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Anti-Semitic violence nears record level

Emily Dugan
Saturday 17 May 2008 00:00 BST

The number of anti-Semitic attacks in Britain has reached its second-highest level ever, MPs have been told. Figures from a charity show 547 such incidents were recorded last year, of which a record 114 were violent assaults.

The Community Security Trust (CST), which works to protect the Jewish community from persecution, collated the figures by counting every recorded anti-Semitic assault, threat, act of abuse, mass-produced literature and damage and desecration of Jewish property across the country.

Just this week, anti-Semitic graffiti was daubed across the pavements and walls of the orthodox Jewish neighbourhood of Stamford Hill in north London. CST say similar incidents happen in Britain every day.

Mark Gardner, a spokesman for CST, said: "We have over twice as many incidents being reported to us per annum now than in the 1990s. We're concerned that what we're seeing is not merely because of a difficult time internationally and in the Middle East, but that it's becoming more endemic and we're really, really concerned about that."

Mr Gardner said the usual allies of British Jews fear showing support would further the Zionist cause. "In the 1990s, when Jews faced attacks from the far right there was a lot of sympathy from the liberal left establishments, but today the same voices simply see anti-Semitism as something useful to Zionists.

"Jewish people are feeling increasingly isolated in this struggle as far as traditional allies are concerned. It's disappointing that people who accept fears expressed by other minority groups are so quick to slap down fears expressed by the Jewish community." In a Commons debate on the issue this week, the Cohesion minister Parmjit Dhanda said the number of incidents of anti-Semitism was worryingly high, and called on the Government to continue to bear down on the problem. "We do recognise that there is no room for complacency," said Mr Dhanda. "The number of such incidences in the UK remains far too high. The Community Security Trust recorded 547 incidents during the course of 2007. Although this represents an 8 per cent fall over the previous year, it is still the second-worst actually on record."

Jon Benjamin, the chief executive of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, said they were "extremely encouraged" by the Government's response. He said anti-Semitism had been a reality in the Jewish community for years in Britain, but there had been further signs it was getting worse.

"We know our community buildings have to be secure, and our schools need security," he said. "The quality of life for Jews here is good, but there are perceptible changes, such as the graffiti this week. People wearing head coverings to synagogue on a Saturday morning can feel somewhat vulnerable."

The total of incidents is slightly down on last year's record, but the most alarming change is the number of these that were violent assaults. This figure has risen to 114, the highest since CST records began in 1984.

The Conservative MP Paul Goodman said that while many places of worship were targets for hate crime, synagogues were becoming singularly dangerous. "Only one religious institution in Britain is under threat to such a degree that those who attend are advised not to linger outside after worship, namely the synagogue," he said.

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