LONDON (Reuters) - The number of anti-Semitic incidents logged in Britain last year hit record levels yet again amid accusations the opposition Labour Party had failed to tackle the issue within its ranks, a Jewish advisory body said on Thursday.
The Community Security Trust (CST), which advises Britain’s estimated 280,000 Jews on security matters, said there had been 1,805 incidents in 2019, a rise of 7% and the fourth consecutive year the figure had reached a new high.
CST chief executive David Delew said the record came as no surprise and the organization believed the real number was likely to be far higher.
“It is clear that both social media and mainstream politics are places where anti-Semitism and racism need to be driven out, if things are to improve in the future,” he said.
World leaders warned last month of a growing tide of anti-Jewish sentiment, driven both by far-right white supremacists and those from the far-left, as they commemorated victims of the Holocaust in World War Two.
In Britain, the CST said there was an increase in incidents in months when Labour’s problems with anti-Semitism were in the news.
Ever since veteran socialist Jeremy Corbyn, an ardent supporter of Palestinian rights, became leader in 2015, the party has faced accusations that it has failed to stem anti-Semitism among some members.
Corbyn, who is stepping down as leader in April, has said anti-Semitism is “vile and wrong” but the party is now under investigation by Britain’s Equality and Human Rights Commission.
Last February, a number of Labour lawmakers left the party citing the issue as a reason, while ahead of December’s national election, Britain’s chief rabbi said Corbyn was unfit to be prime minister.
Of the total number of incidents, 224 were connected to Labour, said the CST, which has collated such data since 1984.
“It is hard to precisely disaggregate the impact of the continuing Labour anti-Semitism controversy upon CST’s statistics, but it clearly has an important bearing,” the report said.
The charity said the main reason for the overall increase in incidents was a sharp rise in online anti-Semitism.
But there were also 157 assaults - a 27% increase on 2018 - with almost 50% of these occurring in just three areas of the country - Barnet and Hackney in London and Salford in northern England which are home to some of the largest Jewish communities.
A rise of intolerance after Britons voted in the 2016 referendum to leave the European Union and the Brexit discourse since, which brought nationalism and immigration to the fore, had also led an atmosphere where people might have felt able to express their “hatred of otherness”, the report said.
Editing by Stephen Addison
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