united kingdom 2000-1
Most antisemitism in the UK
today emanates from militant Islamist and other Muslim groups. Despite a 23
percent decline in 2001 from the previous year, there has been an upward trend
in antisemitic incidents over the last four years, and a tendency toward more
violent attacks on the Jewish community. Thirty-two percent of the year’s total
occurred during September and October, after the September 11 attacks. The
strengthening of Britain’s Race Hatred laws in two separate acts
of legislation in 2001 has effectively put a stop to the publication and
distribution of overt antisemitic and Holocaust denial propaganda. Two
anti-terrorism acts were passed in 2001, one after the September 11 attacks.
the jewish community
The Jewish community of the United Kingdom numbers 280,000, out of a
total population of 58,000,000. Two-thirds of the community is
concentrated in Greater London. Other major Jewish centers are Manchester (30,000), Leeds (10,000) and Glasgow (6,500). The Jewish population has
experienced a marked decline since 1967, mainly due to a low birthrate, intermarriage and emigration.
The central organization of
British Jewry is the Board of Deputies of British Jews (BoD). Security and
defense activity is organized through the Community Security Trust (CST).
Welfare and education are given high communal priority through organizations
such as the United Jewish Israel Appeal and Jewish Care. A network of Jewish
day schools operates in London and in other major cities. There are also a
number of Jewish tertiary study centers, including the London School of Jewish
Studies (formerly Jews College) for training Orthodox Rabbis, Leo Baeck College
for training Reform and Liberal Rabbis, and the Oxford Center for Hebrew and
Jewish Studies at Yarnton. The main community papers are the 160-year-old Jewish
Chronicle, The Jewish Telegraph published simultaneously in northern
cities, and the London Jewish News. Two Jewish websites are based in the
UK: totallyjewish.com and jewish.co.uk, carrying national and international
political parties and extra-parliamentary groups
The largest extreme right organization, the British
National Party (BNP), downplayed its Nazi origins in 2001 and switched the
focus of its activities to issues of current concern. From March until the
early part of the summer it was active in the race riots in northern cities,
especially Oldham and Burnley, sparked off by disgruntled Muslim Asian youths.
After 11 September it began to campaign against the Muslim community, producing
anti-Muslim leaflets, which were widely distributed. It also sought an alliance
with extremists within the Sikh and Hindu communities, an approach that was
widely criticized within those communities and proved to be short-lived. During
the latter part of the year, however, this campaign ceased and was replaced by
one against street-crime, which continued into the new year.
Thirty-three BNP candidates
received an average of 1,430 votes, or 3.92 percent, in the May general
election, in the constituencies in which they stood. Only three candidates –
BNP leader Nick Griffen, in the Oldham West and Royton constituency, Steve
Smith (see Court Cases below) in Burnley, and Mick Treacy in Oldham East and
Saddleworth – received more than 10 percent of the votes.
BNP’s fundraising activities in
the US were brought abruptly to a halt when it was alleged that they
contravened US and British laws against political funding. However, BNP leader
Nick Griffin continued to visit the US (on three occasions) for extensive
speaking engagements with the Council of Conservative Citizens, American
Renaissance and David Duke’s NOFEAR organization (see USA). So far the
BNP has failed to gain the level of support in Australia that it achieved in
the US under the guidance of Mark Cotterill (see ASW 1999/2000), but
activity continues. As in past years members participated in the French FN’s
Bleu Blanc Rouge festival in September.
Leadership problems, which have
disrupted the organization for years, resurfaced during the latter part of the
year when former founding leader John Tyndall issued a new challenge to Griffin’s
The National Front (NF)
sought publicity by demonstrating during the early part of the year in south
coast port towns against asylum seekers, and again during April and May in the
southeast London suburb of Bermondsey against the local black community. The NF
also participated in the Oldham race riots and a number of its leaders were
subsequently arrested and charged with criminal damage. Its main focus of
activity however is Northern Ireland where it maintains links with Loyalist
The Young National Front
and its publication Bulldog were reactivated during the early part of
the year, carrying out activity in Oxfordshire, Surrey and East and North
In the general election, the five
NF candidates received an average of 497 votes, or 1.4 percent of the votes
cast, in the constituencies in which they stood. Together with four other far
right candidates and the BNP contestants, a total of 42 extreme right-wingers
ran in the election compared with 87 in the 1997 general election. They
achieved an average of 1,216 votes, compared with 572 in 1997 – 3.3 percent of
the vote compared with 1.2 percent in 1997.
