left-liberal press, anti-racist groups – the list continues.
While some writers, academics and commentators were convinced from early on that Arab hostility to Zionism and Israel was antisemitic, during the 1970s and 1980s there was considerable debate and reasoned disagreement about the validity of the charge. Political and ideological considerations played a relatively small part in the growing numbers of conferences and seminars taking place to discuss the issue.
What started organically, therefore, morphed into a planned campaign to create a coalition of mostly Jewish activist academics, pro-Israel and national representative bodies in the Jewish diaspora and the aforementioned major American Jewish organizations to take the discussions in an increasingly political and ideological direction, linking anti-Zionism and antisemitism ever more closely.
The new figures were obtained from all UK police forces by the Campaign Against Antisemitism for its National Antisemitic Crime Audit. In summary it highlights:
- Antisemitic hate crime has surged 44 per cent since 2014, making 2016 the worst year on record
- 1 in 10 antisemitic crimes were violent but only one violent antisemitic crime was prosecuted in 2016
- Almost half of police forces did not charge a single one of the antisemitic crimes reported to them
- Only 1.4 per cent of antisemitic crime was prosecuted — just 15 cases last year
- The Home Secretary has issued a statement promising to “consider the report’s recommendations carefully”
In 2016, anti-Semitic crime rose by 14.9 per cent against 2015, or 44.5 per cent against 2014. There were 1,078 anti-Semitic crimes in 2016 and a consistently elevated level of anti-Semitic crime has become the new normality for British Jews.
Gideon Falter, chairman of the Campaign Against Antisemitism, which compiled the analysis, said:
“The failure of police forces and the Crown Prosecution Service to protect British Jews is a betrayal. The solutions are simple, but whilst the right promises are being made, little has been implemented. The result is that British Jews continue to endure intolerable levels of hate crime.”
The campaign’s report warned that a consistently elevated level of anti-Semitic crime has become the “new normality” for British Jews since the middle of 2014.
Forces recorded 105 violent offences against Jews in 2016 – which was down by 44 per cent on the previous year, the assessment found.
In a statement, the Rt Hon. Amber Rudd MP, Home Secretary, responded to the new report, saying hate crime of any type is not acceptable. She continued:
“Everyone in this country has the right to be safe from violence and persecution. We are working together to tackle antisemitic hate crime in all its forms and using the full force of the law to protect every person in the UK. Our Hate Crime Action Plan has encouraged further action against hate crime across the police and criminal justice system.
“This includes encouraging more victims to report incidents to the police. We will consider the report’s recommendations carefully as we develop new ways to rid the country of this sickening crime.”
This is not the first time a study has revealed the level of anti-Semitic hate crime in the UK. In February a different study revealed anti-Semitic hate incidents are surging to record highs in Britain.
The Community Security Trust charity said there were on average more than three anti-Semitic incidents per day in 2016.
It said there were 1,309 incidents last year, a 36 percent increase over the year before. It is the highest total since the group started keeping records in 1984.
Most of the incidents involved verbal abuse, hate mail and graffiti. There were also 81 cases of vandalism and damage to Jewish property.
A key player in – and growing influence on – this campaign was the Israeli government, which pursued a new policy from the late 1980s through the newly established Monitoring Forum on Antisemitism. The policy aimed to establish Israeli hegemony over the monitoring and combating of antisemitism by Jewish groups worldwide. This was coordinated and mostly implemented by Mossad representatives working out of Israeli embassies. The policy served to bind diaspora communities more closely to Israel, their self-appointed ‘defender against external threats’, to promote Zionist immigration by using highly problematic data on antisemitic manifestations to stress the fragility of diaspora Jewish communities, as well as to portray Israel as being equally in the firing line of antisemitic attack by increasingly linking any criticism of Israeli policy with antisemitism.
During the 1990s there was some ambivalence about and opposition to this policy in diaspora communities, largely because of growing evidence that traditional antisemitism was declining, which meant that effective challenges to ‘new antisemitism’ thinking could still be mounted. Moreover, the policy was suspended by prime minister Yitzhak Rabin during the few years of optimism surrounding the Oslo Accords. Rabin did not want to be constrained by too close a relationship with the increasingly right-wing American Jewish Israel lobby in negotiations which were taking place to achieve rapprochement with the Palestinians.
