Reports of antisemitic incidents in the UK reached a record high in 2023, with 4,103 anti-Jewish hate crimes, almost double the previous record of 2,233 incidents in 2021.

The Community Security Trust (CST) reports that two-thirds of incidents happened on or after the Hamas attacks on 7th October, with 416 incidents occurring in the week following the attacks – the largest number than any subsequent week.

The CST explains that this suggests that the increase “was a celebration of the Hamas attack on Israel, rather than anger at Israel’s military response in Gaza.”

These findings challenge us about our understanding of the motives behind the worrying rise in antisemitism. Such incidents are largely contextualised as opposition to Israel’s actions in Gaza, but the CST’s analysis shows that motives behind the incidents can also be explained as showing support for Hamas. There is an important difference. Antisemitism is wrong in all instances, but explaining antisemitic incidents as a backlash to Israel’s military response simplifies this hatred against Jews. It also undermines the sad reality that Jew-hatred is rampant in sections of our society. Hamas’s actions of 7th October gave new breath and legitimacy to the antisemite to express their hatred against Israel and against Jews.

Let us not forget that there were pro-Palestinian demonstrators congregating in UK cities, glorifying Hamas and condemning Israel on the same weekend as the Hamas massacre in Israel, even before Israel had even responded militarily. 

The annual report also gives disturbing details about the trends of antisemitism in 2023.

For example, antisemitic incidents in around British schools have more than tripled since 2022. The same rise applies to university-related incidents.

Many Jewish schools have increased security since last October, but many pupils have reported being subject to verbal abuse while travelling to school and back.

Higher Education Minister Robert Halfon called the figures “deeply concerning”.

“To see this form of hatred also take place in education is unacceptable,” he said.

“I have contacted all vice-chancellors – reaching out to many personally – to ask them step up and crack down on antisemitism on university campuses.

“The government has been clear that hate crime on any kind will not be tolerated and anyone found to have committed it will face the full force of the law.”

“Watershed for antisemitism in the UK”

A spokesman CST: ‘This was a watershed for anti-Semitism in the UK. The speed at which anti-Semites mobilised in the UK on and immediately after October 7 suggests that, initially at least, this increase in anti-Jewish hate was a celebration of the Hamas attack on Israel, rather than anger at Israel’s military response in Gaza.’

The CST recorded at least one anti-Semitic incident for every police force in the UK, with the majority – more than 2,400 – in London, including some at vigils for Hamas’s Israeli hostages.

There were 31 incidents on 7th October alone, and they peaked in the week that followed with 416 including 80 on one day alone, 11th October. Israel’s military operation against Hamas began on 27th October.

The CST report said that in 955 incidents the offender referred to the Holocaust, Hitler or the Nazis, more than double the previous year’s total of 469.

It included 70 cases of Holocaust denial and 184 celebrating or glorifying the Holocaust. The CST also found cases of ‘damage and desecration of Jewish property’ rose by 146 per cent to 182. Of those, five involved damage to Jewish cemeteries, 43 to Jews’ homes or vehicles, nine to synagogues, 14 to businesses or organisations, nine to Jewish schools and seven to public menorahs used during the Hanukkah festival.

For example, a poster of a baby kidnapped by Hamas was defaced with two swastikas in an incident in London at the end of last year, including a swastika drawn on the infant’s forehead.

In October a synagogue in Sussex was daubed with ‘SS IDF’ in red paint, with ‘SS’ depicted as the emblem of the Nazi’s genocidal elite guard, and ‘IDF’ referring to the Israeli Defence Forces.

The overall total also included 305 ‘direct anti-Semitic threats’ while the largest category of incident was 3,328 cases of ‘abusive behaviour’, up 149 per cent year-on-year.

“Utterly deplorable”

Home Secretary James Cleverly has condemned the figures as ‘utterly deplorable’.

Home Secretary Mr Cleverly said: ‘The rise in anti-Semitic hatred and abuse we have seen in the UK in recent months is utterly deplorable. I will do everything in my power to ensure they are safe, and just as importantly feel safe.’

Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper called the figures ‘appalling and intolerable’, adding: ‘There must be zero-tolerance for anti-Semitism in Britain and those who proliferate that poison on the streets and online must face the full force of the law.’

John Mann, the Government’s independent adviser on anti-Semitism, has called on politicians from all sides to ‘get their collective acts together to sort this out’.

The former Labour MP said a ‘tornado’ of anti-Jewish hatred was working its way through the nation. He told LBC on Tuesday: ‘I am dealing with this literally every waking hour, firefighting, assisting Jewish people who have been targeted in industry, culture, sports… all over this is happening.’