Antisemitism in the United Kingdom

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During the second half of the 20th century, in the aftermath of the Holocaust, the undisguised, racial hatred of Jews became unacceptable in British society. The Jewish community was largely unaffected by occasional outbursts of antisemitism emanating from far right groups, whose energies were focused on hostility to other minorities. There was an awareness that antisemitism had always existed within some elements of society, but it seemed that decades of progress were set to continue and that antisemitism was eventually pushed into the very margins of the British society.[1]

During the 21st century, antisemitism appeared to be based on anti-racism. Jews were no longer accused of killing Christ, or possessing sinister racial traits. Contemporary antisemitism in Britain has become more subtle while its nature was complex and multifaceted – it was not one-dimensional. It is perpetrated in different ways by different groups within society and for this reason it is hard to identify. Therefore, antisemitic words and acts can be separated into the following two groups: Acts of violence and abuse against Jews or their personal and communal property; Antisemitism in public and private discourse, for example the language and tone adopted by the media, political groups, organisations and individuals.[1]


Sources of contemporary antisemitism[edit]

In the 21st century, the dominant source of contemporary antisemitism in the UK is the far right. Although in the aftermath of the Holocaust far right extremism became marginalised, Holocaust denial and Jewish conspiracy theories remain core elements of far right ideology. Nevertheless, contemporary antisemitism is to be found as well on the left of the political spectrum. Criticism of Israel, especially from the left, has been fuelled further by the second Palestinian Intifada and by the invasion of Iraq in 2003. However, scholars, such as Professor Cesarani, have found it hard to define and contest "because it no longer has any resemblance to classical Nazi-style Jew hatred, because it is masked by or blended inadvertently into anti-Zionism, and because it is often articulated in the language of human rights". Sociologist Dr. David Hirsh sees anti-Zionism as a political discourse that places anti-imperialism at the center of an absolutist ideology that divides the world into two camps, a discourse that may take on antisemitic form, or merge with an antisemitic discourse, but might not in itself be consciously antisemitic.[2] Another source of antisemitism is to be found in parts of the British Muslim community. The roots of this kind of antisemitism are complex – from a mixture of historical attitudes, domestic and political tensions between communities to the globalisation of the Middle East conflict. One assumption is that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has fuelled a sense of anger and injustice among the British Muslim community and therefore created a climate that is more hospitable to radical Islamist ideology, such as contemporary antisemitism.[1][3] In November 2007 Melanie Phillips wrote in David Horowitz's FrontPage Magazine that every synagogue service and Jewish communal event now requires security personnel due to potential violence from neo-Nazis or Muslim extremists.[4]

Antisemitic Incidents Figures Since 1997[5][6][7]


The levels of antisemitic incidents in the UK often rise temporarily, in response to 'trigger events', often but not always related to Israel or the wider Middle East. Such trigger events are: the conflict in Gaza between Israel and Hamas and the terrorist shooting at the Ozar Hatorah Jewish school in Toulouse, France in 2012; the second Lebanon War in 2006; the Iraq War in 2003; the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001; and the outbreak of the Second Intifada in 2000.[6] Despite the correlation between trigger events overseas and the number of antisemitic incidents in the UK, it would be a mistake to assume that this alone explains why antisemitic incidents happen. Hence, those trigger events do not create antisemitic incidents out of a vacuum. Different trigger events influence different perpetrators – they act as a spark for people whose capacity for perpetrating incidents already exists, or as an outline for their expressions of antisemitism.

Annual Incidents Figures by Category 1997–2012[5][6]
Category 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012
1. Extreme Violence 4 0 0 2 1 5 0 4 2 4 1 1 3 0 2 2
2. Assault 19 17 33 51 40 42 54 79 80 108 116 87 121 114 93 67
3. Damage & Desecration 58 31 25 73 90 55 72 53 48 70 65 76 89 83 64 53
4. Threats 19 16 31 39 37 18 22 93 25 27 24 28 45 32 30 39
5. Abusive Behaviour 86 136 127 196 122 216 211 272 273 365 336 317 609 391 412 467
6. Literature 33 36 54 44 20 14 16 31 27 20 19 37 62 25 7 12
TOTAL 219 236 270 405 310 350 375 532 455 594 561 546 929 645 608 640

