Anti-Semitic attacks rise to record level

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British jews were subject to a record number of anti-Semitic attacks last year, including a huge increase in serious assaults. The increase has been blamed on "the Middle East factor", with a sharp rise in incidents rooted in hatred of Israel.

British jews were subject to a record number of anti-Semitic attacks last year, including a huge increase in serious assaults. The increase has been blamed on "the Middle East factor", with a sharp rise in incidents rooted in hatred of Israel.

Jewish communities in London and Manchester were subjected to more than 400 attacks, and throughout the UK levels of anti-Semitism rose to the highest level since records began 20 years ago.

Jewish children on the way home from school and people returning from synagogue have been assaulted. In Southampton, a gang - whose leader collected far-right literature - assaulted a teenager so severely that his jaw was broken in three places, while a woman was beaten by her neighbours.

Anti-Semitic abuse rose by 42 per cent in 2004 to 532 incidents, including 83 assaults, mostly on visibly Jewish people. For the first time in five years, assaults outnumbered incidents of damage to property, including the desecration of synagogues and graveyards.

The Community Security Trust (CST), which advises the Jewish community on how to protect itself, said many of the attacks were "a reaction to events in the Middle East".

"Some British-based supporters of the Palestinians chose to express their opposition to Israel by attacking British Jews," a report published by the CST yesterday said. "This overspill of international conflicts on to British shores is not always a short-term reaction to a specific event, however; sometimes it reflects a more general ideological hostility to Jews." The assassination by Israel of the Hamas leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin in March last year sparked the second highest number of attacks recorded in the UK.

In the 48 hours following his killing, there were 54 anti-Semitic incidents, including a string of abusive phone calls to London synagogues.

Of the 532 incidents recorded, 124 showed clear anti-Zionist motivation, while neo-Nazis and other far-right extremists are thought to have been involved in 84 attacks. There was also an alarming rise in "suspicious" surveillance of synagogues, community centres and Jewish schools, including videotaping and photography.

"Terrorist groups often collect information about their targets before launching an attack, and preventing this kind of information-gathering is an integral part of the CST's work in protecting the community," the report said.

Yesterday, parliamentarians expressed alarm at the sharp rise in abuse towards British Jews, some of which was targeted at MPs, communal leaders and other high-profile individuals. The names of victims were not released, as many of the incidents are being investigated by the police.

The Leader of the House of Commons, Peter Hain, described the increase in anti-Semitic attacks as being "totally unacceptable".

He told MPs that there were regular meetings between the Home Secretary and the President of the Board of Deputies, and close collaboration between the police and the Jewish community.

"We have also strengthened the law against racism, including raising the maximum penalty for incitement to racial hatred," he added.

INCIDENTS RECORDED IN 2004

13 FEBRUARY A London travel agency specialising in tours to Israel had "dirty Jew cunts, up the PLO" daubed on the outside

17 FEBRUARY A Jewish teenager's jaw was shattered in three places by a gang in Southampton and he was subjected to a tirade of anti-Semitic abuse

1 MARCH A Jewish man was stabbed in his home by an assailant who shouted "I'm going to kill you, you fucking yid"

4 APRIL Gang of youths attacked a 12-year-old Jewish boy wearing a kippah. Doctors spent an hour and a half stitching cuts to his face after the assault

APRIL Letters were sent to several synagogues in London reading: "By almighty Allah you shall not escape Muslim justice with 1,000 assassins ready to strike in places that you gather"

15 MAY Anti-Israel demonstrators at Liverpool University made anti-Semitic remarks to Jewish students, calling them "Nazis" and "bleeding Jews"

25 MAY A Jewish man who was walking down a street in Manchester was attacked from behind and had CS gas sprayed in his face

12 JUNE Four youths smashed a bottle over the head of an Orthodox man as he walked home from the synagogue

15 JUNE A Jewish woman was violently attacked by three of her neighbours and severely beaten

17 JUNE An arson attack on a synagogue in north London caused extensive damage, including to prayer books rescued from the Nazis

29 JUNE A Jewish schoolboy on a bus in north London was attacked and repeatedly kicked by an Arab man who called him a Jew

29 JULY The words "Hitler was right, Israelis bomb babies" were etched into the side of a London Underground train

9 NOVEMBER The words "happy Kristallnacht, Combat 18" and "Jews Out" were painted on a doctor's surgery on the anniversary of Kristallnacht in 1938

15 NOVEMBER A synagogue received a snuffbox containing excrement in the post

DECEMBER An Orthodox Jew in Stamford Hill, north London, had his nose broken in an assault