LONDON (Reuters) - Anti-Jewish sentiment is generally becoming more commonplace in Britain, a charity that provides security advice to the country’s Jewish communities said on Thursday.
The Community Security Trust (CST) said better recording and publicity around alleged anti-Jewish sentiment in the opposition Labour Party was partly to blame for a record number of anti-Semitic incidents in Britain last year but also warned it reflected a general rise in anti-Semitism.
“Hatred is rising and Jewish people are suffering as a result,” said David Delew, chief executive of the CST, which helps protect Britain’s estimated 270,000 Jews.
“It appears that the factors that led to a general, sustained high level of antisemitic incidents in 2016 have continued throughout much of 2017.”
There were 1,382 anti-Semitic incidents nationwide in 2017, a 3 percent increase from the year before which had been the previous highest annual number recorded by the CST since it began its monitoring programme in 1984.
There was a 34 percent rise in the number of violent anti-Semitic assaults to 145 but most incidents related to verbal abuse of Jews in public who were identifiable from their religious clothing, school uniform or jewellery.
The CST said a fall in the number of incidents involving social media might have reflected a better response by tech firms to tackle online hate speech along with action by police to deal with prolific offenders.
While it said victims were more aware of the need to record incidents, it added it was likely there was still significant under-reporting and that the real level of anti-Semitism was much higher.
“We have the support of government and police but prosecutions need to be more visible and frequent; while too many others act in ways that encourage anti-Semites and isolate Jews,” Delew said.
Previous spikes in anti-Semitism have been blamed on incidents and conflicts involving Israel. However, the CST said there was nothing to explain the rise seen in the last two years, indicating anti-Jewish sentiment was generally becoming more commonplace.
The charity said an increase in hate crime following the 2016 referendum to leave the European Union and controversies surrounding Labour might have emboldened offenders.
Labour has often been accused of having a problem with anti-Semitism within its ranks, particularly since socialist Jeremy Corbyn became leader in 2015, and Britain’s Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis has said the party had failed to show it was sufficiently serious about tackling the problem.
“The findings of this report are extremely concerning, and emphasise just how important it is that we all make a conscious effort to call out and confront anti-Semitism,” said Andrew Gwynne, Labour’s spokesman on Communities.
Editing by Stephen Addison