LONDON (Reuters) - The number of anti-Semitic incidents in Britain rose to a record level in 2014, more than double the previous year, due to events in the Middle East involving Israel, a Jewish advisory body said on Thursday.
The figures, which Home Secretary (interior minister) Theresa May called “deeply concerning”, come amid rising safety fears among Britain’s estimated 260,000 Jews following the deadly attack on a Jewish supermarket in Paris by an Islamist gunman last month.
The Community Security Trust, which provides security advice to Britain’s Jews, said there had been 1,168 anti-Semitic incidents last year, a 25 percent increase on the previous record high recorded in 2009.
The CST, which began monitoring anti-Semitic incidents in 1984, said the major reason for the rise was fighting between Israeli forces and Palestinians in Gaza which began in July, and led to a record monthly figure. However, it said incidents had been on the rise anyway.
“The Jewish community should not be defined by anti-Semitism but last year’s large increase in recorded incidents shows just how easily anti-Semitic attitudes can erupt into race hate abuse, threats and attacks,” said CST Chief Executive David Delew.
According to a survey last month, a quarter of Jews have considered leaving Britain in the last two years and well over half feel they have no long term future in Europe.
A poll also found anti-Semitic beliefs are widely prevalent among the wider public with 45 percent of Britons agreeing with at least one anti-Semitic sentiment.
The greatest rise in incidents recorded by the CST occurred in London and Manchester in northern England. The incidents included 81 violent assaults including one extreme case where the victim was hit by a glass and a baseball bat.
Police have stepped up patrols at synagogues and other Jewish venues across Britain following the Paris attack and Britain’s top counter-terrorism officer said the threat level to Britain’s Jewish community had been raised.
“We need to do everything we can to help this community feel safe and secure in our country,” Prime Minister David Cameron told parliament on Wednesday. “I would hate it for British Jews not to feel that they have a home here in Britain - safe, secure and a vital part of our community.”
Last week, a fringe far-right group said it would hold a march next month against “on-going Jewification” of Britain under the banner “Liberate Stamford Hill”, an area of London home to a large number of Jews, which the CST said had provoked concern.
Editing by Toby Chopra