The vandalism was spotted at about 6am yesterday by a local resident. A spokesman for Southampton City Council said: 'Almost every single gravestone in the Jewish section of the cemetery has been daubed with paint. Many are almost totally covered in anti-semitic slogans and graffiti.'
The council's anti-graffiti squad began cleaning up the Hill Lane cemetery yesterday as police forensic scientists completed their examination of the scene.
Paul Jenkins, chair of the city council's race sub-committee, said: 'Most people, I am sure, will be appalled by this action. We have reported the physical damage caused by this desecration as a matter of urgency. Southampton has got a long history of having a mixed ethnic community and a long history of tolerance. We will not allow the actions of a tiny minority of insignificant racists to destroy that good relationship.'
Inspector Russ Park, of Portswood police station in Southampton, said: 'A can of paint and a brush were used to paint slogans, including National Front symbols and swastikas, on graves in the Jewish section of the cemetery.
'They also sprayed slogans on the road nearby and on the route to the graveyard. Overall they covered a route of about half a mile.
'At this stage it appears to be an anti-semitic attack, but hopefully this is a one-off event.'
Martin Goldstein, Southampton representative to the Jewish Board of Deputies, said: 'From a personal point of view I am very sad. This is the first incident of its kind in Southampton. It is quite a shock to the system.'