Jewish community leaders have called for legal powers to force the identities of those responsible for anti-Semitic activity on social media to be revealed as they responded to a sharp rise in reported attacks.
The number of anti-Semitic incidents in Britain rose by more than half in the first six months of the year, according to a charity that tracks malicious acts against Jews.
Community Security Trust (CST) recorded 473 incidents during the first six months of 2015, up from 309 in the first half of 2014, a 53 per cent rise. The 2014 figure was itself an increase of 38 per cent on the 223 anti-Semitic incidents recorded during the first six months of 2013.
The charity said that the primary explanation for the rise is a greater willingness by people to report anti-Semitism to CST or the police.
The increase mainly occurred in January, February and March, when “British Jews felt especially concerned by anti-Semitism, seeing awful terrorist attacks in Paris and Copenhagen; and experiencing sustained local, national and global media coverage of the subject of anti-Semitism”.
The most common single type of incident was random, spontaneous, verbal anti-Semitic abuse, with sites such as Twitter also a big source.
The Board of Deputies of British Jews highlighted racism on social media as a key area of concern. Jonathan Arkush, president of the board, called for “legal powers requiring the disclosure of the identities of those responsible so that appropriate action may be taken”.
Dr Moshe Kantor, president of the European Jewish Congress, said it was very supportive of the government’s actions on Islamic radicalism and urged the categorisation of anti-Semitism as “a specific crime”.
CST classifies an anti-Semitic incident as any malicious act aimed at Jewish people, organisations or property where there is evidence that the victims were targeted because they were Jewish.
During the first half of 2015, there were 44 violent anti-Semitic assaults, two of which were classified as “extreme violence”, meaning they involved grievous bodily harm or a threat to life.
There were 35 incidents of damage to Jewish property, 36 direct anti-Semitic threats and five cases of mass-mailed anti-Semitic leaflets or emails.
Underlining how geographically concentrated most of the attacks were, CST found that 359, or just over three-quarters, were recorded in the main Jewish centres of Greater London and Greater Manchester.
The Anti-Defamation League pointed to the findings that more than half of perpetrators were described as white and only 6 per cent as Arab or north African, while in less than 7 per cent of incidents, reference was made to Israel, Zionism or the Middle East.
Michael A Salberg, director of international affairs, said the numbers “should put to rest the commonly held misconception that anti-Semitic incidents are primarily driven by reactions to the Middle East conflict”.
Mr Salberg added: “Yes, fighting between Israelis and Palestinians can trigger an upsurge, but right-wing extremist anti-Semitism remains a serious concern in the UK and elsewhere.”