Middle East crisis blamed for surge in anti-Semitic attacks

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The Independent Online

The unrest in the Middle East has led to a seven-fold increase in attacks on Jews in Britain in the past two months, prompting fears of a wider upsurge in anti-Semitism.

The unrest in the Middle East has led to a seven-fold increase in attacks on Jews in Britain in the past two months, prompting fears of a wider upsurge in anti-Semitism.

Figures collated yesterday show that so far this month there have been at least 48 attacks on Jews – compared with 12 in March, seven in February, 13 in January and five in December. Some of the assaults are so serious the victims – mainly orthodox and Hasidic Jews – have been hospitalised with serious injuries. Synagogues have also been daubed with anti-Semitic graffiti – including the slogans "Star of David = Swastika" and "Palestine Lives" in a sharp rise in vandalism towards sacred Jewish sites.

Leaders of the Jewish Community believe the increase is linked to the situation in the Middle East and the Israeli crackdown in the West Bank, which has provoked an upsurge in assaults on Jews in France, Belgium and Germany.

"There has been an alarming jump in anti-Semitic incidents during the past three weeks which reflects the overspill of tensions from the Middle East," said Mike Whine of the Community Security Trust, a charity set up to protect Jews and monitor attacks, which compiled the figures yesterday. "What is most alarming is the assaults on Orthodox Jews often accompanied by references to the Middle East."

The victims, in major towns and cities across the UK, including London and Manchester, have been recognisably Jewish and wearing traditional clothes including a skull cap.

The rise in attacks is the biggest since last September, when there was a huge increase linked to the attacks on the World Trade Centre. The figures do not reflect the rise in hate mail or the dozens of incidents which go unreported.

Jews who have been the victims of anti-Semitism say they will not change their lifestyles, but they are being more vigilant. Simon, 30, a sales executive, who narrowly avoided being run over after a driver who shouted anti-semitic abuse accelerated towards him in London, said many of his friends had recently had "pretty horrible experiences" of hate crime.

"People are starting to take off their skull caps and wear baseball caps," he said.

Police in London have stepped up patrols in Jewish areas and warned members of the community to be watchful.