Both the BNP and NF promote antisemitism and
Holocaust denial although rarely in their own literature. They are,
nevertheless, reflected in the speeches of leaders and members, and in the
literature sold through their book clubs.
Open support for neo-Nazi skinhead groups fell considerably
during 2001. Combat 18 virtually ceased activity, and a Day of Action
against the Jewish community advertised on its Skrewdriver website for
22 April, failed to take place; nevertheless, former supporters continue to
participate in Blood & Honour, which is controlled by the British
Movement (BM). The BM maintains branches in south London and the Midlands,
and has been attempting to extend its contacts in eastern Europe by personal
visits and through the distribution of its publication Broadsword. The
leadership is vested in a group of long-standing members, including Steve
Frost, Danny Tolan, Micky Lane and Benny Bullman.
The national revolutionary
International Third Position (ITP) continues to build its contacts in
eastern Europe, France and Spain. The ITP is closely associated with Roberto
Fiore and the late Massimo Morsello, former members of the Italian national
revolutionary terrorist group, the Armed Revolutionary Nuclei. During 2001 the
ITP consolidated its contacts in the US. It is the most outspokenly
anti-Zionist and pro-Islamist of all the radical right wing groups.
Other tiny extreme nationalist or
white supremacist groups continue to function on a low level, such as the English
Solidarity Group, formerly led by the late Lady Jane Birdwood and whose
membership includes former NF leader Martin Webster and former NF member Peter
Marriner. Donald Martin, who was forced out of the Federation of Small
Businesses Policy Unit, of which he was chairman, by anti-racism campaigners,
continues to publish and distribute white supremacist and antisemitic
literature through Bloomfield Books and On Target Publications.
His supporters, who overlap with those of the League of St George and
the Friends of Oswald Mosley, include mostly former NF followers who
promote a white commonwealth of Britain, Australia and Canada.
Militant Islamist and Other Muslim Groups
Most open antisemitism in the UK now emanates from extreme
Muslim groups. The most active in the UK is al-Muhajiroun (The Emigrants
– AM) which, while claiming not to support terrorism, nevertheless continued to
champion Usama bin Ladin, al-Qa‘ida and the Taliban prior to and after 11
September. AM are extremely hostile toward Israel and speakers at AM eventsdeny
the Holocaust and have often called for the killing of Jews. AM promote their
public activities by extensive illegal flyer-posting and by faxing regular
press releases to other Muslim groups, the Jewish community and the media. In
October the director of public prosecutions dropped charges against five AM
members arrested in October 2000 whilst distributing leaflets advocating the
killing of Jews. However, two other members of AM were to face similar charges
during 2002. In November founder Omar Bakri Muhammad and current leader Anjem
Choudhary stated that the Muslim world was happy with the events of 11
September and expressed satisfaction, at an AM meeting in Willesden, North
London, in November, that the Jews were cursed in the Qur‘an. However, their
rhetoric, open support for terrorism training and their claims to have sent
volunteers to Afghanistan and other countries of jihad have been toned down as
a consequence of new laws banning support for terrorism and making illegal
calls for the murder of religious minorities abroad (see below).
In April the National Union of
Students voted to ban AM from university campuses despite an attempt by the
Trotskyite Socialist Workers Student Society to block the motion.
Sakina Security Services,
associated with AM and other Islamist groups, ceased activity following the
arrest in September and October of its leaders, who were imprisoned pending
trial on terrorism charges.
