Middle East crisis fuels rise in attacks on Jews

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The Independent Online

Anti-semitic attacks in Britain doubled last year as an escalation in the Middle East conflict fuelled discrimination against Jewish communities.

Anti-semitic attacks in Britain doubled last year as an escalation in the Middle East conflict fuelled discrimination against Jewish communities.

More than 400 attacks, including two stabbings and more than 50 assaults, were reported in what Jewish leaders described as a "clearly worrying" pattern. Three out of every 10 anti-Semitic attacks in Britain were reported in the Cheetham Hill district of Manchester, which has a small community of Orthodox Jews.

Mike Whine, of the London-based Community Security Trust, said many of the attacks were the result of a spill-over of tensions in the Middle East. He said that "certain Middle East interests" were attempting to "transform the territorial conflict" between Israel and Palestine into a global "religious conflict".

The Jewish Chronicle reports today that the 405 recorded anti-Jewish attacks on people and property last year were almost double the previous year's total of 207. The number of attacks recorded were those reported to the trust and police.

In the most serious incident, David Myers, an Orthodox Jewish student, was stabbed on a bus in Stamford Hill, north London, in October. He suffered 20 injuries to the chest, face, arms and legs caused by a man wielding a six-inch hunting knife. An Algerian man was arrested over the attack.

Days later, another Jewish man was stabbed by a white man in a suspected racist attack in Stanmore, north London.

Last October, Jewish leaders met Jack Straw, the Home Secretary, to inform him of the rising number of anti-Semitic incidents, including several attacks on synagogues.

In the same month, the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles told the United Nations that anti-Jewish attacks worldwide had reached a level unprecedented since the rampage of Nazi thugs in 1938.

The UN secretary-general, Kofi Annan, was presented with a list of incidents in Britain, Canada, the United States, Germany, Russia, Brazil, Italy, Spain and elsewhere. The list recorded 93 attacks on synagogues in different countries in less than a month.

Demonstrations by Muslim groups against Israel took place place in London, Birmingham, Manchester and Leicester during October, leading to at least 16 arrests for public order offences. Leaflets were circulated with headings such as "Kill the Jews". Mr Whine said that even without the increase in attacks, which coincided with the upsurge in violence in the Middle East in October and November, there would still have been a rise in anti-Semitic attacks in Britain during the year.

Mr Whine said that the pattern of increased reporting, which has been a major factor in the rise in recorded racist incidents, was only a minor contributor to the upsurge in anti-Semitic attacks.

He said he believed that a general increase in intolerance and a rise in levels of stranger violence in British society might also have had an influence on the figures.

The trust reported that the distribution of anti-Semitic literature in Britain had declined last year, partly due to the successful prosecution of Lady Birdwood, who had been a prolific producer of such material.