An op-ed at the Independent by Jack Shamash (“The Labour Party’s antisemitism problem might lie in a simple clash of identities”, Oct. 4) includes misleading and inaccurate claims about antisemitism in the UK.

Here are the relevant paragraphs:

There are, thankfully, very few serious antisemitic incidents in Britain. Rabbi Herschel Gluck, an orthodox rabbi who does extensive liaison work with other communities, last year had a briefing from the Metropolitan police. During the high holidays – when numerous Jews are on the streets – not one antisemitic incident was reported to the police.

The CST reveals that last year there were 1652 antisemitic incidents. However the vast majority of these consisted of abuse – much of it on social media. There were 123 physical assaults, most of which were non-serious. One of these was regarded as “extreme” – an incident which could potentially have led to grievous bodily harm.

This sort of behaviour is not acceptable, of course, but compared to the experiences of Muslims and black people in the UK, the levels of antisemitism are almost negligible.

First, the fact that there were, as Shamash writes, no antisemitic incidents reported during the 2018 high holidays (Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur) may have something to do with the fact that the UK deployed counter-terror police to protect synagogues on those days. (Indeed, all throughout the year, every Jewish institution in the UK is protected by some kind of security presence.)

Moreover, according to CST, 2018 saw the highest levels of antisemitism ever recorded in a single calendar year.

Finally, the writer’s final claim that, compared to the experiences of Muslims in the UK, “levels of antisemitism are almost negligible” is not supported the data.

CST (a charity that fights antisemitism) recorded1652 antisemitic incidents in 2018.

In that same year, Tell Mama (a charity that fights anti-Muslim bigotry) recorded 1072 anti-Muslim incidents.

Now, let’s look at hate crime data (which is distinct from the data recorded by CST and Tell Mama) reported by the Home Office. It does show more hate crimes in 2017-18 against Muslims than Jews in total numbers . But, given Jews’ significantly smaller population (Jews represent .05% of the population), the RATE of hate crimes against Jews was significantly higher than those against Muslims (who represent nearly 5% of the population).

Here’s the relevant section from the Home Office report:

In 2017/18, where the perceived religion of the victim was recorded, just over half (52%) of religious hate crime offences were targeted against Muslims (2,965 offences). This is a much greater proportion than the proportion of the population on England and Wales that identify as Muslims. In the 2011 Census, 4.8 per cent of the population of England and Wales identified as Muslim. The next most commonly targeted group were Jewish people, who were targeted in 12 per cent of religious hate crimes (672 offences). Around 0.5% of the population in England and Wales identified as Jewish in the 2011 Census.

Proportionally, Jews are clearly the religious group most targeted by hate crimes in the UK.

But, of course, these numbers don’t tell the whole story about British Jews’ insecurity over antisemitism – especially in the context of the tsunami of anti-Jewish hate in the Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn. With elections looming, Jews face at least the possibility that the country could soon be led by an opposition leader that 86% of the community believe is personally antisemitic, a scenario that some believe represents nothing less than an “existential threat” to Jewish life in the UK. 

We’ve complained to Indy editors over the op-ed’s misrepresentation of levels of antisemitism in the country.

Related Articles