LONDON (Reuters) - Britain saw a record number of anti-Semitic incidents last year, fueled by issues such as xenophobia following the EU referendum and allegations of anti-Jewish sentiment in the opposition Labour Party, an advisory body said on Thursday.
The Community Security Trust (CST), which advises Britain’s estimated 260,000 Jews on security matters, said it had recorded 1,309 incidents in 2016, the highest number since it began collecting figures 33 years ago.
That was a rise of 36 percent from 2015 and 127 more than the previous high in 2014, with the true figure likely to be much higher because of under-reporting.
“Whilst Jewish life in this country remains overwhelmingly positive, this heightened level of anti-Semitism is deeply worrying and it appears to be getting worse,” David Delew, the CST’s chief executive, said in a statement.
“Worst of all is that, for various reasons, some people clearly feel more confident to express their anti-Semitism publicly than they did in the past.”
In previous years, the CST said anti-Semitism appeared to be sparked by certain triggers such as conflicts involving Israel. However, it said incidents were now evenly spread out across the year indicating anti-Jewish sentiment was becoming more commonplace.
It said among the factors behind this was the surge in racially motivated hate crimes which followed last June’s referendum on the European Union.
It also blamed terrorism attacks on European Jewish communities, regular discussions of anti-Semitism and hate crimes in the mainstream media and high-profile accusations of anti-Jewish attitudes in Labour’s ranks.
The incidents included 107 assaults but most related to “abusive behavior”. More than a fifth involved social media.
In December, a far-right supporter was jailed for what prosecutors called a “highly offensive, hateful” online campaign against Jewish lawmaker Luciana Berger, who had previously reported receiving thousands of abusive messages including threats to rape her.
Home Secretary Amber Rudd said the government was providing 13.4 million pounds ($17 million) to help protect Jewish sites and had published an action plan last year to tackle religious hate crime.
The government said in December it would adopt an international definition of anti-Semitism to help clamp down on hatred against Jews.
“This year we have seen an increase in the level of anti-Semitism being expressed on our streets and on the internet,” said Garry Shewan, National Lead for Policing of Jewish Communities.
“Anti-Semitism causes worry in our Jewish communities which must be confronted.”
Reporting by Michael Holden; editing by Stephen Addison