Hate ‘explosion’ sparked by Hamas attacks as CST records all-time high antisemitism figures

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Hate ‘explosion’ sparked by Hamas attacks as CST records all-time high antisemitism figures

More than 4,000 antisemitic incidents were recorded in 2023, with the record high being put down to the “sheer volume” which took place following 7 October

Jenni Frazer is a freelance journalist

An antisemitism protest march in November. Credit: Guy Bell/Alamy Live News
An antisemitism protest march in November. Credit: Guy Bell/Alamy Live News

The 7 October Hamas attacks on Israel have had a dramatic and worrying effect on antisemitism in the UK, according to the newest annual report from the Community Security Trust (CST), published today.

The figures have spiked to an all-time record high of “truly unprecedented” 4,103 cases of recorded antisemitic incidents, with 66 per cent (2,699) of such cases occurring after 7 October. Such a figure, says the report, “on its own eclipses any annual antisemitic incident total reported to CST”. It is the highest figure it has ever recorded in a single calendar year.

And “for the first time ever, CST recorded an antisemitic incident in every single police region in the UK in 2023”. Anti-Jewish hate has happened all over Britain, from 2,410 incidents in Greater London to three in the Isle of Man, and even one in Jersey.

The report says: “This hatred exists and is articulated in all parts of the country, regardless of proximity to Jewish life. When Israel is in the news, antisemitism does not only find expression in greater volume, but also in corners of the UK where it may otherwise go unvoiced”. It adds: “Hamas’ terror attack on Israel shaped every aspect of antisemitism in 2023, and its impact will be evident in every chapter in this report”.

CST — which recorded its first anti-Jewish hate incident at 12:55pm on 7 October itself, when a vehicle drove past a synagogue in Hertfordshire with a Palestinian flag attached, windows wound down and an occupant shaking their fist in the air towards the synagogue — says that between October and December 2023, there was “a flurry of online hate in response to statements addressing Hamas’ attack on Israel and the subsequent rise in antisemitic incident levels in the UK.

A Jewish Girls’ School in Stamford Hill, after vandals threw red paint at the front door on Thursday 12 October.

“Of these 497 incidents targeting Jewish organisations or businesses, 354 (71 per cent ) occurred on or after 7 October, 328 (66 per cent) were related to the Middle East, and 80 contained allegations of disproportionate Jewish influence in the world”.

Most of the incidents recorded in the report relate to abusive behaviour, but there are a large number of online attacks. CST says: “In total across all categories there were 1,282 online incidents reported, the most ever recorded in a calendar year, rising from 359 in 2022 (of which 340 were classed as Abusive Behaviour)”.

The most prevalent discourse on Twitter/X – present in 458 incidents – referenced Israel, Palestine, Hamas or the war in the region, alongside anti-Jewish language, imagery or targeting, of which 397 were explicitly anti-Zionist. There were 229 incidents on the platform that included allusions to Holocaust or Nazi-era themes, while conspiracy theories about Jewish power over various institutions and events were evident in 166 incidents.

CST comments: “This increase is a stark reminder of how fundamental the growing number of social media and instant messaging services is to the production, dissemination and amplification of contemporary hate speech. Here, anti-Jewish hate can be cultivated, expressed and affirmed by those who share it. Abuse can instantly be projected globally, whether indiscriminate or targeted, under a cloak of anonymity”

And, the report adds: “As long as those responsible for the content on these platforms do not prioritise the task of moderating the hate hosted on their sites, whether in the name of free speech or through outright indifference, antisemitism will naturally fester on these channels”.

Between January 1 and October 6 2023, CST was recording around seven new incidents a day. But by October 7 until the end of the year, the organisation was looking at 50 new incidents on a daily basis.

The report notes: “It is easy to allow these unprecedented and unfathomably high numbers to cloud the enduring human impact of anti-Jewish hate. Behind every single incident in this report is a person who was affected enough to feel the need to report it and who may still feel the trauma from that experience. CST aims to support them with personal security advice, assistance in reporting to police or other agencies, accompanying witnesses and victims to court, and supporting them in any way they need”.

CST also observes that there may have been an impact on “actual hate actors” because of the “prevalence of media coverage and public debate about antisemitism may inadvertently have on actual hate actors. If there is a perception that the taboo against articulating hostility about or towards Jewish people is weakening, then antisemites might feel that they are far from alone in this prejudice, and be more likely, perhaps, to have confidence in sharing their own views”.

Among the cases highlighted by the report is that of a “visibly Jewish man” walking home from a Sabbath morning service in London, “when a group of people attending a pro-Palestinian demonstration shouted, ‘We are going to rape your mother, you dirty Jew’. They approached him and began kicking out at him, saying, ‘Allahu Akbar’ and calling him a ‘filthy yahud’ [‘Jew’ in Arabic]. They then threatened to beat him up if he went to a particular train station in London”.

The most common kind of incident involved the desecration of posters of victims kidnapped or murdered by Hamas. This counts as Jewish property, as it was Jewish people who printed and put them up, and the majority of the posters’ subjects were Jewish too. CST recorded at least 53 incidents in which these posters were either ripped down or scrawled upon with antisemitic abuse.

There were 408 cases of antisemitic graffiti, daubing, posters or stickers on non-Jewish property, of which 277 included depictions of swastikas or other references to Hitler, the Nazis or the Holocaust; 89 were related to Israel, and 40 combined both discourses. There is even one instance of a leaflet promoting halal cat food that contained a trope about Jewish greed.

Five hundred and eighty-three of the overall incidents have taken place in the Greater Manchester area. The chair of the Manchester Jewish Representative Council, Mark Adlestone OBE, commented: “The Jewish community across Greater Manchester has always been and will remain strong, vibrant, confident and outward-facing. However, it is impossible not to be deeply concerned by the huge numbers of incidents targeting Jewish people across the country.

“It is now more important than ever that everyone in society stands up and calls out the record levels of racism currently being faced by Jewish people simply going about their daily lives”.

Dave Rich, the CST’s head of policy, told Jewish News: “It should be clear to everyone that the hatred and division stirred up in British society by the Hamas attack on Israel on 7 October has not disappeared, and is likely to still be with us for some time. This is a challenge for everyone, Jewish and not, because antisemitism and extremism endanger country as a whole. We have the support of government and police plus many allies and friends, and we need to remain strong in the face of this challenge”.

Karen Pollock, Chief Executive of the Holocaust Educational Trust, said: “Today’s report detailing an ‘explosion of antisemitism’ should be a wake-up call to everyone. The work of the Community Security Trust has never been more important and it is crucial that we continue our efforts at the Holocaust Educational Trust to ensure that future generations knows where antisemitism can and did lead – and understand the consequences of standing by.”

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