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Anti-Semitic attacks in Britain at record high

LONDON (JTA) — The number of anti-Semitic crimes in Britain recorded during the first half of this year was higher than the entire previous year.

The Community Security Trust, which records anti-Semitic incidents and provides security for the Jewish community in Britain, recorded 609 anti-Semitic incidents during the first half of this year compared with 541 in all of 2008. This is the worst year since CST’s records began in 1984.

Officials said the record number of attacks was due to Israel’s operation Cast Lead in the Gaza Strip from Dec. 27 to Jan. 17.

January accounted for 286 of the incidents, with more than half, 158, including direct reference to the fighting in Gaza. It  was by far the worst single month ever recorded, but the anti-Semitic surge continued in February, with 111 incidents.

October 2000 had been the previous worst month on record, with 105 incidents. Levels had returned to "normal" by May with 51 incidents.

The Community Security Trust categorized the 2009 incidents as 77 violent assaults; two cases of extreme violence, i.e. attacks that posed a risk to life or constitute grievous bodily harm; 63 incidents of damage and desecration to Jewish property; 34 direct anti-Semitic threats; 391 incidents of abusive behavior, including hate mail, verbal abuse and anti-Semitic graffiti on non-Jewish property; and 44 mass mailings of anti-Semitic literature, in paper form or by e-mail. 

"British Jews are facing ever higher levels of racist attack and intimidation that threaten the well-being of our otherwise happy and successful Jewish community," CST spokesman Mark Gardner said. "There is no excuse for anti-Semitism, racism and bias, and it is totally unacceptable that overseas conflicts should be impacting here in this way."

Politicians across the spectrum also condemned the phenomenon.

"This rise in anti-Semitism is not just concerning for the British Jewish communities but for all those who see themselves as decent human beings," said Shahid Malik, the minister for cohesion in the governing Labor Party. "This country will not tolerate those who seek to direct hatred towards any part of our community. Of course it may be legitimate for individuals to criticize or be angry at the actions of the Israeli government, but we must never allow this anger to be used to justify anti-Semitism."

The shadow secretary of state for children, schools and families, Michael Gove, a Conservative, said reports of attacks on children were of special concern.

"We should condemn anti-Semitic attacks without exception, but I am especially concerned by the rising number of incidents involving Jewish schools and schoolchildren," he said. "Teachers and staff bear a vital responsibility to ensure that all forms of political hatred and racism are kept out of our schools and playgrounds."

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