LONDON (Feb. 25)
British Jews are facing a worrying trend of anti-Semitic incidents since September 2000, according to an organization dedicated to Jewish security issues.
A report just published by the Community Security Trust shows that the number of incidents last year actually declined from the year before — yet the Trust sees the totals as part of an upward trend that began with the start of the Palestinian intifada in September 2000.
The 310 incidents that the Trust recorded in 2001 included attacks on “visibly” Jewish members of the Orthodox community and the ripping of mezuzahs from the doorposts of homes.
In 2000, the Trust recorded 405 such incidents against the community, up from 270 in 1999.
Tensions between Jews and Muslims in Britain rose following the Sept. 11 attacks. But Michael Whine, a spokesman for the Trust, said the trend dates back to the beginning of the intifada, when the violence between Israel and the Palestinians spilled over into the United Kingdom.
Violent incidents against Jews “always increase or decrease as a result of events in the Middle East,” he said.
In order to deal with such incidents, the Jewish community has instituted security measures that are proving very effective, Whine said.
“Jewish communities now have guards at pretty much all synagogues and communal meeting places,” he said.
The largest number of anti-Semitic attacks last year in Britain took place in September. According to the report, this was largely because “there was a widely held belief within Islamist circles that Israel had carried out” the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon.
The report also found another source for the large number of anti-Semitic incidents — the British far-right.
The British National Party — which advocates repatriation of all “non-whites” and maintains a staunchly anti-Semitic ideology — had its best showing in years in the general election of June 2001, though not enough to win any seats in Parliament.
In Oldham, the scene of race riots last year between Asians and whites, the party netted more than 19,000 votes.
Although right-wing groups like the British National Party have not played much of a role in Parliament, British Jews nonetheless are concerned about their influence.
According to the report, the main sources of anti-Semitic incidents have “traditionally been from far-right activists and their sympathizers.”
Concerned about Islamic anti-Semitism, Parliament member Andrew Dismore has focused his sights on three clerics. His constituency in the borough of Hendon, in northern London, is home to a sizeable Jewish and Asian population.
Concerns surrounding the three Islamic clerics and their distribution of what Dismore calls anti-Semitic material have prompted him to send an open letter to Home Secretary David Blunkett.
Dismore, who is not himself Jewish, wants authorities to pay closer attention to the three — Abu Hamza, the imam of a mosque in northern London; Omar Bakri Mohammed, leader of the radical Muhajiroun movement; and Abdullah el-Faisal, whose speeches are sold on cassette in Islamic bookshops in London.
Dismore acknowledges that many Muslims are as concerned as others about the clerics and the effect they could have on interfaith relations.
The Al-Muhajiroun group has received a large amount of attention since Sept. 11 because of the outspoken views of its leader.
Despite the group’s small number of followers, Jewish communities have been concerned about their activities, which so far have mainly been confined to anti-Semitic literature.