The Month of Hate
15 July 2021
A new research briefing from CST titled 'The Month of Hate: Antisemitism & extremism during the Israel-Gaza conflict', published today, reveals the true extent of the unprecedented wave of antisemitism in this country in the month from 8 May to 7 June, during and after the recent conflict in Israel and Gaza.
This was the most intense period of anti-Jewish hatred seen in the UK in recent years. It saw record levels of antisemitic hate incidents, anti-Jewish chants and placards on public demonstrations, incitement from radical Islamist extremists in the UK and calls from jihadist terrorist groups for Jews to be killed. All this was fuelled by, or tried to take advantage of, antisemitic reactions to the conflict between Israel and Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and other militant groups in Gaza. Read the full version of the report 'The Month of Hate: Antisemitism & extremism during the Israel-Gaza conflict'.
The level of anger and hate that is directed at Israel always spills over into antisemitism at times of conflict. Such crises see a recurring and disturbing pattern: reactions to ‘trigger events’, often from overseas, cause significant spikes in anti-Jewish hate crimes and hate incidents in the UK. In practice, this means that the perpetrators of these incidents deliberately target Jews and Jewish institutions to express their hatred of, or anger towards, Israel; or they use Israel as an excuse to attack Jews. This is a pattern British society in general and British Jews have seen too many times before. Antisemitic reactions to Middle Eastern conflicts contributed to record-high yearly antisemitic incidents in the UK in 2014, 2009, 2006, 2003, 2001 and 2000. This is racism at its most basic: British Jews are held responsible for events thousands of miles away, over which they have no control, simply because they are Jewish.
CST recorded 628 antisemitic hate incidents from 8 May to 7 June 2021, the highest number CST has ever recorded in any month-long period, and roughly four times the number of antisemitic incidents that would normally be expected during this period. This total is significantly higher than previously-released figures due to the late reporting of incidents and the time lag in verifying, processing and recording every incident report. A total of 585 out of these 628 antisemitic incidents involved language, imagery or behaviour linked to the conflict in Israel and Gaza.
There were 112 examples of individuals targeting random Jewish people or Jewish neighbourhoods with shouts of “Free Palestine”, Palestinian flags or both, of which 54 involved shouts or gestures from vehicles. CST does not treat the slogans “Free Palestine” or “Free Gaza” as antisemitic in themselves, unless they are used to deliberately target the Jewish community in an abusive way, for example by singling out Jewish people to shout “Free Palestine” at on the street or daubing “Free Palestine” at a synagogue. Sometimes this involved explicitly abusive or threatening language or gestures intended to offend and intimidate. Some of the reported antisemitic incidents in May and June, such as the car convoy shouting antisemitic and misogynistic abuse in north London, received widespread publicity due to their truly appalling nature, but there were many other incidents that did not attract as much attention.
Worryingly, antisemitic incidents during the recent conflict disproportionately affected the educational sector, with 25% of all recorded incidents relating to schools, universities and Jewish students and teachers. CST recorded 93 antisemitic incidents during the month from 8 May to 7 June 2021 that were related to schools and 61 incidents that were related to universities, making 154 antisemitic incidents related to the education sector – almost as many as the 162 school and university-related antisemitic incidents recorded by CST in 2019 (the last year in which schools and universities were fully open as normal). The most common type of school-related incident involved Jewish school students or Jewish teachers at mainstream schools being singled out and targeted by students shouting “Free Palestine” or using other pro-Palestinian language or imagery to harass them.
Such incidents are encouraged by rhetoric that fails to distinguish between Jews and Israelis, or simply swaps the words ‘Zionist’ and ‘Zionism’ for ‘Jew’ and ‘Judaism’. It also feeds off extreme anti-Israel propaganda that does not mention Jews, but which demonises Israel to such an extent that it generates a violent anger that finds an outlet in anti-Jewish hate; or that simply provides a supposedly legitimising cover for the expression of antisemitism via hatred of Israel. This is not about people criticising the Israeli government, but about hatred of Israel as an entire nation; it is not an expression of support for the Palestinian cause, but rather the treatment of Israel as a uniquely evil entity, a modern embodiment of Nazism and racism that must be erased from the world. It is plausible, to say the least, that this unique hatred towards Israel would lead some people to treat those who support its mere existence as deserving of social and political isolation, or even verbal abuse and physical violence.
