LONDON (Aug. 21)
Police in London have expressed alarm at the recent sharp increase of anti-Semitic vandalism in and around the city.
One of the most serious incidents was the assault on the Willesden cemetery, where about 25 gravestones were smeared with crude black swastikas and others overturned.
The intruders used wire cutters to enter the cemetery, which covers 23 acres and contains the graves of many prominent members of British Jewry, including three late chief rabbis.
A few days later, swastikas were daubed on the nearby Dollis Hill Synagogue and on a Holocaust memorial. There was a similar assault on a cemetery in Manchester earlier this month.
Those incidents were the latest of a wave of desecrations at Jewish sites that began in May.
Commander Richard Monk, head of the police community involvement and crime branch, told news briefing he was especially worried by the attacks on Jewish sites because they have soared from virtually nil to 27 in the last few months.
Previously there had been so few incident that figures were not kept, he said.
Inspector John Brown, the police liaison with the Board of Deputies of British Jews, which monitors incidents affecting London’s Jewish community, described the attack on the Willesden cemetery as a “very disturbing incident.”
The police refused to provide details, claiming the United Synagogue, the umbrella organization of London’s Orthodox synagogues that manages the cemetery, had requested a news blackout.
But Jonathan Lew, chief executive of the United Synagogue, denied a cover-up. He stressed that the graffiti were removed within hours, though signs of the vandalism remained visible despite the use of chisels and solvents.
Brown said police were “monitoring the situation and looking to see if a pattern was developing.” He thought at least some of the incidents were “copycat” attacks stimulated sensational media accounts.
Brown said that while there are more incidents involving Jewish property and persons, there are still few compared to the level of harassment suffered by London’s Asian community.