Antisemitism in the UK Contents


The rise of antisemitism

1.The 2011 census suggested that there were 266,740 Jewish people living in the UK, with around two-thirds living in London, representing approximately 0.5% of the UK population.12 Some consider this to be an underestimate, with the Institute for Jewish Policy Research suggesting that the actual figure is around 284,000. Based on the census figures, the UK has the fifth largest Jewish population in the world, and the second largest population in Europe (after France).13

2.Reported rates of antisemitism have risen in the UK since 2000, with some fluctuations in line with significant trigger events in the Middle East. The first half of 2016 saw an 11% rise in reported antisemitic incidents compared with the same period during the previous year.14 This was the second highest total ever recorded during the first six months of the year by Community Security Trust (CST), a charity that works to protect British Jewish people from antisemitism. In London, reports of antisemitism rose by 62% between the first six months of 2015 and 2016.15

3.During the past few years, there has been an upsurge in violent attacks against Jewish people across Europe, including fatal attacks in Copenhagen and Paris and a significant rise in antisemitic attacks in Germany.16 This was one reason for the UK Government’s decision to increase its funding for the security of Jewish schools and synagogues (through CST).17

4.Police-recorded figures on antisemitism have shown similar patterns to the CST data. There was a 29% increase in police-recorded antisemitic hate crime in England, and some parts of Wales between 2010 and 2015, compared with a 9% increase across all hate crime categories.18 This masks a gradual drop between 2010 and 2013–14, followed by a sharp increase in 2014–15. Between 2013–14 and 2014–15, police-recorded antisemitic crime increased by 97%, compared with 26% across all hate crime categories.19 Over two-thirds of all antisemitic hate crimes in 2014–15 were recorded by the Metropolitan Police Force,20 broadly matching the proportion of the UK’s Jewish population living in London; although police-recorded figures elsewhere in the country remain surprisingly low, as elaborated upon later in this report. Antisemitic crimes represented approximately 1.4% of all police-recorded faith- or race-related hate crimes during 2014–15. We provide further figures on the rise of antisemitism in Chapter 3.

Antisemitism in political parties

5.In April 2016 and the months that followed, Naz Shah MP, Ken Livingstone and a number of other members (reported numbers vary from 18 to 50) were suspended from the Labour Party amidst accusations of antisemitism. For example, Salim Mulla, a Labour councillor in Blackburn, was suspended over sharing footage (in 2014) allegedly showing a Palestinian boy being arrested, with a comment from the councillor stating: “Apartheid at its best. Zionist Jews are a disgrace to humanity”. Naz Shah—a member of this Committee—issued a public apology after the publication of Facebook posts dating from before her election in 2015, in which she endorsed the notion of relocating Israel to the USA and drew comparisons between Israel and the Nazis. Ken Livingstone then gave a number of media interviews, in which he defended Ms Shah and promoted the opinion that Adolf Hitler had supported Zionism in the early 1930s. Naz Shah has since been reinstated as a Labour Party member. This act received the support of a number of prominent representatives from Jewish communities. As discussed later in this report, however, she has taken no part in this inquiry, by agreement of the Committee.

6.Shortly after the suspension of Ken Livingstone and a number of other allegations, the Labour Leader, Rt Hon Jeremy Corbyn MP, announced an inquiry into antisemitism and other forms of racism perpetrated by members of the Labour Party, chaired by former Liberty Director Shami (now Baroness) Chakrabarti.21 The report was published in June, and made recommendations for a number of changes to the Labour Party’s disciplinary processes. It found that the Labour Party is “not overrun” by antisemitism, Islamophobia or other forms of racism, but that, “as with wider society”, there is evidence of “minority hateful or ignorant attitudes and behaviours festering within a sometimes bitter incivility of discourse”.22 In early August, it was announced that the Labour Leader had nominated Ms Chakrabarti for a peerage, which she had accepted. She has since taken her seat in the House of Lords, and has been appointed as Shadow Attorney General in the Labour Leader’s recent Shadow Cabinet reshuffle. We discuss this further in the final chapter of this report.

7.This report focuses to some extent on the Labour Party, because it has been the main source of recent allegations of antisemitism associated with political parties. It should be emphasised that the majority of antisemitic abuse and crime has historically been, and continues to be, committed by individuals associated with (or motivated by) far-right wing parties and political activity. Although there is little reliable or representative data on contemporary sources of antisemitism, CST figures suggest that around three-quarters of all politically-motivated antisemitic incidents come from far-right sources.23 However, the fact that incidents of antisemitism—particularly online—have made their way into a major political party is a new and deplorable phenomenon, and one which has not recently affected the mainstream right wing of British politics. It is particularly shocking that it should affect a party whose founding principles are based on equality.

Our inquiry

8.Our inquiry was prompted by concerns expressed to us about an increase in prejudice and violence against Jewish communities in the UK, along with an increase in far-right extremist activity. Many of the developments outlined above, and discussed in detail later in this report, occurred after we announced this inquiry on 12 April 2016. There have been simultaneous developments regarding alleged antisemitism within the National Union of Students (NUS) and an investigation into antisemitism at Oxford University Labour Club, both of which are covered in Chapter 5 of this report.

9.Naz Shah stepped aside from the Committee shortly after her suspension from the Labour Party, and has taken no part in this inquiry. She has recommenced her Committee activities since her reinstatement as a Labour Party member, but has continued to recuse herself from all activities related to this inquiry.

10.We held four oral evidence sessions for this inquiry, with witnesses including the Chief Rabbi and other representatives of Jewish communities, the leaders of the SNP in Westminster, the Labour Party and the Liberal Democrats, the former Chairman of the Conservative Party, and other politicians. We held a private meeting with Ruth Smeeth MP and Luciana Berger MP, and we held informal meetings with the main political parties’ Friends of Israel groups (the Conservative Friends of Israel, Labour Friends of Israel and Liberal Democrat Friends of Israel); and their Friends of Palestine groups (Labour Friends of Palestine and the Middle East, Liberal Democrat Friends of Palestine and the SNP Friends of Palestine). We also invited the Conservative Middle East Council to submit evidence. Written evidence was received from a number of individuals and organisations, which are listed at the end of this report. We are grateful to everyone who has contributed to this inquiry.

12 The Board of Deputies of British Jews website, Jews in Numbers, accessed 30 June 2016

13 Jewish Virtual Library website, Vital Statistics: Jewish Population of the World, accessed 30 June 2016

15 Ibid

16 The Daily Telegraph, Attacks on Jews rise to five-year high in Germany—more than any country in Europe, 1 October 2015; and The Guardian, Antisemitism on rise across Europe ‘in worst times since the Nazis’, 7 August 2014

17 Community Security Trust (CST): Prime Minister’s speech, 18 March 2015

21 This report refers to Shami Chakrabarti as “Ms Chakrabarti” throughout, as that was her title during the course of our inquiry. The conferring of her peerage is a matter of controversy which is dealt with later in this report.

© Parliamentary copyright 2015

14 October 2016