Antisemitic discourse[edit]

Trends in Anti-Semitic Attitudes in United Kingdom[8][9][10][11][12]
Percent responding "probably true”
Jews are more loyal to Israel than to this country
Jews have too much power in the business world
Jews have too much power in international financial markets
Jews still talk too much about the Holocaust
  •   2004
  •   2005
  •   2007
  •   2009
  •   2012

Antisemitic discourse is, by its nature, harder to identify and define than a physical attack on a person or place. It is not normally targeted at an identifiable victim, but at Jews as a group. It influences and reflects hostile attitudes to Jews and Jewish-related issues, and can fuel antisemitic incidents against Jews and Jewish institutions. It may be found in the media or in more private social interaction and often reflects some of the features of old antisemitism, playing on Jewish stereotypes and myths, and seldom uses expression of contemporary antisemitism.

Antisemitic discourse, in the 21st century in the UK, includes several manifestations:

  • Anti-Zionism – Criticism of Zionism is not in itself antisemitic, but some manifestations of anti-Zionism hold antisemitic perceptions, as defined by the EUMC Working Definition of Antisemitism.
  • Holocaust Denial and Holocaust-related Abuse – In certain circumstances the discourse of Holocaust denial may be used in a way that amounts to incitement to racial hatred.
  • Conspiracy Theories – Those theories have been applied to many contemporary issues, accusing Jews and Israel indiscriminately of responsibility for all manner of world disasters.
  • Dual Loyalty – Since the creation of the State of Israel, there have often been questions raised by the far-right as to Jews' loyalties to Britain.
  • The Blood Libel – There has been a revival of the medieval "blood libel" against the Jews in some Islamist material in the UK.[1][13][14]

Antisemitic incidents[edit]


  • In August, as a response to operation Protective Edge in Gaza there were some cases of boycotting Israeli products, and in Holborn (in London) the whole Kosher food section was removed from a Sainsbury's supermarket because of pro-Palestinian protesters outside the shop. On the same day, dozens of protesters gathered outside the supermarket in Hodge Hill, Birmingham and called for a ban on the selling of Israeli products. Some demonstrators entered the supermarket and started hurling produce and attacking police officers.[15] Besides these incidents, the owner of a local shop in Manchester received death threats because he sells cosmetic products imported from Israel. For more than a month the store was a scene of daily anti-Israel protests.[16] There were also cases of desecration of synagogues, in which windows were smashed and signs such as "Death to Jews" displayed.[17][18]
  • During July there were at least 100 antisemitic incidents recorded by the police - more than double the number that monitors would usually expect.[19] Part of the cases were swastika graffiti on Jewish houses.[20][21] Many of the assaults were apparently the result of tensions in the Islamic population in Britain in response to operation Protective Edge in the Gaza Strip.[22] Towards the end of the month, a rabbi was hospitalised after being beaten. Four teenagers were arrested.[23]
  • On 4 May, two skinhead men shouted ‘Adolf Hitler! Heil!’ outside a Kosher restaurant in Golders Green (in London) and raised their arms in a Nazi salute. The men were pursued by volunteers from the Shomrim community security force and were arrested by police officers near Golders Green Underground station.[24]
  • During March there were several antisemitic incidents, such as a sprayed swastika in Plymouth,[25] the harassment of a Jewish passenger on the London Underground[26] and intimidation by a car driver who drove through Manchester streets and hurled antisemitic abuse through a megaphone.[27] Antisemitism in the sports fields showed up as well.[28]
  • On 21 January, Grahame Morris, a British Labour Party politician, posted a picture of a group of people waving an Israeli flag with the caption: "Nazis in my village, do you see the flag they fly?" He later deleted the post.[29]


According to the CFCA (the Coordination Forum for Countering Antisemitism) there were more than 45 antisemitic incidents during 2013. Those incidents include swastika graffiti, offensive comments, antisemitic statements by politicians and media personnel and violent attacks.

