Anti-Semitic incidents in Britain last year fell by 31 percent from the all-time high of 926 in 2009, but were the second-highest ever amid a generally increasing trend, according to a report by a Jewish community organization.
“It is obviously worrying that a year with no major crisis in the Middle East should still produce such a high number of incidents and continue the long trend upward,” said Mark Gardner, communications director of the Community Security Trust (CST), a charity that monitors anti-Semitism and provides security for the Jewish community in Britain.
CST defines an anti-Semitic incident as “any malicious act aimed at Jewish people, organizations or property, which shows evidence of anti-Semitic motivation, language or targeting” and recorded 639 in 2010. The 2010 figures are 17 percent higher than the 2008 figure of 546.
Gardner said that “the incidents reveal a more embedded, basic street racism against Jews, which is growing steadily each year but can be obscured sometimes by the Israel-related anti-Semitism that emerges during times of crisis in the Middle East.”
The only “trigger” event during 2010 was an incident at the end of May in which Israeli troops skirmished with a flotilla of boats seeking to break a blockade of Gaza. This contributed to a total of 81 anti-Semitic incidents in June, said the CST report.
Labour MP John Mann, Chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group Against Anti-Semitism in the House of Commons added: “These figures are a sad and timely reminder of how important our continuing campaigns are.”
Commenting on the CST report, Lord Jonathan Sacks, Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth, wrote in an article in The Times published Feb. 7: “Jewish students feel themselves so intimidated on campuses throughout the country that last week they were in Westminster lobbying their MPs, something I cannot recall happening before.” He added: “I have never known the British Jewish community, especially its university students, more anxious about the future than they are today.”
The Jewish population of the UK is about 350,000.
Lord Sacks was commenting on what some are seeing as the failure of muliculturalism in Britain, which encouraged people to identify with ethnic heritage. Sacks said that British Prime Minister David Cameron was right to say in Munich at a security conference held Feb. 5 that multi-culturalism — which was intended to create a more tolerant society — has failed.
Sacks wrote that many Jews of his parents’ generation owed their lives to Britain.
“They loved Britain and internalized its values deeply. My parents lived those values and taught them to us.” But in the 1960s and 1970s, the British started to see their own history as “an irredeemable narrative of class, snobbery, imperialism, racism and social exclusion. It was in this atmosphere that multiculturalism was born. It said: there is no need to integrate.”
Sacks said that dissolving national identity makes it impossible for groups to integrate because there is nothing to integrate into, and failing to offer people pride in being British forces them to find sources of pride elsewhere.
“Without shared values and a sense of collective identity, no society can sustain itself for long,” he said. “I fear the extremism that is slowly but surely becoming, throughout the world, the siren song of the 21st century. We have to fight here before we can oppose it convincingly elsewhere.”