Scottish Council of Jewish Communites
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Scottish Council of Jewish Communities
Representing, connecting, and supporting Jewish people in Scotland

Antisemitism Rises as Hate Crime Falls

 
14 June 2015

Although the fall in hate crime in general, and religiously motivated hate crime in particular, in Scotland in the last year is of course welcome, the picture is, as usual, much more varied than the headline figure.

Acknowledging this, the Lord Advocate, Frank Mulholland QC, said: “Although there are many positives in the figures there are some causes for concern. The number of cases involving Islamophobia and antisemitism have both risen by 23 and 16 respectively. I want to reassure these communities that the full force of the law will be brought to bear on anyone engaging in this hateful and divisive conduct, and would urge victims of all forms of hate crime to come forward and not suffer in silence.”

This is the third year of operation of the Offensive Behaviour at Football (etc) Act. Figures relating to these offences are published separately, and show a decrease, from 62 to 50 charges. Excluding these football-related charges, the main report, also shows a decrease, from 597 to 585 charges. Combining the figures from both reports (as in the table below) there was a reduction of 3.65%.

As in previous years, intra-Christian sectarianism was responsible for the vast majority of charges for religious hatred (83% in 2014-15, down from 92% in 2013-14), but that reduction reflects a significant increase in both the number and proportion of charges for conduct directed against other faiths. In particular the number of charges for conduct derogatory towards Islam increased from 48 (8% of charges) in 2013-14 to 71 (12% of charges) in 2014-15, and charges for conduct derogatory towards Judaism almost trebled from 9 (2%) to 25 in 2013-14 to 25 (4%) in 2014-15. It should be noted, however, that both of these figures are slightly lower than in 2012-13.

The disparity becomes even more severe when the relative size of the respective faith communities is taken into account, since although Jews make up barely one tenth of one per cent of the population of Scotland, 4% of religiously motivated hate crime is antisemitic in nature. In these terms, while all forms of anti-Christian hatred have fallen, the incidence of anti-Muslim hatred has increased by 44%, and of antisemitic hatred has more than doubled. As has been observed in other parts of Europe, antisemitism does not require the presence of Jews to flourish.

 
number of
charges
2014-15
number of
charges
2013-14
size of community
(2011 census)
charges per
10,000
members
(2014-15)
charges per
10,000
members
(2013-14)
% change
 Protestant (CoS)
151
215
1,717,871
0.88
1.3
– 29.8%
 Roman Catholic
370
378
841,053
4.40
4.5
–   2.1%
 Other Christianity
6
4
21,275
     
 All Christian
527
597
2,850,199
1.85
2.3
– 11.7%
 Islam
72
50
76,737
9.38
6.5
+ 44.0%
 Judaism
26
12
5,887
44.17
20.4
+ 116.7%

Until all these cases are determined by the courts, it is premature to speculate about causes, but it is extremely likely that the increase in charges is related to the unprecedented spike in antisemitic incidents reported to the police, the CST, and SCoJeC, during last summer’s war in Gaza.

As shown by the initial findings of our What's Changed about Being Jewish in Scotland? inquiry, many Jewish people in Scotland now feel much more vulnerable and less secure than they did a few years ago. One participant told us

"For the first time in 62 years I did not attend high holiday services this year due to my security concerns",

and other typical comments included:

"I would never before have considered it risky to show my Jewish identity in public. However that is changing",

and

"I have come to realise that identifying myself as a Jewish Israeli, or just identifying my wife as Jewish, or our house as one where Jewish people live in, might pose a risk to our lives and our property."

Perhaps most tellingly, the person who told our 2012 Being Jewish in Scotland inquiry that "Scotland's a darn fine place to be a Jew" now wrote 

"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.”

SCoJeC continues to raise awareness of this situation, most recently at our first formal meeting with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon since she took office, and at a separate meeting with Communities Minister, Marco Biagi. We also continue to meet the Lord Advocate, Police Scotland, and civil servants on a regular basis, and to work with other communities and organisations to reduce hate crime.

SCoJeC Director Ephraim Borowski said, "Unfortunately these figures bear out all the previous evidence we have of a significant increase in the level of antisemitic hate crime in the second half of 2014, but it is reassuring to have this confirmation of the seriousness with which these incidents are treated by the Scottish legal system. We welcome the renewed commitments by both the First Minister and the Lord Advocate to a Scotland that has zero tolerance for antisemitism, and we look forward to making that aspiration a reality so that Scotland can be a place where Jewish people can feel welcome and secure."

 

   
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