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Anti-semitic Incidents Up in Britain; Middle East Tensions Seen As Culprit

February 23, 2004
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Turmoil in the Middle East is behind the high number of anti-Semitic incidents in Britain, a monitoring group said.

There were 375 anti-Semitic incidents in Britain last year, the second highest number in two decades, according to the Community Security Trust, which monitors such incidents on behalf of U.K. Jewry.

The incidents ranged from attacks on rabbis and university students to abusive e-mail directed at pro-Israel lawmakers and graffiti on the home of Israeli-born psychic Uri Geller.

The home of David Triesman, a former general secretary of Britain’s Labor Party, was attacked by the neo-Nazi group Combat 18 so regularly that police advised him to build a 10-foot-high fence around his home, London’s Daily Telegraph newspaper reported.

But the local council ordered him to take the fence down because it violated planning guidelines.

Triesman, had his windows broken and swastikas painted on his walls a dozen times in 14 months.

“When a group like Combat 18 sprays swastikas and slogans on your walls, it’s evident what it’s all about,” he told the Telegraph. “It has been a really bad time, horrendous, and no one should have to go through that,” he said, noting that his family had been home during some of the attacks.

The monitoring group said there is a clear link between anti-Semitic incidents and Middle East events — even when Israel is not directly involved.

In March 2003, the month the Iraq war began, the trust recorded 48 anti-Semitic incidents.

That was more than twice the average number of incidents in March during the preceding seven years. The vast majority took place after the summit between President Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair in the Azores Islands, when it became clear that war was inevitable.

An even higher number of incidents, 57, was recorded in October, the month of the Maxim cafe suicide bombing in Haifa and Israel’s subsequent bombing of a terrorist training camp in Syria.

The monitoring group defines anti-Semitic incidents as “any malicious act aimed at the Jewish community or Jewish individuals as Jews.”

It released its annual incident report last Friday, a day after a European Union conference on anti-Semitism co-sponsored by the European Jewish Congress.

Amid the gloom, there were some causes for optimism.

There were no life-threatening attacks on Jews in the United Kingdom in 2003, down from five the year before.

And incidents of “abusive behavior” remained stable — a potentially positive sign since the organization considers that particular statistic “an indicator of the general level of anti-Semitism in society.”

A month before the trust report came out, a survey for London’s Jewish Chronicle newspaper found that just under one in five British people would prefer not to have a Jewish prime minister.

About one in seven thought the scale of the Holocaust was exaggerated.

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