Desecration of Jewish cemetery fuels fears of a growing trend in anti-Semitic violence

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The Independent Online

More than 80 gravestones have been desecrated at a Jewish cemetery in what the local community fears could be an anti-Semitic attack.

More than 80 gravestones have been desecrated at a Jewish cemetery in what the local community fears could be an anti-Semitic attack.

The attack at the cemetery in Hull came just weeks after vandals destroyed an eight-foot Holocaust memorial at a park in Nottingham.

Many gravestones at the cemetery, which dates from the earliest days of Hull's Jewish community, were smashed in two. Although there was no anti-Semitic graffiti at the cemetery, which is hidden away off one of the main roads out of Hull, the incident has sent jitters through the city's Jewish residents, who fear it may be part of a rising tide of attacks on Jews.

Other attacks on Jews include an assault on a postman, who was beaten about the head with a baseball bat as he set off for Monday's pro-Israel rally in Trafalgar Square 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 Asian youths. He was left with a four-inch gash at the back of his head, and by the time he had escaped back into his flat, the flag was drenched with blood.

The desecration of the cemetery in Delhi Street, Hull, which happened before this week's rally, combined with the recent attack on a synagogue in Finsbury Park, where sacred texts were strewn about and a swastika was etched on furniture, will add to the unease of Jewish communities, said the Jewish Community Security Trust.

The trust, which monitors attacks on Jews, said there had been eight incidents since the start of May, including two assaults at the Trafalgar Square rally. A spokeswoman said the desecration of the graveyard would have a "terrible effect" on families who have relatives buried there.

"As I understand it there was no anti-Semitic graffiti but it is anti-Semitic in so far as it was a Jewish graveyard and the victims are the families of the people buried there," she said.

Although it is mainly full of graves more than a century old, the Hull cemetery is still in use. Some people had reserved plots next to their deceased spouses so they could be buried together.

Others graves vandalised belonged to great-grandparents of people living in the city. Hull's Hebrew community is attempting to draw up a list of exactly which families' graves have been desecrated.

The congregation estimates the damage will cost £20,000 to put right, and a spokesman said some gravestones had been broken in half, which suggested it was more premeditated than simple vandalism.

He said: "The community is distressed about it. Most people have got an ancestor buried in that graveyard. There is a lot of vandalism in Hull and not all attacks are about religion or race but this is not just children pushing over a few stones, it takes more organised people to smash 80 gravestones in two."

The Hull attack was the second major act of vandalism in northern England, after the statue by the Auschwitz survivor, Naomi Blake, was ripped up and destroyed by vandals in a Nottingham park. The statue had been erected by Broxtowe Borough Council on Holocaust Day last year and the council believes it was a racist attack because nothing else in the park was touched.

Last month, vandals in Glasgow threw hot tar at a synagogue in Griffnock and put a brick through its window.

Police in Slough – which has no real Jewish community – said they were treating the attack on Mr Goodwin as racially motivated and believed it was linked to Monday's rally and events in the Middle East.