Antisemitism is on decline

SCOTTISH Jewry has "started to feel under threat" from rising anti-Zionism and antisemitism, according to MSP Jackson Carlaw.

This, despite the latest CST figures showing that antisemitic incidents have actually reduced in Scotland to eight in 2015 from 31 the previous year.

Speaking to students, Mr Carlow, the West Scotland representative, criticised fellow MSPs for thinking that by commemorating the Holocaust, they are "free the rest of the year to be deeply critical about Israel".

He told the first Scottish student conference, run by Israel advocacy organisation Stand With Us, that the politicians allow their "anti-Israel expression of view to cross into an antisemitic expression of view, and not see the difference between them".

Mr Carlaw added: "I don't want the future Jewish community to feel no longer welcome in Scotland or that they have to follow through on discussions about whether it is time for them to leave."

Last year also saw the third-highest annual total of antisemitic incidents in the UK, with 924 recorded nationwide.

It was a 22 per cent fall from 2014's record high of 1,179 incidents, which had been caused by reactions to the conflict with Gaza during July and August of that year.

CST chief executive David Delew said: "The fall in antisemitic incidents is welcome and expected - although the reduction is less than we had hoped for.

"We welcome the possibility that more people are reporting incidents to CST and the police, but the number of antisemitic incidents remains unacceptably high.

"The Jewish community has a right to expect antisemitism to be opposed wherever it occurs. It should have no place in our society."

Conservative MSP Mr Carlaw pledged to tackle anti-Israel feeling in Scottish Parliament with a motion for a members' debate this month titled 'Bridges not Boycotts'.

More than 30 students from the universities of Glasgow, Edinburgh and Strathclyde spoke at the student conference about issues they faced on Scottish campuses.

Noa Cohen, vice-chairman of the Israel Engagement Society at Edinburgh University, said: "We will be building up support by emphasising social events rather than political ones.

"The main target, when we began, was people who were sympathetic towards Israel, not necessarily Jews.

"The group already has a core of around 30 members, but only around 25 per cent are Jewish."

IES political vice-chairman Theo Robertson-Bonds said that Israel supporters were aiming to bring a different mood to the political debate on campus.

He said: "Students for Justice in Palestine tend to have events based around letter-writing or staging a 'die-in'. It's not fun, it's not engaging. Thus we are trying to have fun and engage people through that.

"Our view is through building up a really rich social base where people talk about anything, but particularly support each other on issues relating to faith and the state of Israel, that will attract more people to come along just organically."

The highest monthly totals for antisemitic attacks recorded by CST in 2015 were in January (109 incidents) and February (88 incidents).

It may suggest that a higher proportion of incidents were reported to CST and/or the police during those months as a result of increased concern in the Jewish community following terrorist attacks against Jews in France and Denmark.

But the monthly incident totals recorded by CST remained relatively high throughout 2015 - and few incidents included references to terrorism.

It may either indicate that the true number of antisemitic incidents taking place has remained high compared to the years prior to 2014 or that a higher proportion of incidents is being reported to CST and to the police than in previous years.

The 924 recorded antisemitic incidents included 86 violent assaults - an increase of six per cent from 2014 - and the highest number of violent incidents since 2011.

It is the only antisemitic incident category that increased in 2015. Four of the violent incidents were classified by CST as extreme violence, meaning they involved potential grievous bodily harm or threat to life.

There were 65 incidents of damage and desecration of Jewish property in 2015, 685 incidents of abusive behaviour, including verbal abuse, antisemitic graffiti, antisemitic abuse via social media and one-off cases of hate mail, 76 direct antisemitic threats and 12 cases of mass-mailed antisemitic leaflets or emails.

And all of those decreased from the 2014 totals.

The most common single type of incident in 2015 involved verbal abuse randomly directed at visibly Jewish people in public.

In 354 incidents, the victims were Jews attacked or abused while going about their daily business in public places.

And in at least 161 of these incidents, the victims were visibly Jewish, usually due to their religious or traditional clothing, school uniform or jewellery bearing Jewish symbols.

John Mann MP, chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group Against Antisemitism, said he welcomed the lower number of incidents, as well as indications of a greater willingness to report instances of antisemtism.

He explained: "The level of antisemitism in the UK is still a major cause for concern.

"We will continue to work on a cross-party basis alongside partners like the CST to challenge antisemitism wherever it persists."

Fifty-seven per cent of the perpetrators were described as European, 21 per cent as South Asian, 13 per cent as black, eight per cent as Arab or North African and one per cent as East Asian or South-East Asian.

Eighty-one per cent of offenders were male.

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