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UK: Reports of antisemitic hate crimes hit 'record high' in 2021

UK-based antisemitism watchdog recorded the most reports in May, during Israel's offensive on the Gaza Strip
Antisemitism surged in Europe during the Covid-19 pandemic, according to the EU (AFP)

Reports of antisemitic attacks in the United Kingdom hit a record high in 2021, according to a report by the Community Security Trust (CST).

The British antisemitism watchdog said it registered a record 2,255 hate incidents last year, a 34 increase on 2020.

"It is possible that the loosening of Covid restrictions, coinciding with the war in Israel and Gaza - a subject that triggers strong emotional responses - provided people with a potential release from months of lockdown-induced frustration," the report said.

In May 2021, during the Israeli offensive on Gaza, the charity recorded 661 incident reports, the highest number in a single month last year.

Similarly, London's Metropolitan police recorded more antisemitic incidents in May than any other month in the capital.

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More than half of the CST’s recorded incidents happened in Greater London.

Examples cited in the report included a prominent neo-Nazi who was jailed in July after he called on Jewish people to be “exterminated”.

Another one focused on a far-right streamer who was jailed after pleading guilty to inciting hatred in a series of online videos.

The charity mapped the statistics through reports filed by victims and witnesses.

The charity’s spokesperson said that the CST, which began recording antisemitism cases in the 1980s, had a “high degree of confidence” that the increase in reported cases represents an actual spike in incidents.

The UK's home secretary, Priti Patel, responded to the report on Thursday by saying that the UK’s Jewish community - of roughly 260,000 people - had been subjected to “appalling hatred”.

"These statistics are shocking and a stark reminder that the racism of antisemitism has not been eradicated," Patel said. 

Labour's shadow home secretary, Yvette Cooper, called for “urgent action” to address the rise in antisemitic attacks.

"It is truly appalling that incidents of anti-Jewish hate have now reached record levels - and for this to be increasing shows just how far we have to go to remove the stain of antisemitism from our society," she said.

European problem

Antisemitism increased across Europe during the Covid-19 pandemic, particularly online, according to a 2021 EU report.

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In addition to old lies being revived, "new antisemitic myths and conspiracy theories that blame Jews for the pandemic have come to the fore," said the report by the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA).

The FRA's findings also found that antisemitic acts were consistently under-reported.

The lack of data on the issue made it harder to tackle the problem, said the agency.

"Not only do victims and witnesses need to be encouraged to report antisemitic incidents, but the authorities need to have systems in place that enable the recording and comparison of such incidents," the report said.

The FRA found that less than half of the countries in the EU had national strategies or action plans to tackle anti-Jewish acts.

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