Most pro-Palestinian campaigning in the UK falls within legitimate political activism and is not the subject of this new report. However, several pro-Palestinian demonstrations across Britain included antisemitic placards, chants and speeches from a minority of participants. Some of these appeared to be illegal while others used extreme political or religious language. Examples include:
- One speaker at a demonstration in Manchester invoked the antisemitic conspiracy theory about Jewish control of the media, by saying: “the main 13 executives that approve the content released by the BBC are actually in fact Jewish. So this means the information released by the mainstream media will be biased.”
- A speaker at a demonstration in Bradford recited an explicitly anti-Jewish prayer in Arabic that depicted Jews and Muslims as enemies, saying: “God, purify al-Aqsa from impure people! God, make the earth quake under their feet! God, lift the curse of the Jews off the Muslims in Palestine! God, support Muslim youth to protect al-Aqsa! God, support them with your soldiers! God, we ask you to make the Jews lose! God, make Islam win!” Each line was repeated back to her in Arabic by multiple people in the crowd.
- At several protests, demonstrators recited the violent anti-Jewish Arabic chant “Khaybar Khaybar Ya Yahud, Jaish Muhammad Sauf Ya’ud”, which translates as “Khaybar Khaybar oh Jews, the army of Mohammed is returning” and is effectively a call for Jews to be killed. CST has reported two examples of this, from demonstrations in London and Swansea, to police.
- Placards comparing Israel with Nazi Germany were commonplace on pro-Palestinian demonstrations around the country, and particularly on the largest demonstrations in central London. This is perhaps the most visible and obvious expression of antisemitism found on pro-Palestinian protests.
The report details several examples of incitement by Islamist extremists in the UK who used violent language to call for Israel to be attacked by military force. This violent, aggressive language was seen online and at demonstrations. Examples include:
- The global leadership of the Islamist group Hizb ut-Tahrir issued an openly anti-Jewish statement that stated: “The monstrous Jews are spreading their brutal aggression on all parts of Palestine… the response to the crimes of the Jews is only by mobilizing armies to eliminate the Jewish entity and return the whole of Palestine to the lands of Islam... Hence, the enemies of Allah before us will be humiliated, not only the Jews, for they have been afflicted with humiliation, but also all the tyrants of the earth…”
- A prominent Islamist YouTube influencer with hundreds of thousands of online followers gave a speech at an anti-Israel demonstration stating “We believe that life begins at death, we don’t care about death, we love death”. The previous day, he and two other Islamist YouTube influencers had performed a provocative stunt in Golders Green, in which they stopped Jewish people in the street and challenged them to answer questions about the conflict in Israel and Gaza, to the backdrop of a van with large screens showing images from Gaza and from the Holocaust. They filmed themselves doing this and uploaded the edited results to YouTube.
- Moazzam Begg, the outreach director for the British Islamist advocacy group CAGE UK, posted repeatedly on social media about his apparent wish for military jihad against Israel. In one Facebook post, he recounted a dream he claimed to have had in which he was joined in Gaza by the Taliban or other Afghan mujahideen who shot down Israeli aircraft while Begg chanted “O Allah! Bring down their planes”.
Outside the UK, global jihadist groups including Al-Qaeda and ISIS released numerous statements urging violent jihad and attacks against Israelis and Jews worldwide.
CST staff worked round the clock throughout this record month of anti-Jewish hate. Extra staff were added to CST’s antisemitic incidents team to respond to the unprecedented number of calls we received, and CST’s security teams mounted extra security operations in Jewish neighbourhoods. The antisemitism and extremism unleashed during this conflict had a deep impact on the Jewish community’s morale and sense of well-being.
Read the full version of CST’s new report 'The Month of Hate: Antisemitism & extremism during the Israel-Gaza conflict'.