Hizb ut-Tahrir (HUT), from
which AM split in 1996 under the leadership of Omar Bakri Muhammad, recommenced
public activity during the latter part of 2001. Like AM, HUT promotes the
establishment of an Islamic state encompassing all the Muslim umma and
supports the activities of violent Islamist groups in other countries. It is
antisemitic, homophobic, anti-Hindu and anti-Sikh.
The tiny Islamic Party of Britain, which comprises mainly
converts to Islam, campaigns primarily through its website, although members
address public meetings held by other organizations. It continues to propagate
Supporters of Shariah (SOS),
led by Egyptian Shaykh Mustafa Kamil, aka Abu Hamza al-Masri, continues its
activity but at a much reduced level. Abu Hamza’s use of his North London
mosque at Finsbury Park for recruitment to al-Qa‘ida, and the revelations that
a number of al-Qa‘ida detainees apprehended in Afghanistan were enlisted through
the mosque, have led to media calls for his arrest. SOS remains implacably
anti-Zionist, promoting an antisemitism which combines traditional religious
anti-Judaism with Protocols of the Elders of Zion-style conspiracy
The Islamic Observation Center
(IOC), led by Egyptian Islamist Yasir al-Sirri, aka Abu ‘Ammar (who was
sentenced to death in Egypt), ceased activity following his arrest in October
in connection with facilitating the murder of Afghan Northern Alliance leader
Ahmad Shah Mas‘ud. He is also the subject of an American government extradition
request relating to terrorism charges.
Violence, Vandalism, Threats and Insults
A total of 310 antisemitic incidents were reported during
2001, a 23 percent decrease from the previous year (405 incidents). Thirty-two
percent of the year’s total (98 incidents) occurred during September and
October in the wake of the September 11 attacks.
There were 41 physical assaults
against members of the community (13 percent of the total), including one
life-threatening attack, compared with 53 assaults in 2000 (13 percent of the
total). Incidents of damage and desecration of property increased to 90
incidents in 2001 (29 percent of the total) compared with 73 in 2000 (18
percent of the total).
The targeted distribution of
antisemitic literature, however, declined to 20 incidents in 2001 (6 percent of
the total) compared to 44 in 2000 (11 percent of the total). This reflects the
impact of criminal prosecutions and the fear of prosecution under strengthened
public order legislation, as well as the change of far right targeting to
Muslim and other ethnic and religious minority communities.
Over a four-year period, however, reported antisemitic
incidents show an upward trend, and a tendency toward more violent attacks on
the Jewish community. They also reflect the global pattern, whereby violence in
the Middle East has generated attacks against Diaspora communities. It should
be noted that while an increasing proportion of attacks against the Jewish
community was committed by Muslims and Asians, the Muslim community also
suffered a high level of attacks after 11 September.
Racist incidents reported to the
police in the London area fell in 2001, to 20,628 incidents from 23,346
incidents in 2000. The decline reflects the success of police targeting of
racist crimes. Racist incidents nationwide, however, rose to 53,092 incidents
in 2001 from 47,814 in 2000, reflecting the effect of the riots in northern
cities during the spring.
half the prosecutions that followed the incidents were new offenses of racially aggravated crime
brought under the Crime and Disorder Act 1998, which came into force in
September 1999. These rose from 21,750 offenses in 2000 to 25,103 in 2001.
The strengthening of Britain’s
Race Hatred laws in two separate acts of legislation in 2001 (see below) has now effectively put a stop to the
publication and distribution of overt and crude antisemitic and Holocaust
denial propaganda. However, the organizations listed above continue to
disseminate implicit anti-Jewish propaganda and during the course of the year
denigrated the Holocaust and Jewish claims to restitution.
