How to beat hate crime in London
With anti-Semitism making headlines and hate crime on the rise, Sophie Wilkinson investigates how the capital is responding.
We often talk about the need to learn from history, but increasingly the present is echoing the worst of the past,’ said Home Secretary Sajid Javid, the UK’s most powerful Muslim, at a vigil for the 11 Jews murdered in Pittsburgh two days before.
In a heartening display of unity, he stood alongside London Mayor Sadiq Khan, Jewish religious and community leaders and Londoners of all faiths, including US Ambassador, Woody Johnson.
The victims of the shooting, congregants of the Tree of Life synagogue, were murdered by a suspect who cried out ‘All Jews must die’. Their loved ones’ torment has since reverberated with Jews and their allies across the world, including London, where anti-Semitic crime has risen in recent years (2.6 times higher in the 12 months to July 2018 than the 12 months to March 2011). Meanwhile, last week Metropolitan Police chief Cressida Dickannounced her officers have launched a criminal inquiry into allegations of anti-Semitic hate crimes within the Labour Party.
The Community Security Trust (CST), a charity providing security advice and assistance for British Jews, records 100 incidents of anti-Semitism every month. Until 2016, ‘you could identify one trigger event, usually it’s if Israel has a war,’ says Dave Rich, head of policy at the CST. He cites 2014’s Gaza conflict, after which incidents of anti-Semitic abuse recorded by the Met Police rose 178 per cent. ‘But for the past two years, it’s just month after month, the same daily grind of anti-Semitic incidents on the streets.’ These incidents tend to be, Rich explains, ‘old-fashioned bigotry towards Jewish people’, unleashed by men, mostly young, shouting ‘stuff about the Holocaust, the Nazis, Israel’.
The typical victim is a man, perhaps because Jewish men — like Muslim women — are more likely to be identifiable by their religious dress. And if he’s ‘unlucky’, Rich says, ‘Someone might throw something at him, or try to beat him up.’ Against a backdrop of a rise in all hate crime post-Brexit, an anti-Semitic incident can be in response to something as innocuous as taking too long to park a car. Jemma Levene, deputy director of Hope Not Hate, an advocacy group campaigning against racism and fascism, tells me, ‘In north-west London, children in Jewish school uniform are being abused on buses.’