33.Antisemitic incidents are collected and reported annually by CST. Separately, the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO—now replaced by the National Police Chiefs’ Council) has collated hate crime data—including antisemitic hate crime—from police forces across England (and some parts of Wales) since 2009.
34.As summarised in Chapter 1, the latest CST figures, released on 4 August 2016 and covering the period January–June 2016, show an 11% rise in antisemitic incidents compared with the same period during the previous year, and represent the second highest total ever recorded by CST during the first six months of the year. The worst year on record remains 2009, in which a sharp rise in antisemitic incidents was linked to the conflict in Israel and Gaza in January 2009. Operation Protective Edge, launched by Israel in 2015, was also linked to a significant rise in antisemitism in the UK, but this has nevertheless been outstripped by the first half of 2016.
35.CST states that this year’s rise may be linked to any number of factors. Social media incidents showed a particularly sharp increase, from 89 in the first six months of 2015 to 133 in 2016—24% of the overall total. This may be due to a combination of a genuine increase in cases and heightened levels of awareness that such incidents should be reported. The negative press attention surrounding accusations of antisemitism within the Labour Party may also have raised awareness of this issue and led to higher levels of reporting, but it might also have increased the likelihood that British Jewish people found their faith (and prejudice against Jewish people) the subject of discussion. Overall, there has been a long-term, upwards trend in reported levels of antisemitism since 2000, with monthly incident totals now almost double what they were in 2011–13. As the Institute for Jewish Policy Research notes, however, CST data is a vital source of information, but there is no way of knowing for certain whether the increase is real or due to a change in reporting habits.
36.The graphs below show annual CST figures for the full year, excluding 2016, and trends for the first six months of each year from 2012–2016.
Figure 2: CST-recorded antisemitic incidents 2005–2015
Figure 3: Number of antisemitic incidents, January – June
37.As we have also noted, London has seen a particularly sharp increase in reported antisemitic incidents (from 227 to 379), in contrast to Greater Manchester, where the number of recorded reports fell by 54% (from 134 to 62) between 2015 and 2016. These two metropolitan areas together account for 79% of all incidents recorded by CST. It is not clear why they have shown such a stark difference in trends, although Sir Eric Pickles MP suggested to us that it was partly due to “good leadership and engagement” by religious leaders in Manchester, “who have gone out of their way over a number of years to engage and see people not through the spectrum of their religion”.
38.A description of the offender was provided to CST in 58% of cases. Of these, 84% were male, 54% were white European, 20% were south Asian, 13% were black and 1% were described as South East Asian. Around a quarter of incidents were described as “politically motivated”, of which the majority were from far right sources.
39.As outlined in Chapter 1, there was also an increase in police-recorded antisemitic hate crime in England and some parts of Wales between 2010 (488 crimes) and 2015 (629 crimes). A regional breakdown of police-recorded antisemitic crime by police force (in England) is provided as an Annex to this report. Although regional trends broadly reflect the distribution of the Jewish population across England, there are some discrepancies, and antisemitic crime appears to be under-reported to (or under-recorded by) some police forces. In Essex, for example, there was only one antisemitic crime recorded in 2014–15, despite census data suggesting a Jewish population of 6,602 (in 2011). In Surrey, with a population of 3,055 Jewish people, there were no antisemitic crimes recorded in 2014–15. In contrast, the Metropolitan Police Force recorded 429 antisemitic crimes in 2014–15, representing one crime for every 346 Jewish residents. We wrote to the Chair of the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) to query these apparent discrepancies. In response, the organisation’s Lead for Hate Crime, Assistant Chief Constable Mark Hamilton, told us that it had been “actively working with forces to improve data accuracy over recent years”, but acknowledged that the capacity of forces varies “because of the capability and flexibility of existing crime reporting systems”.
40.There were approximately 6,000 Jewish people living in Scotland at the time of the 2011 census, representing 0.1% of the population. However, the Campaign Against Antisemitism (CAA) reports that Jewish people “bear the brunt” of 4% of all racist crimes recorded in Scotland. There were 26 charges pressed for antisemitic hate crimes in Scotland in 2014–15, compared with 12 in the previous year.
41.Police-recorded antisemitic crime is almost non-existent in some parts of England, as illustrated by the data provided as an Annex to this report. We question why some police forces, operating in counties in which thousands of Jewish people live, have recorded few or no antisemitic crimes. The NPCC should investigate the causes of this apparent under-reporting and provide extra support, where needed, to police forces with less experience of investigating antisemitic incidents.
42.The historical roots of antisemitism were based in religion, and we welcome recognition of this by the Archbishop of Canterbury when he gave oral evidence to the Committee in June, stating that “We had a shameful record until very recently, in historical terms”. England was the first European country to expel Jewish people (in 1290), with their exile lasting for 350 years.
