Amid a steep rise in anti-semitism in the UK, reaching an all-time high, the religious and racial harmony of the nation grapples at the mercy of electoral politics.

Shefali Saxena Wednesday 21st February 2024 06:21 EST

Britain once believed that it had overcome racism and religious discrimination, trusting in its liberal institutions to prevent persecution of minorities. Yet, anti-semitism has reared its ugly head once again, with authorities and mainstream media often downplaying or normalising this alarming trend. This anti-semitism raises serious doubts about Britain's future and underscores the urgent need for action to combat hatred and bigotry in all its forms. Will discrimination in Britain stop at anti-semitism, the answer we all know, is no. Elections are around the corner and amid hatred, brewing racism and an ongoing war where politicians stand divided in opinion, quarrelling amongst their party members, Britain has a looming crisis waiting with open arms. Years of subtle to harsh racist abuses in the UK have not been forgotten, along with communal riots and intolerance towards faiths. From Hindus to Muslims, Sikhs to Jews, the nation is facing a colossal failure of maintaining harmony in a Britain that once was everything opposite to what’s happening now. The immigrants who built their lives from scratch and contributed to the fabric of Britain across politics, economics and social sectors are now vulnerable to more hate and crimes. This overarching atmosphere heavily dictates the electoral outcomes ahead of the Prime Ministerial elections. The reality of the situation is that anti-semitism and its aftermath will rapidly trickle down to create menace, unrest, fear and hatred in the nation, especially in the ethnic minority communities that are most vulnerable to being victims of hate crimes. From Black Lives Matter to subtle institutional racism at the NHS or other sectors, just when Britons thought that had seen enough, it’s about to get worse. Three months ago, UK immigration minister, Robert Jenrick said that the process of revoking visas of foreign nationals who spread ‘hate and division’ has already begun, but the issue remains - how fairly are these foreign nationals, especially South Asians and ethnic minority people treated? Or much like victims of the Post office scandal, the yoke of hate crimes will also rest upon immigrants and people of colour? Prince William has called for a "desperate need for increased humanitarian support to Gaza" and for hostages to be released. Nigel Farage hit out at Prince William saying he should  "stick to the BAFTAs". 


British Labour Party leader Keir Starmer has said a ceasefire that lasts “must happen now” between Israel and Hamas in Gaza. While the Tories have performed poorly, there is little hope that Labour, under Keir Starmer, will fare any better, as they are likely to double down on failed policies. However, amidst all the challenges, one regression stands out as particularly terrifying: the resurgence of anti-semitism. 

Anti-semitism all-time high 


Anti-semitism hit an all-time high last year in an “explosion of hatred” against the Jewish community following the Hamas terror attacks on Israel, official figures show. The Community Security Trust (CST) said the surge in anti-Jewish attacks, threats and abuse amounted to a “celebration” of Hamas’s October 7 massacre by anti-Semites whose own hatred was fuelled by the brutality of the attacks. Last year, the UK witnessed a staggering surge in anti-Semitic incidents, with 4,103 recorded cases, nearly doubling the previous record. Violent assaults hit a peak at 266 incidents, half in areas with significant Jewish populations. Property damage rose by 146%, and threats by 196%, alarming trends also seen in abusive behaviour, reaching 3,328 incidents. The CST received 2,185 reports related to anti-Israel activity. British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak allocated an additional £3 million for CST security at Jewish institutions.


Jasvir Singh CBE of City Sikha told Asian Voice, “The rise in anti-semitism is absolutely deplorable, as too is the increase in Islamophobia, and it is having a definite impact across the country. Discrimination and intolerance of this nature cause fractures within communities which can take years to rebuild. We've seen it in the past following 9/11 and 7/7 when specific groups ended up being targeted simply for who they were. British society has changed massively over the last 50 years, and the diversity in this nation is one of its greatest strengths. However, as we have seen in places around the world, social cohesion can be fragile and easily break. In the tapestry of our shared existence, each thread of bigotry weakens the fabric of society. To prevent that, we need to be able to communicate with each other with dignity and respect, just as many interfaith organisations are attempting to do at present. Otherwise, hatred will just breed even more hatred.”


Zaki Cooper, an inter-faith activist and Chair of the British Indian Jewish Association told Asian Voice, “Antisemitic incidents in Britain are at an all-time recorded high. Contemporary anti-semitism comes from the far right, the radical left and extreme Islamism. Much of it is fixated on Israel, particularly since the terrorist atrocities on 7th October and Israel’s ongoing military response in Gaza. But it also plays on Jewish tropes of money and influence and appalling stereotypes. It has infected different institutions and areas of public life from the Labour Party (where it persists despite the gallant efforts of the leadership) and trade unions to universities and media organisations.