Anti-Israel argumentation has
frequently overstepped the line and become outright antisemitism, a trend that
has now become the province of the far and the liberal left. One example which
outraged the Jewish community was the publication of an article by Faisal Bodi,
former student activist and now editor of the electronic Muslim affairs journal
ummahnews.com, in The Guardian in January, entitled “Israel
Simply Has No Right to Exist.” Bodi argued that peace with the
Palestinians might have a chance without Israel’s biblical claim, and that Israel’s
claim to legitimacy and its international recognition are based on dubious
decisions by non-representative international bodies. Bodi is an occasional
correspondent for The Guardian and has been allowed to use his position
to campaign against Israel and in favor of Islamist militancy. The
Guardian’s moderated Comments website, and that of The
Independent newspaper, both occasionally publish crude antisemitism,
including endorsements of The Protocols.
public demonstrations by the Stop the War Coalition, which brought together far left and
Islamic militants to protest American action against Afghanistan after 11 September, were the venue for antisemitic
invective by Islamic militants.
In February 2002 the left-liberal
weekly magazine New Statesman was widely criticized for publishing
anti-Israel and antisemitic material, including a front cover which showed a Magen David piercing the
Union Jack symbol of Britain, under the headline “A Kosher Conspiracy?”
attitudes toward the holocaust and the nazi era
Britain’s second Holocaust Memorial Day on 27 January, the
anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, was marked by a national meeting
held in Manchester attended by the home secretary, BoD leaders and leaders of
other faith and community groups, as well as a wide range of local activities
organized by local councils and education authorities. Holocaust Memorial Day
is planned and coordinated by a steering committee of Home Office and
Department for Education officials, together with representatives of the
Holocaust Education Trust, the BoD, and Beth Shalom, a privately funded Holocaust
museum near Nottingham. The focus is on the Holocaust, but educational events
and meetings also highlight racism, including atrocities committed in Cambodia,
Rwanda and former Yugoslavia.
Holocaust Memorial Day is now
firmly fixed in the national events calendar and it is planned that the central
event will be held in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland in rotation,
returning to London for a televised event on the sixth anniversary of its
The most active proponents of Holocaust denial are now
Islamist groups. In April the pro-Hamas Palestine Times published an
article “Could Zionism Lie about the Holocaust too,” in which the writer Khalid
Amayreh took up the theme, subsequently repeated in other Islamist
publications, that Zionists have told so many lies about history that it is not
inconceivable that they have lied about the Holocaust.
Holocaust Memorial Day elicited a
number of negative responses from some sections of the Muslim community. The
Muslim Council of Britain, an umbrella body representing Muslim organizations,
stated that it would not attend the national event, for the second year
running, because it excluded current acts of “genocide” in Kashmir and Palestine.
AM held a series of meetings entitled “Holocaust Lie Exposed” and “Holocaust:
Fact or Fiction? Israel’s Justification for Killing Muslims.”
In February Omar Bakri Muhammed
posted a message to the AM website in which he wrote: “How could Hitler kill
6,800,000 Jews when there was only [sic] 3,500,000 Jews living in Europe?
This talk will trace back the lie of the Holocaust and show how it has been
used to justify the on-going Holocaust and genocide against the innocent
Muslims in Palestine and to legitimize the existence of the Terrorist State of Israel.”
Alexander Baron, a former member
of the BM who now publishes anti-Zionist material through his Anglo Hebrew
Publishing and its associated InfoText Manuscripts, wrote a series of
Holocaust-denial articles published on his own, and others’, Internet sites.
David Irving’s almost continual
presence in the US ensured that he remained marginal to Holocaust denial
propagation in the UK, but on two occasions, in May and subsequently in January
2002, British universities invited him to debate the issues of free speech,
although both subsequently withdrew the invitations.
The decision to refuse David
Irving’s request for an appeal against the judgement against him (see below), and his prolonged absence from the UK have isolated him further from the
British extreme right.
British Holocaust deniers are not
known to have participated in the international Holocaust denial conferences
held in Moscow or Trieste during the year, but reports of the conferences appeared
in British publications, notably Final Conflict e-mail newsletter,
published by the ITP.
The Metropolitan Police continued to investigate allegations
of war crimes despite the formal closure of the War Crimes Unit. In September
they began an investigation of former members of a Ukrainian SS unit now living
in Britain, accused of massacres in Nazi-occupied Poland.