43.The CAA published the results of an online survey of British Jewish people in January 2015. It claimed that these showed that more than half of British Jewish people feel that current day antisemitism echoes that of the 1930s, and 58% believe that Jewish people have no long term future in Europe. The Institute for Jewish Policy Research (JPR) critiqued the findings, arguing that an open web survey could not claim to be representative of the views of British Jewish people, and that the inclusion of the question on antisemitism echoing that of the 1930s was “irresponsible”, raising questions about the organisers’ pre-existing assumptions.
44.The CAA simultaneously published the findings of a representative YouGov poll of British adults, which revealed that almost half believed at least one of the antisemitic statements shown to them to be true—including that Jewish people chase more money than other people and have too much power in the media. When looking at the survey’s individual measures of antisemitism, the JPR reported that 4–5% of British adults could be characterised as “clearly antisemitic”. A more recent survey in May 2016 found that one in ten voters believe that Jewish people have too much influence in the UK; 6% disagree that “A British Jew would make an equally acceptable Prime Minister as a member of any other faith”; and 7% would be less likely to vote for a political party if its leader was Jewish.
45.A telephone survey commissioned by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) compared antisemitic views among residents of 101 countries. Based on their agreement with a number of statements, such as “Jews have too much power in the business world”, the latest update (in 2015) reports that 12% of Britons harbour antisemitic attitudes—a four point increase from 8% the previous year. In contrast, in Germany, Belgium and France, the percentage of those holding antisemitic views decreased significantly between 2014 and 2015, albeit from a higher baseline than the UK. The difference was particularly stark in France, where the figure dropped from 27% to 16%, after four Jewish people were shot dead at a kosher supermarket in Paris in January 2015. Comparative 2014 and 2015 results are illustrated in the graphics below.
Figure 5: Anti-Defamation League, 2014–2015 antisemitism figures
46.Polls conducted by the ADL and the CAA indicate that a significantly higher proportion of British Muslims endorse antisemitic statements than the proportion of all Britons. Over a third of British Muslims polled by the CAA agreed with the statement “Jews don’t care about what happens to anyone but their own kind”, compared with 11% of all respondents, and over a quarter agreed with the statement “People hate Jews because of the way Jews behave”, compared with 11% of all respondents. ADL surveys reveal that Muslims worldwide hold more antisemitic views than members of any other religion, but geography has a significant impact: 75% of Muslims in the Middle East and North Africa express antisemitic views, compared with 20% of Muslims in Eastern Europe.
47.Although the UK remains one of the least antisemitic countries in Europe, it is alarming that recent surveys show that as many as one in 20 adults in the UK could be characterised as “clearly antisemitic”. The stark increase in potentially antisemitic views between 2014 and 2015 is a trend that will concern many. There is a real risk that the UK is moving in the wrong direction on antisemitism, in contrast to many other countries in Western Europe. The fact that it seems to have entered political discourse is a particular concern. This should be a real wake up call for those who value the UK’s proud, multi-cultural democracy. The Government, police and prosecuting authorities must monitor this situation carefully and pursue a robust, zero tolerance approach to this problem.
48.The growth of social media has materially changed the manner in which many individuals experience or observe abuse, whether motivated by race, religion, gender or sexuality. Of the sizeable majority (87%) of the UK population who are active online, over three quarters use social media sites or apps. Twitter has around 310 million active users every month: a figure close to the entire population of the USA; suggesting that around one in 20 of the world’s population is using the site.
49.The Chief Rabbi described how this has affected the way in which antisemitism is experienced by British Jewish people:
When, 20 years ago, Mr Smith said to Mrs Smith something abusive about the Jews, in their kitchen in Nottingham, only the two of them were aware of the comments. Today, when Mr Smith says the same thing, he just types it out on Twitter and I see it in the palm of my hand in a split second, as can anybody throughout the world. Looking at that message in the palm of my hand—gosh, it really has an effect on me. It also encourages other people likewise to raise their ugly heads, come out into the open and do the same.
50.Antisemitic abuse online is an under-researched issue in the UK. CST is unable to monitor the vast swathes of abuse committed online, so it only records the number of internet-based antisemitic incidents for which it receives reports. Mark Gardner from CST noted in evidence to us that the sheer number of antisemitic tweets presents difficulties for the organisation, because it would “throw the statistics [on the prevalence of antisemitism] totally out of kilter”.
51.A survey of British Jewish people by the Institute for Jewish Policy Research, published in 2014, found that a fifth of respondents had experienced at least one incident of antisemitic harassment during the previous 12 months. 46% had heard or seen non-Jewish people saying that the Holocaust is a myth or has been exaggerated, and 33% had heard non-Jewish people say that Jewish people are responsible for the economic crisis. In 68% of cases, these comments had been heard or seen on the internet.