  • On 27 October, Jack Straw, former British Foreign Secretary said that unlimited funds available to Jewish organisations and lobbies such as AIPAC in the US are used to control and divert American policy in the Middle East. He also claimed that Germany's "obsession" with defending Israel was also a contributing factor to failure to achieve peace. These statements were interpreted as antisemitic due to their resemblance to the old antisemitic stereotype that Jews control the world with their money.[30]
  • On 6 October, swastikas were sprayed on a tram stop in the middle of Manchester's Jewish community.[31]
  • On 8 August, a plaque remembering three victims of the Holocaust (Marianne Grunfeld, Auguste Spitz and Therese Steiner) was torn from a wall in Guernsey. The three Jewish women remembered on the plaque were deported to France on 21 April 1942 and were later murdered at the Auschwitz concentration camp. A£1,000 reward has been offered by Crimestoppers for any information leading to the conviction of those responsible. The plaque had been vandalised once before, but was repaired and returned to its place.[32]
  • On 27 July, a group of Hasidic Jewish boys who were visiting the Isle of Sheppey were attacked by street thugs who pelted them with eggs and rocks. According to a witness, one of the windows of the coach the group was using was broken. No one was injured. The reaction of the chairman of the Sheppey Tourism Alliance, Heather Thomas-Pugh, to this hate crime was: “We are extremely disappointed that this sort of behavior has happened on our island.”[33]


According to the "Yearly Evaluation: 2012 Present Situation and Tendencies" published by the CFCA (the Coordination Forum for Countering Antisemitism), there has been an increase in the number of antisemitic incidents in Britain compared with 2011. These incidents included violent attacks; desecration of and damage to Jewish property; offensive behaviour – verbal harassment, spraying of blasphemous inscriptions, hate mail, shouting of insults on football fields and so on.[34]

  • On 12 December, a passing vehicle threw a glass bottle at a group of congregants who were outside their synagogue. The bottle did not hit anyone and smashed on the ground.[35]
  • On 13 November, a group of Pro-Palestinian activists protested outside Birmingham Hippodrome, where an Israeli dance company was performing, when one of the activists used racial slurs about Jews toward another attendee. He was arrested for racial harassment and was released that evening without charge.[36]
  • In October, two violent incidents were documented in Manchester and Birmingham, in which Jewish victims were attacked by individuals of Asian ethnicity.[37]
  • On 21 August, two bricks were thrown at a Synagogue in Birmingham which smashed two ornate etched festival windows. No one was injured.[38]
  • On 4 July, a young Jewish man was beaten by four males in Stamford Hill. He tried to run away after they abused him with antisemitic epithets, but they caught him and beat him for several minutes. His condition was reported "moderate-to-serious" and he was transported to a local hospital while the attackers were taken into custody.[39]
  • In June, a married couple of Pakistani origin were convicted for attempting to build a bomb at their house. According to the charges, they planned to carry out a terrorist attack on Jewish targets but were caught after a minor domestic incident was brought to the attention of the police who then discovered a variety of bomb-making guides and Al-Qaeda propaganda in their house.[40]
  • On 3 March, an Orthodox Jewish salesman went on air during a national radio show and told that one of his customers shops told him that they cannot buy his products any more because he is Jewish. The customer had been threatened by a group of younger local Asians.[41]
  • On 14 February, the premises of a Jewish estate agent in Edgware (London) was attacked by a gang that broke the windows of the business and shouted antisemitic obscenities at three of the agent's staff.[42]
  • On 15 January, a Jewish student from LSE (London School of Economics) witnessed the popular drinking game "Ring of Fire" converted into a Nazi drinking game with Swastika shaped cards and Nazi salutes. The student, who was participating in an Athletics Union (AU) ski trip, had his nose broken as a result of a brawl after he objected to the game. The AU, LSE Students' Union, and Jewish-Society have all condemned the incident and the involved students were all subjected to a disciplinary action by LSE.[43]


According the CST Antisemitic Incidents Report for 2011, the number of antisemitic incidents in the UK had dropped in 9% in comparison to 2012.[44] Despite that, there was 586 antisemitic incidents during the year, that included antisemitic graffiti, insulting and racist comments, harassment of visibly Jewish people, including school-aged children, throwing eggs on Jewish property and violent incidents.[45]

