'Alarming levels' of attacks on Jews

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The Independent Online

A Jewish cemetery in Manchester has been desecrated by vandals as attacks on Britain's Jewish community continue at "alarming levels".

A Jewish cemetery in Manchester has been desecrated by vandals as attacks on Britain's Jewish community continue at "alarming levels".

At least 18 anti-Semitic attacks have been reported so far this month and community leaders have renewed warnings to members of the Jewish community to be vigilant.

Trafalgar Square, Oxford Street and Parliament Square in London have been plastered with anti-Semitic stickers portraying the swastika within the Israeli national flag, several Orthodox Jews have been assaulted and two cemeteries have been desecrated since the start of May.

Last night the Community Security Trust, which monitors anti-Semitic incidents, linked the attacks to unrest in the Middle East and pro-Palestinian rallies in Britain.

"The number of attacks has not reduced and there is a link between these rallies and anti-Semitic acts," a spokeswoman said. "But people are very loath to speak about these incidents because they fear that they will be attacked again."

Police have stepped up patrols in Jewish areas such as Golders Green, north London, in the wake of the attacks.

In Greater Manchester, a 14-year-old boy appeared before Oldham magistrates on Friday charged with damage to the Holy Law Cemetery in Failsworth, where 21 headstones were knocked over. The incident has alarmed Manchester's Jewish community, who recently saw another cemetery destroyed by vandals.

"People are very upset. They are having to take out insurance on their graves," said one member of the community who asked not to be named.

"They just seem to pick on the Jewish cemeteries. The Catholic and Church of England ones don't get touched."

Earlier this month a cemetery in Hull was desecrated when more than 80 gravestones were vandalised. It followed a burglary at a synagogue in Finsbury Park, north London, in which a swastika was scrawled on the rabbi's lectern.

Jews wearing skull-caps or traditional dress are being subjected to abuse from people in the streets. In Hampstead, north London, where a play about the Holocaust is being performed, posters have had swastikas scrawled over them.

Police are also investigating an assault on a postman on his way to the pro-Israel rally in Trafalgar Square on 6 May. He was beaten about the head with a baseball bat as he set off from his home in Slough, Berkshire. Roger Goodwin, 28, was wearing a skull-cap and carrying an Israeli flag when he was assaulted by three young men.

The Board of Deputies of British Jews, which has been in talks with the Home Office and Attorney General about the rise in anti-Semitic incidents, said the number of attacks was extremely worrying.

"It's a matter of grave concern that the level of incidents is still far above normal," said Fiona Macaulay, a spokeswoman for the board. "We are grateful to the police for their vigilance and we look to the office of the Attorney General to call for custodial sentences for these terrible crimes."