52.An analysis of 22 million tweets commissioned by the 2015 All Party Parliamentary Inquiry into Antisemitism found that there was an even more hostile or accusatory sentiment to tweets about Jewish people than those about Muslims, with words such as “Nazi”, “Hitler” and “Holocaust” featuring in the top 35 key words mentioned. The Inquiry report concluded: “The volume of communication is too vast to describe in detail but suffice to say we were all shocked by the ferocity and vulgarity of the antisemitism and the ease with which it was spread”. Research in the US found that 40% of all internet users have experienced harassment online, but only one in five victims chose to report the perpetrator to the website or online service.
53.In July 2016, the Labour MP Luciana Berger reported that she had received a number of death threats online, which she had reported to the police. A 28 year old man, John Nimmo, pleaded guilty to the charge of sending a message (via email) causing anxiety or distress, and his case was sent to the Crown Court for sentencing on 27 July. Luciana Berger previously called on internet companies to take action against online abuse in 2014, after Garron Helm was sentenced to four weeks’ imprisonment for sending her an antisemitic tweet. According to press reports, at one point that year, police informed her that she had received over 2,500 abusive tweets in just three days, all using the hashtag “filthyjewbitch”. The barrage was linked to a campaign run against her by a US-based neo-Nazi website. At the time this report was agreed, there remained a large number of tweets carrying that hashtag on Twitter, including some directed at Ms Berger dating back to 2014.
Figure 6: Tweet by Luciana Berger MP, 28 April 2016
54.While abusive individuals may choose to target their victims via email, letter or telephone, the instant and potentially anonymous nature of Twitter, Facebook and other social media sites, as well as the presence of public abuse by others, may embolden many to express views that they might not disclose in a public forum. John Mann MP, who is not Jewish but has campaigned against antisemitism throughout his career, shared with us an extensive list of abusive tweets, emails and Facebook posts that he has received during 2016 alone. A sample of these communications is provided in Chapter 2 of this report. The vast majority reached him via Twitter.
55.Twitter generated global revenue of over $2.2 billion in 2015 from advertising, data licensing and other sources of income, and its co-founder and CEO is worth an estimated $1 billion. It has approximately 3,800 employees worldwide. Despite the company’s scale and resources, there are few options for Twitter users to avoid receiving such abuse without leaving the social platform entirely. Twitter does not screen tweets before they are made public, so users are largely responsible for enforcing the company’s rules—which state that it “will not tolerate behaviour that crosses the line into abuse, including behaviour that harasses, intimidates, or uses fear to silence another user’s voice”.
56.Over the last 18 months, Twitter has announced a number of measures aimed at improving its user experience, including new enforcement mechanisms requiring users to delete offensive content and allowing the company to lock abusive accounts for a specified period of time; the ability of a complainant to attach several tweets to one report; allowing bystanders to report abuse, rather than limiting that ability to the victim; and a verification process for new users involving their mobile phone numbers, in an attempt to prevent perpetrators of abuse from rejoining under a new account. It has also introduced a ‘quality filter’ which aims to remove tweets containing threats, offensive or abusive language, or those sent from suspicious accounts. The changes were accompanied by a number of press interviews, including one in which the Head of Twitter in Europe, Bruce Daisley, told The Independent that the company had “spent longer and put more effort into user safety than any other issue”.
57.We were shocked by the viscerally antisemitic nature and volume of tweets directed specifically at Members of Parliament, as well as those received in response to our own tweets about this inquiry. It is particularly ironic that, at the point at which we considered this report, Twitter had made no effort to remove antisemitic responses to tweets sent from the Committee’s account two days earlier. More alarmingly, some of the abusive messages sent to Luciana Berger MP in 2014 (using the hashtag “filthyjewbitch”) are still available. This experience is no doubt common to many Jewish people outside Parliament, too. It is disgraceful that any individual should have to tolerate such appalling levels of antisemitic abuse in order to use Twitter—a social media platform now regarded as a requirement for any public figure. Twitter trolls attempt to use vile attacks to silence the voices that they find unacceptable. (We have also looked at the illicit use of the internet to promote hate, in our report into countering extremism).
Figure 7: Tweet sent to the Committee, July 2016
58.In the context of global revenue of $2.2 billion, it is deplorable that Twitter continues to act as an inert host for vast swathes of antisemitic hate speech and abuse. The company has the necessary resources and technical capability, and must do more to address this pernicious problem, which appears to be growing exponentially. The onus should not be on the victim to monitor their account for ongoing abuse and report it to the company. Twitter has approximately 3,800 employees around the world. Even if a third of them work in the company’s security and enforcement team, that would equate to around one employee for every 82,000 active users, or one employee for every 130,000 tweets per day. It must devote more resources and employ more staff to enable it to identify hateful and abusive users in a proactive manner, and it must introduce more rigorous tools for detecting and filtering abuse.
59.Twitter has introduced new tools to improve the ability of victims to report abuse. While we welcome these changes, the scale of abuse on Twitter is a problem of such magnitude that it cannot be solved through quick fixes alone. Instead, we recommend that the company should:
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