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Scottish Council of Jewish Communities (SCoJeC)
Scottish Council of Jewish Communities (SCoJeC)
Scottish Council of Jewish Communities (SCoJeC)

 

Record Number of Antisemitic Incidents
in Scotland

 
5 February 2015, updated 9 February 2015

Within days of the Community Security Trust (CST) publishing its annual Antisemitic Incident Report, which revealed that antisemitic hate incidents reported to the CST from throughout the UK doubled in 2014 to exceed 1,000 incidents in a single year for first time, the the All-Party Parliamentary Group Against Antisemitism has published a report by a group of senior members of both Houses of Parliament on the "causes and consequences of the highest-ever recorded number of antisemitic incidents" during last summer, which calls for "urgent action from Government, police, prosecution services, and the Jewish community to tackle a disturbing rise in antisemitism in the UK."

antisemitic twitter comment

The CST report cites 31 incidents in Scotland (21 of them in Glasgow), compared with 14 in 2013 and 7 in 2012. However, Police Scotland have advised us of more than 50 reports of hate incidents relating to the Jewish Community in three months in mid-2014, more than the previous three years. The CST and police figures are not directly comparable because they use different definitions, but both demonstrate the scale of the increase.

Although the CST report states that “Antisemitic reactions to the conflict in Israel and Gaza that took place in July and August 2014 were the single biggest factor in the 2014 record high”, it also notes that "the CST had already recorded a 38 per cent increase in incidents in the first six months of 2014 compared to the same period in 2013, so that it is likely that 2014 would still have shown an increase in recorded antisemitic incidents even without the impact of reactions to the conflict in Israel and Gaza.”

antisemitic twitter comment

During that conflict, SCoJeC was contacted by an unprecedented number of Jewish people who expressed anxiety about their perception of increased antisemitism in Scotland. Many reported feeling worried and depressed or being unable to sleep; in order to protect themselves, others had made significant changes to their lifestyle, no longer wearing a kippah or Star of David or speaking Hebrew in the street; a number said they no longer feel welcome in Scotland; and Jewish students told us they do not feel safe on campus.

Yvonne Ridley Twitter Message

None of the abuse to which Jewish people were subjected can be excused as merely “political protest” against Israeli actions in Gaza. Reputable academic research has found that "for 82% of the respondents, Israel plays an ‘important’ role in their Jewish identities, 76% feel that Israel is relevant to their day-to-day lives in Britain, and 72% categorise themselves as Zionists", so those who declare publicly that they want to "make Scotland a Zionist-free zone" want at least 3/4 of the Jews in Scotland to leave. While they may claim that is not antisemitism, it is obvious why it makes all Jews feel they are at risk.

Our Being Jewish in Scotland inquiry provided ample evidence that many Scottish people fail to make any differentiation between “local Jewish people” and “the actions of the State of Israel”. For example, one respondent told us: “I was at a party, I took my hat off and had a kippah [skullcap] on. The flatmate of a friend … said ‘so you like killing Palestinian children?" and another: “I used to be proud to wear a kippah all the time, but when I lived in Edinburgh, was harassed several times by pro-Palestinians in Edinburgh city centre because of what is happening in Israel, and for refusing to take a leaflet from other protesters in Princes Street. Now, I do not feel safe to publicly wear a kippah.”

The All Party Group acknowledges that "the UK has earned a reputation as a world leader in combatting antisemitism", and commends the Scottish Government, Crown Office, and Police Scotland for their engagement with the Jewish Community through SCoJeC. Its report also cites as "important research" the finding of our inquiry into the experience of Being Jewish in Scotland that "being Jewish in Scotland was primarily a positive experience [although] there is concern that these views have markedly shifted over the summer period."

Commenting on the CST report, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said:

“In Scotland, we are proud to be a home to people of all faiths and none, Scotland’s diversity is one of our greatest strengths. The Jewish Community is an integral and important part of Scottish society, much valued and respected.

“Any attack on the Jewish community or any other community is not acceptable. We can never be complacent. Antisemitism and all other forms of discrimination and prejudice have no place whatsoever in Scotland and we must do all we can to stamp it out. We will continue to work to challenge prejudice and tackle hate crime. No-one should suffer abuse or assault because of their religion, race, or any other part of their identity. The Scottish Government will continue to work with Police Scotland to make sure that our communities remain safe and free from attacks.”

The Lord Advocate, Frank Muholland QC, who is head of Scotland’s independent prosecution service, commented:

“One of my key priorities as head of the prosecution service in Scotland has been to tackle hate crime, in all its guises. 

"Antisemitism or hatred of any kind, whether it is on the basis of religion, race, disability or sexual orientation, is unacceptable in modern Scotland. and those responsible are being punished with the full force of the law. The small minority who think that this kind of behaviour is somehow acceptable are finding out the hard way that it isn’t, and never will be. Their actions shame Scotland, and they are being swiftly punished by Scotland’s prosecutors.”

Chief Constable Sir Stephen House said:

Hate Crime targets the most vulnerable members of our communities. It causes fear, isolation and a sense of helplessness for its victims.  People should feel safe in their own communities and be able to go freely about their lawful business and live their lives free from attack or harassment, irrespective of their religious or cultural background.

I welcome any report which draws our collective attention to Hate Crime. There is simply no place for it within a 21st century Scotland, and when it is reported to us, Police Scotland takes a very robust approach to bring offenders swiftly to justice.

The CST report describes a significant increase in antisemitic incidents across the UK. This mirrors our own experience. Police Scotland has dealt with substantially more antisemitic hate crime incidents this year than it normally does, particularly following the media reporting of events in Israel/Gaza in 2014. Police Scotland works closely with all our communities, and our officers have been in constant dialogue with leaders and members of our Jewish communities to address their concerns about this rise in hate crime. Despite the recent appalling events in France, there is evidence over the past few months that antisemitic attacks and community tensions have stabilised in Scotland, but we cannot be complacent and I would urge anyone who has been a victim of, or witness to, a hate crime to report the circumstances immediately to the Police.

Scotland has an enviable reputation for community cohesion. It is in all our interests to do all that we can to ensure that this remains the case. Police Scotland will certainly play its part.

CST Chief Executive David Delew said:

“Last year’s large increase in recorded incidents shows just how easily antisemitic attitudes can erupt into race hate abuse, threats and attacks. Thankfully most of the incidents were not violent but they were still shocking and upsetting for those who suffered them, and for the wider Jewish community.”

Commenting on these reports, SCoJeC Director, Ephraim Borowski, said: “These authoritative reports from the CST and the All-Party Parliamentary Group put numbers to what we have already heard from far too many members of our Community. It is entirely unacceptable for a Jewish family, including children, who merely wished to attend a theatre production to be taunted with "How many babies did you slaughter today?", and "Your money is covered with Palestinian blood, or, as the All Party Group reports, for "a 14-year-old girl [to be] yelled at so loudly and at such close quarters that the transfer of spittle from a protestor was evident".”.

“It speaks volumes about the anxiety of Jewish people in Scotland that the person who told our Being Jewish in Scotland inquiry two years ago that “Scotland is a darn good place to be a Jew”, wrote to us last summer, "Feel alienated and no longer Scottish first, then Jewish. Feel Jewish only. Have to be very guarded when speaking to people. … My son asked on Friday evening if we could leave Scotland.”

“We are grateful to the Scottish authorities for recognising the importance of standing up to hatred of all forms, and particularly to the Scottish Government for their support to study how being Jewish in Scotland has changed during this period. We would encourage all members of the Community to complete the survey at the link below.”

 

   
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