The events of 2021 have left their mark on Britain’s Jews.
For several weeks in May and June, during the conflict between Hamas and Israel thousands of miles away, antisemitism surged on British streets and campuses, online, in workplaces, schools and hospitals and in other institutions. Reported incidents broke records, with some making national headlines and prompting intervention by the Prime Minister.
Among the incidents were demonstrations that featured antisemitic speakers, chants and banners — some of which were endorsed, promoted and addressed by politicians, trade unionists and other luminaires — and convoys that saw allegations of the most despicable antisemitic incitement and violence in Jewish neighbourhoods.
These events weighed on British Jews, with almost eight in ten disclosing in our research that the various demonstrations, processions and convoys during the conflict caused them to feel intimidated as a Jew.
Consequently, there is a noticeable reversal this year in the optimism reflected in polling a year ago. Fewer British Jews believe that their community has a long-term future in the UK, and a record number — nearing half — have disclosed that they avoid displaying outward signs of their Judaism in public due to antisemitism.
Not only do perpetrators of antisemitism give the Jewish community reason for concern, but so does the criminal justice system. The Crown Prosecution Service has always performed poorly in our polling, but for the first time ever, a majority of British Jews do not believe that the police or the courts do enough to protect them either.
Antisemitism this year has also affected how British Jews view wider society. For the first time ever, a majority do not believe that their non-Jewish neighbours do enough to protect them, with many respondents deeply concerned about apathy towards Jews amongst the British public.
As our polling of the British public shows, there is reason for discomfort: almost one quarter of British adults believe that “Israel treats the Palestinians like the Nazis treated the Jews,” which is antisemitic under the International Definition of Antisemitism, and more than one in ten Britons have entrenched antisemitic views.
There are more specific incubators of antisemitism as well. Over eight in ten British Jews still feel that Labour is too tolerant of racism against Jews, belying Sir Keir Starmer’s claim to have “shut the door” on antisemitism in his Party. Almost all British Jews also believe that antisemitism in British universities and on social media is a problem — the first time these issues have been polled — underlining the need for action.
Britain cannot be content when almost half of a long-established minority community avoids disclosing identifying signs in public, or when a broad majority considers one of the two major political parties to be too tolerant of racism. It is not too late to make the right changes in politics, at universities, online and to criminal justice, but the time for action is now.