  • In December, Waterstone's, a British book retailer, promoted the book Mein Kampf as "a perfect Christmas present".[46] Town-centre stores in Manchester, Liverpool and Cheshire have been displaying front covers of multiple copies of the book. The first person who complained about the phenomenon was a Jewish travelling salesman, who later received an apology from Waterstone's. A Waterstone's spokesperson said: "The book should not be stocked in any politics section, and our Huddersfield branch should not have used inappropriate seasonal stickers on the book."[47]
  • On 4 November, it was found that during meetings of the Conservative Party of the University of Oxford, Tory students sang a song celebrating Nazi massacres. Part of the lyrics of the song were: ‘Dashing through the Reich / in a black Mercedes Benz / killing lots of kike / ra ta ta ta ta', where "kike" refers to Jewish people. A spokesman for the Conservative Party said: “Racism of any kind has absolutely no place in the Conservative Party, and we will look into any allegation against a party member as a matter of urgency.” A spokesman for Oxford University said: “The University Proctors, who are responsible for discipline, have been made aware of the article and will be considering whether there are grounds for further investigation.”[48][49]
  • On 28 October, during a constituency surgery at North Finchley Mosque in North London, Mike Freer, a member of parliament, was attacked by a group of Muslims Against Crusades. They forced their way inside, with one of them calling Mr. Freer a "Jewish homosexual pig". He was then escorted by staff at the mosque to a locked part of the building until assistance arrived.[50][51]
  • On 29 September, Zbignigw Lebek, 49, of Wrexham, was jailed for nine months after making Nazi salutes and singing the names of Auschwitz and Birkenau concentration camps at a Jewish teenager who came to Glan Clwyd Hospital to encourage and to enthuse young people. When Lebek saw the Kippah of the young Jewish man, he approached him and made the Nazi salute. The police also found a Nazi flag at his house. Judge Niclas Parry said: "For no reason other than sick pleasure you humiliated him and you demeaned him. You made reference to one of the most horrific passages in the world's history, for fun."[52][53]
  • On 19 July, Taha Osman, an Iraqi Kurd who had settled in Britain was sentenced for yelling "All Jewish children must die" at two Jewish mothers after his car was hemmed in by parents picking up pupils outside King David School in Crumpsall. He also said that Jewish people "should not be allowed in this country".[54]
  • On 6 June, a visibly Jewish man found drawings of swastikas and death threats across his property. It should be noted that this incident represents numerous similar incidents, where antisemitic graffiti was sprayed in various places over the United Kingdom.[55]
  • On 22 May, vandals poured hydrochloric acid on paths at the Jewish cemetery in Brighton. It damaged around 20 square meters of path, and was washed away with water by Firefighters from Preston Circus.[56]
  • On 18 January, a swastika drawing found on a shipment from London. The authorities in Israel launched an investigation to find out who was behind this hostile incident.[57]


Along the year there were more than 130 antisemitic incidents according to the CFCA. In addition to the described incidents below, there were also occurrenceof anti-Semitism quotes at sports (for example Ian Poulter[58] ) swastikas graffiti, violent incidents, abusive behaviour, etc.