However, at the start of the twenty-first century, deepening disillusionment about Oslo, as well as events such as the outbreak of the second intifada, the Durban UN Anti-Racism conference and 9/11, led many to conclude that ‘new antisemitism’ was rising exponentially, driven by perceived Muslim hatred of Jews expressed largely in the form of anti-Israel sentiment. This became the dominant narrative among Jewish and Israeli leaders and the wider, growing neo-conservative commentariat, which included prominent journalists and columnists, as well as prominent academics.
The Israeli government, reflecting the political drift to the far right in the country, again very publicly linked Israel’s fate with Jews worldwide and stepped up its leadership role on the antisemitism question. This time it had more cooperation from diaspora Jewish leaders, many of whom were more in sympathy with Israel’s harder line political direction than they had been when the country was under Rabin’s control. In these circles, the ‘new antisemitism’ discourse was now in the ascendant.
In practice, what this meant was that in discussion, debate and argument about the state of contemporary antisemitism, ‘new antisemitism’ thinking occupied center-stage and was rapidly acquiring the status of a new orthodoxy. This was not only in political forums, the media and public debates, but also in academic conferences, seminars, academic articles and books.
Inevitably, being so intimately connected to a controversial political issue – the Israel-Palestine conflict – discussion of the issue of antisemitism became more politicized than ever before. Virtually no discussion of the phenomenon could take place without Israel and Zionism being center-stage. And hardly any discussion about the Israel-Palestine conflict could take place without reference to the ‘new antisemitism’.
There have always been disagreements about the definition and use of the word antisemitism, but during the first three or four decades after the Second World War there was, broadly speaking, a common understanding of what constituted antisemitism. This linked it to the classical stereotyped images of ‘the Jew’ forged in Christendom, adopted and adapted by antisemitic political groups in the nineteenth century and further developed by race-theorists and the Nazis in the twentieth century. That process of reformulation and revision did not end with the Holocaust. The most significant development in antisemitism after 1945 was the rapid emergence of Holocaust denial.
Interestingly, while it seems that some referred to this as ‘new antisemitism’, most researchers and academics analysing and writing about the phenomenon had no difficulty in seeing it as essentially a new manifestation of a consensually defined antisemitism. But by the early to mid-2000s, the consensus had broken down.
The acceptance of ‘new antisemitism’ thinking means that antisemitism has been fundamentally redefined, so that a discourse about Israel and Zionism can be labelled antisemitic even though it contains none of the classic stereotypes of ‘the Jew’ that were previously widely understood to be essential to expressions of the phenomenon.
In addition, in the writings of many of the ‘new antisemitism’ theorists and propagandists, as well as in political and communal support for some Jewish communal leaders, columnists and clergy, there is a confrontational and racialized approach towards Muslims and Islam. It is not only Jihadists and Islamists who are seen as responsible for the new antisemitism, but also the collective mindset of the Muslim communit’ and the unreformed nature of Islam as a religion.
The collective Jew among the nations definition of ‘new antisemitism’ licenses this approach, which represents a form of stereotyping of the Other that is incompatible with the consensual understanding of antisemitism that has been fractured and undermined by ‘new antisemitism’. It is also the case that, since international bodies like the UN, human rights and humanitarian relief organizations, the EU, some churches and the ‘left’ are seen as responsible for disseminating ‘new antisemitism’, despite long-standing traditions of Jewish support for social justice, many Jewish communal leaders and commentators have distanced themselves from the promotion of human rights and anti-racism.
Although the concept of new antisemitism emerged from serious discussions about the relationship between antisemitism and anti-Zionism, its ubiquity by the mid-2000s was a direct result of a concerted campaign to get individual governments, parliamentary bodies, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the Council of Europe and others to accept the validity of the notion.
Despite the fact that significant proportions of diaspora Jewish opinion distanced itself from Israel in recent years, this campaign resulted from a much closer nexus between Jewish communal leaderships, national and international Jewish organizations, pro-Israel advocacy groups, institutional arms of the Israeli government and academics and researchers promoting the idea of the ‘new antisemitism’.