UK must ‘wipe out’ anti-Semitism - Home Secretary

Britain's Home Secretary Theresa May (Reuters /  Stefan Wermuth)
Britain must double efforts to wipe out anti-Semitism, Home Secretary Theresa May has said, while also pledging extra police patrols in Jewish communities.

May was speaking at a service in London on Sunday to remember those killed in the Paris terror attacks earlier this month.

Her comments came as the UK’s former chief rabbi warned that British Jews are frightened to go to Jewish shops in the wake of terror attacks in France, which targeted a kosher supermarket as well as the offices of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.

Lord Sacks told Sky News’ Murnaghan Show that anxiety within the Jewish community was at a “record high.”

A recent spate of anti-Semitic and anti-Muslim hate crimes in the UK include the “shocking” case of racist graffiti in Birmingham featuring a swastika, and the words: “Islam must die.”

Theresa May said she never thought she’d see the day when members of the Jewish community would be afraid of staying in the UK.

I know that many Jewish people in this country are feeling vulnerable and fearful and you're saying that you're anxious for your families, for your children and yourselves,” she said. “And that means we must all redouble our efforts to wipe out anti-Semitism here in the United Kingdom.

After holding a placard which read ‘Je Suis Juif’, May also pledged an increase in police patrols of Jewish areas.

This follows a similar assurance by the UK’s chief counter-terrorism officer, Mark Rowley, on Friday.

Lord Jonathan Sacks (Reuters / Osservatore Romano)

Rowley said there was “heightened concern” for the safety of Jewish communities in the wake of the Paris attacks.

Speaking to Sky News on Sunday, the UK’s former Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks said that British Jews were afraid to go about their daily lives following the attacks in France.

READ MORE:Thousands of French Jews flee to Britain despite ‘rising UK anti-Semitism’

After what happened in Paris you are beginning to get British Jews asking will I be safe going to synagogue or going to a Jewish shop? Will my children be safe in a Jewish school?

And that kind of thing is absolutely inevitable, I hope it will dissipate soon but there can be no doubt that there is an anxiety now among British Jews which is pretty much at a record high within my lifetime,” he said.

Lord Sacks added that many French Jews had relocated to Britain because “they feel so much safer here.”

A survey commissioned by the Jewish Chronicle and published last Wednesday indicated the vast majority of Jews polled feel safe in the UK.

Just 11 percent said they had considered emigrating in the wake of the shootings in Paris.

The Jewish Chronicle’s findings contrast with those of the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism (CAA).

Last year was the worst ever year for anti-Semitism and our polling has shown the severe effect that this has had on the Jewish community, with 1 in 4 having considered leaving in the last two years,” a CAA spokesperson said.

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Community Security Trust (CST), a Jewish charity, said anti-Semitic hate crime increased last year as a result of Israel’s military campaign in Palestine.

Over 300 incidents [were] recorded in July 2014 and over 200 in August, an increase of over 400 per cent compared to the same period in 2013,” the CST wrote on their blog.

Recent hate crimes directed at Jews include a Holocaust Memorial Day poster which was vandalized last week in the London borough of Newham.

READ MORE:Holocaust memorial posters daubed with anti-Semitic graffiti

In Liverpool, two crudely drawn swastikas were etched into the door of a Jewish prayer hall just days after the Paris terror attacks.

The Muslim community has also seen a spate of hate crimes following the events in France.

In Birmingham, vandals sprayed “Islam must die” and a swastika onto the wall of a university building, while equipment at a First World War Muslim memorial site in Woking was damaged by vandals this month.

Anti-Muslim incidents spiked in France following the Charlie Hebdo attacks, with Tell Mama – a group which monitors anti-Muslim attacks – recording 51 incidents within eight days of the incident.

Despite this, British government statements have focused on warning the Muslim community to confront extremism, rather than promoting the protection of a vulnerable minority.

Communities Secretary Eric Pickles wrote to more than 1,000 Islamic leaders on the weekend, asking them to do more to oppose extremism in their communities.

Muslim leaders must “explain and demonstrate how faith in Islam can be part of British identity,” he said.

The Muslim Council of Great Britain (MCB) has objected to the letter.

Is Mr Pickles seriously suggesting, as do members of the far right, that Muslims and Islam are inherently apart from British society?” the MCB said in a statement.