Antanas Gecas, the Lithuanian
accused of murdering 30,000 Jews and the subject of a Lithuanian government
extradition request at the beginning of the year, died in September. He had not
been tried in Britain because of evidential problems but he had been branded a
war criminal by the judge who had heard his failed civil action against
Scottish Television which had screened a documentary about him.
RESPONSES TO RACISM AND ANTISEMITISM
The Terrorism Act 2000 was passed in
February, finally putting Britain’s anti-terrorism legislation
on a permanent footing. The act allows for the proscription of terrorist groups
and prevents members or supporters of such groups from raising finances or organizing other material aid in the UK, or planning acts of terrorism abroad.
Among the organizations proscribed are al-Qa‘ida,
the Egyptian Islamic Jihad and al-Jama‘a al-Islamiyya, the Algerian Groupe Islamique
Armée (GIA) and Salafist Group for Call and
Combat (GSPC), Hizballah External Security
Organization, Hamas – Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, Palestinian
Islamic Jihad and the Abu Nidal organization.
After 11 September, further
legislation was passed in the Anti-terrorism Crime and Security Act 2001. Among
its clauses, the act extends the provisions concerning involvement in
international terrorism, increases the penalty for incitement to racial hatred
and creates new offenses out of “religiously aggravated” crimes.
Safeguards were enacted for
victims of racial and antisemitic harassment in the Criminal Justice and Police
Act 2001, passed in June. They allow the police to arrest, without warrant, any
person or group of persons they reasonably suspect of being likely to cause
harassment, alarm or distress, and will provide relief to those who suffer
antisemitic abuse or continued harassment from neighbors. The act also
strengthened the existing Malicious Communications Act 1988 by providing a
custodial sentence, rather than the previous small fine, on conviction. The act
now also covers electronic mail.
In October the government
published its Race Equality Scheme drawn up in accordance with the Race Relations
(Amendment) Act 2000. Under the scheme public authorities will have to assess
and monitor their own functions and policies to ensure that they promote racial
equality. The act gives the Commission for Racial Equality statutory power of
enforcement where it believes public authorities, which include the police and
armed forces, are failing to promote racial equality. This ambitious scheme was
promoted by the government as part of a wider project to modernize public
services in Britain.
In February 2002 the government
began a three-month public consultation process in preparation for national
implementation of the European anti-discrimination directives adopted under
Article 13 of the EC Treaty. The public has until the end of March 2002 to
comment on the government’s proposals for implementation. These contain minor
amendments to the existing Race Relations Act, including a new definition of
indirect discrimination and the removal of several exemptions. New legislation
will be introduced to outlaw discrimination in employment on the grounds of
religion, sexual orientation and age. Also revealed are longer term plans to
move toward a single Equality Commission, replacing the three existing public
bodies that support people facing discrimination on grounds of race, gender or
The long delayed case against veteran
neo-Nazi leader Colin Jordan was finally stayed owing to his ill health. However, the trial was to resume if his health
improved and he had to undertake not
to engage in certain political, social and personal activities. The case
against his co-defendant Anthony Hancock, printer and publisher of many
neo-Nazi publications and hate propaganda, continued. Both were charged with publishing and
distributing leaflets which had incited hatred against the then president of
In addition, a number of
prominent neo-Nazis were convicted during the course of the year for incitement
and related offenses. Simon Northfield, a member of the NF, was found guilty of
criminal damage following his participation in an attack on an anti-Nazi League
display at Croydon Town Hall on Holocaust Memorial Day in January 2001. Paul
Davies was convicted of racially aggravated harassment and fined in December
for making Nazi salutes at a Spurs football match. Passing sentence the judge
commented that Davies was motivated by hostility towards Spurs fans because of
their Jewish connection and his actions had the potential to cause a major
outbreak of violence.