  • On 19 December, Clare Solomon, a former president of the University of London Union was called to resign her position after posting on Facebook: ‘The view that Jews have been persecuted all throughout history is one that has been fabricated in the last 100 or so years to justify the persecution of Palestinians. To paint the picture that all Jews have always had to flee persecution is just plainly inaccurate.’[59]
  • On 21 November it was found that a text book taught in some Islamic weekend schools included antisemitic ideas. For example, the claim that some Jews were transformed into pigs and apes as a penalty for sodomy.[60]
  • During the year there were dozens of antisemitic graffiti incidents. On 31 October for example, swastikas were found sprayed on the doorstep of the entrance to the UK Holocaust Centre.[61]
  • Linden Barrington, a young man who lives in an area of Walsall, described on 18 August part of the assaults he had been through since his decision to convert to Judaism. Since he changed his appearance, youths from his neighbourhood harassed him, yelled at him and even physically attacked him when he tried to document their behaviour.[62]
  • On 28–29 June, George Bathurst-Norman, a senior judge at Hove Crown Court made some controversial comment during a trial of 7 activists who accused of causing a £187,000 worth of damage to Brighton weapons factory, that supplies military equipment to Israel. The comments that were made by the judge contained Comparisons of Israel to Nazi regime. The assumption is that those comments affected the jury and led to the acquittal of the activists.[63][64] Later that year, Bathurst-Norman was Reprimanded.[65]
  • On 23 May, an interview with BNP Councilor Steven Batkin was published at the Pits n Pots blog online. During the conversation, Batkin said: ”I’ve always believed about 300,000 people died in the Jewish holocaust, not 6 million.” “there’s no way , there was that many Jews in Europe at that time who could have sustained that amount of deaths.”[66][67]
  • On 22 March, the Local Jewish School bus was attacked with large stones and bricks in Prestwich, Manchester. The offenders were identified as three males wearing school uniform of another local school.[68]
  • Gareth Mead, a housing boss who was in charge of social housing and ­homelessness in ­Hammersmith and Fulham, appeared to have a hideous fetish of dressing up as a Nazi for "sick racist sex games". The Sunday Mirror published various photographs that showed Mead wearing Nazi uniforms and sitting in front of a Nazi flag. That discovery brought to his dismissal.[69][70]
  • On 30 April, a mother, her son, and his then-boyfriend pleaded guilty of some antisemitic acts they performed on June 2009. The three drove around the Broughton Park area for three days, targeting recognisable members of the Jewish community and then spilled liquid at them and shouted offensive comments.[71]
  • During a speech of Israel's Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon at the University of Oxford on 9 February, one of the students burst a scream "Itbah el Yahud" (which means "slaughter all Jews"). He was followed by ten others who tried to attack Mr Ayalon, but they all were intercepted by security.[72]


  • On 21 November a British airline carrier (EasyJet) apologised for publishing fashion photography in its in-flight magazines that were taken in Berlin's Field of Stelae Holocaust Memorial. After Jewish campaigners accused the airline of 'trivialising the genocidal massacre of Jews', EasyJet withdrew all copies and issued a 'profuse apology'.[73]
  • On 13 November it was found out that Smyths Toys, one of the main toys providers in UK, supplies a globe without any mention of Israel. Moreover, instead of the state's name, the word "Palestine" appeared (as for 2009, Palestine is not a state acknowledged for by the international community). Smyths Toys refused to apologise or fix their mistake.[74]
  • On 21 August swastikas painted on grass and sheets of paper daubed with the Nazi symbol were found near a student village where dozens of Chasidic Jews were staying.[75]


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  31. ^ "Nazi signs daubed in heart of Jewish community". CFCA. CFCA. 
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  47. ^ Flood, Alison (23 December 2011). "Mein Kampf tagged as 'perfect present' by Waterstone's". The Guardian. Retrieved 1 January 2014. 
  48. ^ "Oxford Tories' nights of port and Nazi songs". CFCA. CFCA. Retrieved 2 January 2014. 
  49. ^ Rayner Gordon; AlleyneRichard (4 November 2011). "Oxford Tories' nights of port and Nazi songs". The Daily Telegraph (London). Retrieved 29 August 2014. 
  50. ^ ""Jewish Homosexual Pig": Islamic extremists threaten Pro-Israel MP". CFCA. CFCA. Retrieved 2 January 2014. 
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  52. ^ "Prison for hospital Nazi salute at Jewish teenager". BBC. 29 September 2011. Retrieved 4 January 2014. 
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  54. ^ "Why is that man shouting at you mummy? Taxi driver hurled racist abuse at mums outside Jewish school in Crumpsall". Manchester Evening News. 19 July 2011. Retrieved 7 January 2014. 
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  56. ^ "Acid attack at Jewish cemetery". CFCA. CFCA. Retrieved 9 January 2014. 
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  62. ^ "Britain – Beaten for looking Jewish". CFCA. CFCA. Retrieved 30 January 2014. 
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Further reading[edit]