MPs to investigate cause of rise in anti-Semitic attacks

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A parliamentary committee is to consider why attacks on Jews and the destruction of religious sites have increased over the past five years. It will produce a report for ministers recommending ways to address anti-Semitism.

The cross-party coalition of MPs and peers is to call for evidence from the police and members of the Jewish community about synagogue desecrations, assaults on Jews and the wrecking of cemeteries in London and Manchester. They will investigate whether far-right thugs or Islamic extremists are responsible for the rise in attacks and how the community can protect itself from abuse and assaults.

There were 532 anti-Semitic incidents last year (the highest number since records began in 1984), including the desecration of 17 synagogues and five Jewish cemeteries. John Mann, Labour MP for Bassetlaw, chairman of the all-party group on anti-Semitism, is to set up the inquiry. MPs from the Christian, Jewish and Muslim communities are expected to sit on the committee, along with senior MPs from different parties and regions of the UK.

Mr Mann said: "The state of concern is such that a formal inquiry of this nature has now become essential. We need to have a thorough analysis of whether the responses of the state and civic society are sufficient. We are not looking to attach blame. What we are trying to do is identify coherent strategies for making sure that this becomes a minor problem rather than a major problem."

The Community Security Trust, which monitors attacks on Jews and gives advice on security, said the inquiry was overdue.

"We hope it will help the Jewish community, Government, police and the rest of society to both understand and tackle this rise," said a spokesman.

The activities of the BNP in areas such as Barking, east London, and "anti-Zionist" websites will be considered by the inquiry.