David Irving finally lost his
request for an appeal in July. His original appeal had been turned down by the
judge who presided over his failed libel action against Professor Deborah
Lipstadt in the High Court (see ASW 2000/1). Subsequently Penguin,
Lipstadt’s publishers and co-defendant, applied for payment of their interim
costs. Having refused to pay, Irving was declared bankrupt in March 2002.
The case of Algerian asylum
seeker Nabil Ould Eddine, who was charged with the attempted murder of yeshiva
student Myer David Myers in October 2000, has been adjourned pending the
outcome of psychiatric reports.
There were also several cases of Middle
East nationals and British Muslims accused of links with terrorism. In
February three Algerians and a Jordanian of Palestinian origin (Omar Othman,
aka Abu Qatada) were arrested and charged with terrorist offenses, after the
al-Qa‘ida plot to bomb Strasbourg Cathedral was uncovered by a joint European
investigation. The Spanish government subsequently declared that Abu Qatada was
bin Ladin’s senior European representative.
Yasir al-Sirri, aka Abu ‘Ammar,
of the Islamic Observation Center, was charged with incitement (in addition to
the conspiracy to murder charge – see above), after publishing an antisemitic
book by Rifai Ahmed Taha, leader of the Egyptian al-Jama‘a al-Islamiyya abroad
and one of bin-Ladin’s top aides.
In November Palestinians Samar
‘Alami and Jawad Botmeh, who belonged to a faction of the Popular Front for the
Liberation of Palestine, lost their appeal against conviction for the
1994 bombing of the Israel embassy and the Balfour House headquarters of the
UJIA. Meetings and demonstrations had been held during the year by their
supporters, who now plan an appeal to the European Court of Human Rights.
Non-aligned Islamists Mu‘in
al-Abidin of Birmingham and Faysal Mustafa of Manchester were charged with
conspiracy to cause explosions and Abidin was convicted and sentenced to 20
years in February 2002. Mustafa was found not guilty although he had been
convicted of a terrorist-related offense five years previously, in an alleged
plot to assassinate the then Israel ambassador.
A Muslim cleric, ‘Abdallah al-Faysal, was charged with soliciting to
murder and may be charged with further offenses of racial incitement. Al-Faysal is a Jamaican-born convert to Islam
who publishes audio and video tapes which call for the killing of Jews. Al-Faysal
was the one who allegedly influenced Richard Reid and Zacarias Moussawi, the al-Qa‛ida members charged with terrorist
offenses after 11 September.
In October the High Court
overturned the Home Secretary’s ban on Louis Farrakhan of the Nation of
Islam (NOI) but he remains unable to visit Britain following the rejection of
his petition to an appeals court in March 2002. NOI continues its activity, but
at a low level, having failed to make any real impact on Britain’s
Following the race riots in northern cities in the spring
and early summer, the government commissioned a series of reports. The
Community Cohesion Review Team chaired by Ted Cantle published its report in
December. The team was specifically asked to seek the views of local people in
the areas affected, and identified a number of recurring elements contributing
to deeply fractured communities. These included ignorance about each other’s
communities, frustration borne out of poverty and deprivation, failure to
communicate between communities, a lack of clear and consistent messages from
principal local and political leaders, and no attempt to develop clear values
on the meaning of being a citizen in a multi-racial Britain. The team
recommended that the government initiate a national debate on these issues,
specifically involving younger people. One particular recommendation which
promoted much media comment was the development of a meaningful concept of
citizenship, which is to be developed by the Home Office minister to whom the
Operation Athena, the Metropolitan Police operation against
racial and violent crime, continued during 2001 and has now been extended to
other areas outside London (see ASW 2000/1). Among the initiatives
promoted by Operation Athena was a coordinated series of raids on suspected hate
criminals in London by the Racial and Violent Crime Task Force, which led to
more than one hundred arrests, a month-long drive to tackle racist and
homophobic crime, launched in March, and the development of third party
reporting sites which encourage victims to report hate crime, and which offer
victim support through a partnership between police and specialist agencies,
including the CST.
All police training in the UK has
now been amended to reflect the requirements of the Human Rights Act.