“Behind the dry statistics lie human stories. One pupil at my daughter’s Jewish secondary school was beaten up on their way home. My son’s Jewish primary school has a security rota for parents to volunteer to protect the school at drop off and pick up time. This is not the hallmark of a civilised country or how we would wish 2020’s Britain to be.


“Whilst there may be no such thing as zero anti-semitism, we must adopt a zero-tolerance attitude to anti-semitism. That means continued support from the government and the police, and investment to protect Jewish buildings and events. “We should step up training in anti-semitism and racism for large institutions and organisations, and urge more prosecutions from the courts and professional bodies, where prejudicial and discriminatory behaviour is found. We urge support from other communities. In these challenging times, I have been touched by messages of support and solidarity from Christian, Muslim, Hindu and Sikh friends. Jews should not be left to combat anti-semitism alone.”


ABPL Editor-in-Chief CB Patel who is on the Advisory Board of BIJA has always stood by and supported the Jews in Britain. 


Baroness Shaista Gohir CBE of Muslim Women’s Network UK told the newsweekly, “Anti-semitism must be tackled robustly as should all forms of hate crime. There should be zero tolerance for all hate crimes. Over the last decade hate crime has increased across all five strands and the government is failing to tackle these rising trends.  For example, when it comes to faith, the most targeted group is Muslims followed by Jewish communities.”


The resurgence of anti-semitism poses not only an existential threat to Britain's modest Jewish population of 292,000 but also serves as a stark indictment of a nation descending into darkness. James Cleverly, the Home Secretary, branded the rise in anti-semitism “utterly deplorable” and said he would “do everything in my power” to ensure the Jewish community was safe.


Speaking to Asian Voice, Ameet Jogia MBE, Parliamentary Candidate for Hendon, said,  “As the prospective MP for one of the largest Jewish communities in the UK in Hendon, I am very concerned about the figures released by the CST last week. Not only are the rising rates of anti-semitism deeply worrying but communities are saddened that rates are at an all-time high. Diversity is what strengthens our communities and the government is committed to tackling anti-semitism. There is no room for anti-semitism in society and we all have a collective responsibility to call it out whenever we see it.”

Will Labour lose the Muslim vote?


The Labour Party faces internal strife as its pro-Israel stance in the Gaza conflict triggers dissent among Muslim voters, traditionally a stronghold for the party. A by-election in Rochdale, where Muslims form a significant voting bloc, intensifies the challenge. Leaked recordings of the Labour candidate making antisemitic remarks worsen the situation, alongside the presence of George Galloway, a staunch critic of Israel. Despite leading the Conservatives in polls, recent victories are overshadowed by Labour's internal divisions. Leader Keir Starmer's handling of the Gaza war has caused rebellion among MPs, and revelations about the candidate's remarks led to campaign suspension. Concerns over losing Muslim support prompt scrutiny, with a significant drop in polls. Labour's failure to combat anti-semitism could lead to tacit acceptance among new MPs, further destabilizing the party. Amidst criticism, Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper calls for zero tolerance towards anti-semitism, echoing Starmer's suspension of two candidates. Shadow Defence Secretary John Healey acknowledges the need to rebuild trust within communities, highlighting Starmer's awareness of the challenge.

Most challenging period for Britain's Jewish community


Britain's once-admired virtues of individualism, independent thinking, tolerance, and openness are fading into obscurity. Many failed to recognise the scale of decline until it was too late, and those who sounded the alarm were often dismissed. 


Even in 2024, as millions acknowledge Britain's misguided trajectory, meaningful change seems elusive. London's Metropolitan Police have also pledged stronger action against hate crimes linked to the  Israel-Hamas conflict and have made over 400 related arrests as of last month. Although 31% of the antisemitic incidents recorded last year were online, the CST said the figure was only indicative and the actual amount of anti-Jewish content on online platforms was much higher.


The CST documented 48 anti-Semitic incidents linked to political parties, with 35 attributed to Labour. These incidents targeted Labour figures but shouldn't reflect solely on the party, stated the report. Reported as the most challenging period for Britain's Jewish community since the pogroms that stained Leeds, Liverpool, and Manchester in the summer of 1947, the persisting double standards, the incessant "pro-Palestine" rallies tainted by overt anti-semitism and hateful slogans, along with bullying, victim-blaming, and the propagation of false information, all underscore a troubling trend. 

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