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British anti-Semitic attacks surged post Gaza: report

world Updated: Jul 24, 2009 12:51 IST

Britain said it was “deeply concerned” by a report on Friday revealing an upsurge of anti-Semitic attacks this year in the wake of Israel’s devastating three-week offensive in Gaza.

The Community Security Trust (CST) said there were 609 anti-Semitic incidents in the first half of this year including attacks on people and synagogues.

That compares to 276 for the first six months of 2008 -- and even surpasses the 544 incidents reported in the whole of that year.

Israel launched a 22-day offensive against Gaza in December last year. More than 1,400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis were killed.

Explaining its findings in a report, the CST said, “The main reason for this record number of incidents was the unprecedented number of anti-Semitic incidents recorded during January and February, during and after the war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza.

“The number of incidents recorded did not return to normal pre-Gaza levels until April, some three months after the fighting in Gaza ended.”

The charity, which works to protect the safety of the Jewish community here, said there were 286 anti-Semitic incidents in January -- up from 43 for the same month in 2008 -- and 111 in February, an increase from 52 twelve months before.

A total of 77 of the incidents reported in the first half of 2009 were violent assaults, the CST said, while there were 63 instances of damage to and descecration of Jewish property.

The report also noted hate mail, graffiti and verbal racist abuse.

The CST said that while the number of anti-Semitic attacks often goes up because of events in the Middle East, the levels recorded over the Gaza conflict “outstripped by far” any such surge since it started work in 1984.
Foreign Office Minister Ivan Lewis said he was “deeply concerned” by the figures.

“We simply cannot tolerate those who seek to use foreign conflicts to justify racism and criminal acts against any UK citizen,” he said.

“The UK’s Jewish community... must be able to live free from fear of verbal or physical attack.”

This is not the first time the issue has been highlighted -- lawmakers from Britain’s All-Party Parliamentary Group on Anti-Semitism said in January that a “wave of anti-Semitic incidents” had hit Jews as the conflict raged.