UK

Jews In Britain Feel Threatened By 1930s 'Anti-Semitism' As Debate Rages Over 'New Exodus'

14/01/2015 08:35 GMT | Updated 26/01/2015 12:59 GMT

Nearly half of Britons hold anti-Semitic views, a new survey has found, with one in four believing Jews are more money driven than others, while one in six think Jews have some control over the media.

The poll of more than 3,400 UK adults also found Ukip supporters are nearly 10% more likely to hold anti-Semitic views than supporters of other parties.

In a separate amateur survey conducted on social media, it was claimed just over 50% of British Jews feared they had no future in the UK, while 25% said they have considered leaving the country because of anti-Semitism.

The poll of 2,230 British Jews found 56% felt that anti-Semitism now echoes the 1930s, 45% felt their family was threatened by Islamist extremism and 63% thought authorities let too much anti-Semitism go unpunished.

antisemitism uk

Jewish groups protest outside the Royal Courts of Justice in London

The surveys were conducted on behalf of the Campaign Against Antisemitism (CAA), which is a grassroots group set up this summer during rising tensions in Britain over the conflict in Gaza.

But many in the Jewish community have questioned the methodology behind the social media survey, which relied on Jews sharing questions after asking them two data integrity questions.

The poll was targeted on Facebook to users in the UK who "identify on Facebook as having an interest in Judaism or Jewish issues" and shared via pages of Jewish institutions, as well as sent through synagogue mailing lists. The Campaign Against Anti-Semitism claimed major polling organisations "did not have enough Jewish panellists on their databases" to conduct the survey.

Surveying European Jews is "notoriously complex", according to the Institute for Jewish Policy Research (JPR), which is responsible for most of the significant academic research into British Jewry.

A separate report for JPR into anti-Semitism in Europe published in July last year found about 90% of UK-born Jewish respondents reported a very strong or fairly strong sense of belonging to their country, with half feeling anti-Semitism is “not a very big problem” or “not a problem at all.”

In the ranking of issues, including the economy, education, employment, crime and immigration, anti-Semtism came ninth out of a possible ten in a list of the UK's biggest problems. However, close to 70% indicated that anti-Semitism had increased in the past five years.

The Jewish Leadership Council and the Board of Deputies of British Jews issued a joint statement on Wednesday, saying although they saw "methodological flaws of the research" the anxiety is "real".

"However, it is important to remember that the current level and nature of antisemitism in Britain is not as bad as we have seen in France and other European countries and incidents of a violent nature are much lower than they have been in previous years.

"The community should know that the challenges we face, such as antisemitism, are being confronted by the highest levels of government in meetings with major Jewish organisations. This reflects the commitment to ensuring Britain remains a safe place for Jews to live, of which it unquestionably is."

Wednesday's YouGov poll was commissioned in the wake of an anti-Semitic attack on a kosher supermarket in Paris, where four people were killed by an Islamist gunman linked to the massacre at the Charlie Hebdo last week.

It found around 45% of British adults believed at least one anti-Semitic view presented to them was "definitely or probably true", including 13% who thought Jews talked about the Holocaust to get sympathy. One in five said they thought a loyalty to the state of Israel meant that British could not be as loyal to the UK, but only around 10% said they would be unhappy if relatives married a Jew.

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In the wake of several anti-Semitic incidents in France and mainland Europe, including the Charlie Hebdo-linked killings, the murders at a Jewish museum in Belgium, and the shooting of Jewish schoolchildren and a rabbi outside a school in Toulouse, emigration is on the up, with a record 5,000 Jews leaving France last year.

In July last year, Natan Sharansky, chairman of the Jewish Agency for Israel and the country's former deputy prime minister, told HuffPost UK that a new wave of European Jewish immigrant were fleeing to Israel, mainly due to anti-Semitism, and that European Jewry's days are numbered: "The way things are developing in Europe, Jews will increasingly start to feel there is no future there. The number of French Jews leaving is very symbolic."

But Dr Moshe Kantor, president of the European Jewish Congress, told Huffington Post UK. "There is no question that the majority of Jews should be in the diaspora.

"Of course I believe Jews should stay in Europe."

"But I do think we are starting to see the beginning of a new exodus. We have our information that suggests 10,000 Jews have left France. When there is economic crisis, Jews are always the first crisis, and Europe over the last three years, GDP has been less than 1%."

Jewish Chronicle editor Stephen Pollard said on Friday that an exodus in Europe had begun, and "every single French Jew I know has either left or is actively working out how to leave". He added that the situation was "the largest emigration of Jews anywhere since the war".

In Britain, some 269,000 Jewish people call the UK home, making up just 0.4% of the population, but last year saw the most anti-Semitic incidents recorded by police since records began 30 years ago.

Gideon Falter, chairman of the Campaign Against Antisemitism, said: "The results of our survey are a shocking wake-up call straight after the atrocities in Paris. Britain is at a tipping point. Unless anti-Semitism is met with zero tolerance, it will grow and British Jews will increasingly question their place in their own country. Britain's Jews must be shown that they are not alone."

Jonathan Sacerdoti, the campaign's director of communications, added: "Jewish people have contributed to almost every part of British life, yet rising anti-Semitism here and across Europe means that now more than ever Jews are afraid. Some are even reconsidering their future here. British values of tolerance and pluralism must be upheld, so that minority groups like Jews feel comfortable and protected."

Communities Secretary Eric Pickles said: "Jews are an important part of the British community, and we would be diminished without them. Anyone who peddles anti-Semitic views is attacking Britain and British values.

"This Government has done much to enhance Britain's status as a safe, tolerant place for Jewish people but we are not complacent. We remain committed to tackling it wherever and whenever it occurs and continue to take a zero-tolerance approach. Those who commit hate crimes will be punished with the full force of the law."

Last night, Israel's prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu echoed his calls from last week to urge Europe's Jews to move "home" to Israel.

Netanyahu's comments were not something helpful for French Jews to hear in the wake of the Paris attack, European Jewish Association Rabbi Menachem Margolin told the website NRG: "Every such Israeli campaign severely weakens and damages the Jewish communities that have the right to live securely wherever they are."