To the clamour of sensational headlines, Britain’s Community Security Trust (CST) has released its latest report, Antisemitic incidents, January – June 2009.
In case they are unfamiliar, according to the CST website,
Every year CST helps secure over 170 synagogues, 80 Jewish schools, 64 Jewish communal organisations and approximately 1000 communal events. CST also represents the Jewish community on a wide range of Police, governmental and policy-making bodies dealing with security and antisemitism. Indeed, the Police and government praise CST as a model of how a minority community should protect itself.
It seems that one of the threats from which they secure communal events is Jewish women distributing flyers.
Their other claim to fame is compiling data about antisemitic incidents. ‘Anti-Semitic attacks in Britain at record high’, wrote the Jewish Telegraphic Agency on 24 July. Similarly, Ha’aretz reported, ‘Watchdog: British anti-Semitism doubled after Gaza war’, and BBC News, ‘'Record rise' in UK anti-Semitism’.
The BBC’s Dominic Casciani opens his article, ‘Anti-Semitic attacks in the UK doubled in the first half of this year compared with the same period in 2008, according to new figures.’ In reality, the CST reported a total of 609 incidents in the first half of 2009, compared to 276 over the first half of 2008. The 77 assaults recorded in the last six months are not nearly double the 45 they claimed for January to June 2008. Of course an attack need not be a literal assault, but Casciani couldn’t possibly be in any doubt about how his audience would interpret that first sentence, as he tacitly acknowledges a few lines down, ‘Most incidents were abusive behaviour, but there were also 77 violent acts.’
The CST’s media release itself notes that the perceived explosion of antisemitism was a direct response to Israel’s slaughter of the besieged population of the Gaza Strip.
The main reason for this record number of incidents was the unprecedented number of antisemitic incidents recorded in January and February, during and after the war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza
There’s absolutely no reason anyone should give them the benefit of the doubt, but let’s assume they are not disingenuous when they claim, ‘Anti-Israel activity, which does not use antisemitic language or imagery and is directed at pro-Israel campaigners rather than Jewish people or institutions per se, is also not classified by CST as antisemitic.’ When the State of Israel claims to be the state of all Jews and to act on behalf of all Jews, when all the principal Jewish organisations in Britain applauded the massacre, and the Board of Deputies of British Jews, ‘The voice of British Jewry since 1760’, organises a rally to celebrate it, it is understandable, if wrong and unforgivable, how some might form the impression that Jews were complicit.
As Casciani mentioned, only 77 of the 609 ‘attacks’ (less than 13%) actually involved any violence. Another 63 (10%) involved ‘Damage or desecration’, defined as
Any physical attack directed against Jewish property, which is not lifethreatening. This would include the daubing of antisemitic slogans or symbols (such as swastikas) on Jewish property, or damage caused to Jewish property, where it appears that the property has been specifically targeted because of its Jewish connection.
Most (64%) of the ‘incidents’ comprised ‘Abusive Behaviour’, which ‘includes a wide range of types of incident, including antisemitic graffiti on non-Jewish property, hate mail and verbal racist abuse.’ To be honest, I’m not convinced that the Jewish community is likely to flee in panic to the sanctuary of the West Bank at the sight of a sticker like this one allegedly distributed in Bournemouth:
But taking the CST at their word again, let’s assume that there were 77 actual physical assaults on Jews motivated by antisemitism over that six month period. The CST’s 2008 report claims 44 assaults in the last six months of 2008, giving a total of 121 for financial year 2008–09.
According to Wikipedia, the total number of Jews in the UK is 350,000. That means that the rate of antisemitic assaults for FY 2008–09 was 34.6 per 100,000 Jews. In comparison, the Home Office site gives a figure of 960,187 cases of ‘Violence against the person’ in England and Wales during FY 2007-08, the most recent data available. The total population of England and Wales is 54,096,600. So the rate of assault in the population in general is 1774.95 per 100,000. Bearing in mind that the figures are not strictly comparable because the Home office figures cover the previous year and are more geographically restricted, they may still provide a rough indication of the scale of difference, and that means that any Briton, Jewish or not, is roughly 40 times as likely to be the victim of assault as a British Jew is to be the victim of an antisemitic assault. Looked at another way, 0.01% of all assaults are motivated by antisemitism.
But that scenario doesn’t really account for the alarming increase witnessed in 2009. So let’s assume that the level of violence for 2009 is exactly double the rate over the first six months, even though we know that the rate of ‘incidents’ plummeted in the six weeks after Israel withdrew its troops in January and has now plateaued at around 50 per month, as the graph shows.
On that assumption, the antisemitic assault rate is 44 assaults per 100,000, as compared to 1775 total assaults per 100,000.
Indeed, even ‘Damage or desecration’, like this swastika daubed outside a synagogue in Manchester, is not a great threat to Jewish life or community.
Still, compared to the ‘Criminal damage’ rate for England and Wales in 2007–08 of 1915 per 100,000, the antisemitic ‘Damage or desecration’ rate for 2008–09 is 30 per 100,000. Antisemitic “damage or desecration’ turns out to be equivalent to about 0.010% of the 1,036,123 cases of Criminal damage. In the implausible scenario where the observed increase persists through 2009, the Damage or desecration rate would be 36 per 100,000, or 0.012% of Criminal damage.
One is doubtless tempted to compare the frequency of antisemitic incidents with analogous racist incidents targeting some other oppressed minority in Britain, say Muslims. According to a May 2002 BBC article,
Muslim groups have agreed with a report by the EU race watchdog that anti-Islamic feeling has "detonated" in the UK since 11 September.
The European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC) said there had been a big rise in attacks - including physical assaults - on Muslims in Britain since the US terror attacks.
That would be the same EUMC that promulgated the execrable ‘Working definition’ of antisemitism that has been such a big hit with the US State Department, among others. They have a new name – the Fundamental Rights Agency and the link from the BBC site to the EUMC report is broken, nor can I find either that report, or indeed the ‘Working definition’, on the FRA site. (For reference, you can still find the ‘Working definition’ on the Coordination Forum for Countering Antisemitism site.)
There is an EUMC report, apparently from 2003, National Analytical Study on Racist Violence and Crime, but I’m sceptical that it is the one described in the article. It devotes a whole page to ‘New antisemitism’, including a table lifted from an earlier CST report, but only one paragraph to Islamophobia. Two graphs at the back chart the risk (Chart 2) and rate (Chart 3) of victimisation by ‘racially motivated incidents’ (RMIs) for four groups – White, Black, Indian, and Pakistani/Bangladeshi – in 1993, 1995, and 1999. They are not terribly informative, disaggregate neither Jews nor Muslims, and cover a period irrelevant to the topic of post 9/11 anti Muslim RMIs, much less to the explosion of antisemitism in the first half of 2009. For what it’s worth, however, they seem to show a pattern of RMIs targeting Pakistanis and Bangladeshis at a much higher rate than Blacks or Indians.
On visiting the sites of the Muslim Council of Britain and the Islamic Society of Britain, linked to from the article, there doesn’t appear to be a compilation of data. While the Islamic Human Rights Commission apparently collects incident reports, I haven’t managed to find evidence on their site that they publish the data, either.
In any case, to compare antisemitic incidents with anything else would of course itself be antisemitic. After all, we know how many Arabs a Jewish fingernail is worth.