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Urgency Needed to Combat UK Anti-Semitism, Panel Says

Monday, 09 Feb 2015 11:14 AM

The U.K. must take urgent action to address a "disturbing rise" in antisemitism recorded last year, including providing public funds for security at synagogues, according to a parliamentary report published Monday.

Hate crimes against British Jews have doubled in 10 years and escalated during periods of violence in the Middle East, the All-Party Parliamentary Inquiry Into Antisemitism found. The plastering of a swastika on a Jewish home, the hospitalization of a rabbi after an attack in north London and placards displaying "Hitler was right" at anti-Israel protests were among incidents reported.

The inquiry, led by opposition Labour Party lawmaker John Mann, was commissioned after an increase in antisemitic incidents during the conflict between Israel and Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip in July and August last year. U.K. police have stepped up patrols in Jewish neighborhoods following the killing of 17 people at the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo and a kosher supermarket in Paris last month.

"The threat against the Jewish community is real and anxiety remains high following recent events in France and elsewhere," said U.K. chief rabbi, Ephraim Mirvis. "Today's report could not come at a more opportune time."

In greater London, where the inquiry says about two-thirds of British Jews live, antisemitic crimes rose by 137 percent last year, according to a statement by the Metropolitan Police last week. The report said government funds provided to Jewish schools for security should be increased and extended to support safety measures at U.K. synagogues.

Death Threats

Protests against the Jewish state had "on occasion slipped into antisemitism" during last year's conflict, which was in part sparked by the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli boys and saw the deaths of four Palestinian children on a beach in Gaza during Israel's retaliation to escalating rocket fire from the territory, the report said.

In one incident, protesters surrounded a woman outside her home shouting "you should all die, you and your children, burn in hell." The inquiry also condemned arson and death threats made to staff at a Manchester cosmetics store selling Israeli goods.

Better education on the Holocaust and a clearer definition of the term "antisemitism" would reduce the prominence of hate crimes at public demonstrations against Israel, according to the report.

"Antisemitism continues to linger in British society as it does across Europe and beyond," it said, making reference to incidents in Germany, France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Ireland. "The frameworks that are in place to tackle this societal infection are strong but could be tightened."

Cyber Hate

Improved legal tools to combat cyber hate crimes were called for in the report, which said the words "Hitler" and "Holocaust" were among the 35 most used on Twitter on the subject of Jews during the summer.

A Populus Ltd. poll accompanying the report found two- fifths of respondents thought antisemitism in the U.K. had worsened over the last decade. Eleven percent of people surveyed agreed with the statement, "Jews have too much influence over the direction of U.K. foreign policy."

"Britain is proud to be a multi-ethnic, multi-faith democracy," David Cameron said in an e-mailed statement. "While I am prime minister I promise we will fight antisemitism with everything we have got."

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The U.K. must take urgent action to address a "disturbing rise" in antisemitism recorded last year, including providing public funds for security at synagogues, according to a parliamentary report published Monday.
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Monday, 09 Feb 2015 11:14 AM
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