UNITED KINGDOM 2003-4
recorded 375 antisemitic incidents in 2003, a 7 percent increase over the
previous year. The rise in political tensions during the spring, when anti-war
campaigners blamed the impending Iraq war on Jewish and Israeli
pressure on the United States, and Israel’s bombing
of a terrorist training camp in Syria during the autumn,
contributed toward the high number of incidents. Anti-war rallies were marked
by antisemitic chants and banners despite the efforts of some of the organizers
to prevent them. A troubling trend has been the infiltration of antisemitic
opinions to the mainstream. Continuing investigations by law enforcement and
security agencies led to the arrest of many al-Qa‘ida-linked terrorists and the smashing of several terrorist
networks during the course of the year, and although their targets remain
unknown the groups with which they are connected promote antisemitic
ideologies. Several public bodies issued statements condemning antisemitism and
racism, as well as guidelines for combating them.
THE JEWISH Community
The Jewish community of the United
Kingdom numbers about 350,000, out of a total population of 58 million.
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).
Although the Jewish population has experienced a decline in recent years,
mainly due to a low birth rate, intermarriage and emigration, the question on
religion in the 2001 census showed there to be more Jews than was previously
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 tertiary centers for Jewish studies,
including the London School of Jewish Studies (formerly Jews College) for
training orthodox rabbis and Leo Baeck College for training reform and liberal rabbis,
as well as the Jewish Studies departments at University College London,
Southampton University and the Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies at Yarnton,
all leading centers in Europe in this field. The main community papers are the
160-year-old Jewish Chronicle, the Jewish Telegraph published
simultaneously in northern cities, and The Jewish News. Two Jewish
websites are based in the UK: www.totallyjewish.com and www.somethingjewish.co.uk,
carrying national and international news.
The Jewish Community Leadership Council was formed in October to bring
together leaders of major national Jewish organizations, to enhance the long-term
effectiveness of communal representation and to ensure greater consultation by
communal organizations and leaders.
POLITICAL PARTIES AND EXTRA-PARLIAMENTARY GROUPS
extreme right organization is the British National Party (BNP). Despite
continuing internal dissention, which led to the expulsion and then
reinstatement of founder and former chairman, John Tyndall and two of his main
supporters, the BNP continued to make electoral progress.
The BNP won 13 seats in the local elections in May giving them 18 in
total by early 2004 although the number fluctuated during the year as one
member defected and another was dismissed for criminal activity. In February
2004 Stoke-on-Trent Councilor Barry Cuthbertson changed his party allegiance
from Independent to BNP. The party is now led by a younger and more able team,
some of whom are less tainted by association with past neo-Nazi activity and
racist violence on the streets. The BNP held its annual summer Red, White and
Blue Festival in August in Lancashire attended by over 1,000 people including
The National Front (NF) continued to decline in both size and
influence. Anthony James White, a Leeds NF member, was jailed for six months
for stirring up racial hatred and carrying an offensive weapon after he had
been caught handing out “Combat 18 = White Power” leaflets to schoolchildren on
their way home from school in February. The NF is now led by Norman Tomkinson,
Bernard Franklin and Terry Blackham, and has moved its headquarters back to
The White Nationalist Party (WNP) expanded in size and activity
although its founder Eddy Morrison resigned during the year. It maintains a
website and publishes the journal Heritage and Destiny. While the WNP
held a series of small local rallies during the year, those planned for London’s
Trafalgar Square in April, and Bradford in January 2004 were banned. While the
party focuses on demonstrating against asylum seekers and against the IRA in Ulster,
it retains the antisemitic ideology of its mostly former NF founders.
The WNP’s move into parliamentary politics was thwarted in August when
the Electoral Commission refused to register its application on the grounds
that its name could cause offense. Two senior members, Mark Cotterill and
Russell Turner, therefore registered it as the England First Party and
it fought and lost its first election campaign
under this name in the Haysham South ward of Lancaster City Council
by-elections in February 2004.
The Freedom Party (FP) led by Adrian Davies, and Steve and Sharron
Edwards, is composed mostly of former BNP members and promotes an anti-European
and white nationalist ideology. The FP won two seats in local council elections
in Wimbourne, Staffordshire, in the May elections.
Although promoted less publicly than previously, antisemitism and
Holocaust denial are nevertheless reflected in the speeches of BNP, NF and WNP
leaders and members and in the literature sold through their book clubs.
Far Right-Wing Groups
neo-Nazi skinhead groups again declined during 2003 with virtually no public
activity by Combat 18 (C18) or the British Movement. They
nevertheless remain in existence, focusing their activity primarily on football
violence and through Blood & Honour.
The Racial Volunteer Force, an offshoot of C18, was investigated
during the course of the year for threats made to anti-fascist councilors and
journalists in the north of England on its Redwatch-linked website. The
organizers, who are long-term neo-Nazi activists, include Kevin Watmough,
formerly of C18 and now involved with the WNP, Tony White and Tony Foy.
Likewise, the national revolutionary International Third Position
(ITP) reduced its level of public activity although it maintained its contacts
in eastern Europe, France and Spain.
Militant Islamist and other Muslim Groups
The most active
antisemitic Islamist group in the UK is al-Muhajiroun (The Emigrants –
AM). AM is hostile toward Israel and Jews, its speakers deny the Holocaust, and
its leaders support suicide terrorism. In July police raided AM offices and the
homes of leaders Omar Bakri Muhammad and Anjem Choudary, and the Crown
Prosecution Service (CPS) is currently considering criminal prosecutions
against them. Muhammad claimed that Omar Khan Sharif and Asif Muhammad Hanif,
the Hamas-trained British-born suicide bombers who attacked the Mike’s Place
disco in Tel Aviv in April, were members of AM (see also ASW 2002/3).
AM were subsequently evicted from their offices by their local council
landlords and although the group continues to hold public meetings it has been
forced to scale down its activities as a consequence of police activity.
Mustafa Kamil, aka Shaykh Abu Hamza al-Masri, founder of Supporters of
Sharia, was permanently banned by the Charity Commission from preaching and
teaching at the North London Central Mosque in Finsbury Park, which had been
his base for several years. In January the mosque was raided by police and several
arrests were made. The police search found that the mosque had been used to
store false passports, computer equipment for use in cloning credit cards and
other articles for the purpose of committing terrorist acts.
Abu Hamza al-Masri was subsequently forced out of the mosque altogether following
a Charity Commission investigation, the report of which described the mosque as
a focal point for extremists and a base from which he spread extremist views.
Al-Masri is currently appealing against the US authorities, following the
conviction of James Ujaama on terrorism charges in Seattle.
Al-Masri was the subject of complaints to the police in February 2004 by
the BoD following continued antisemitic speeches made on the pavement outside Finsbury
Park Mosque during his Friday prayer sessions.
Hizb ut-Tahrir (HUT) campaigned openly during the year on behalf
of its four members charged in Egypt with attempting to overthrow the state,
and of members charged with terrorist offenses by the Russian authorities.
During the latter part of the year it was the most active campaigner against
the hijab ban in France (see France).
AM, SOS and HUT all promote antisemitic and anti-Zionist ideologies,
preaching that Jews are the enemies of Islam and seek world domination.
Although Louis Farrakhan was banned from entering the UK he spoke via
live satellite transmission to a meeting of several hundred supporters of the Nation
of Islam (NOI) at a theater in Hammersmith in December 2002, and again to a
meeting in Hackney in January 2004. Like the Islamist groups NOI promotes
During February 2004 the New Black Panther Party was established
in London and although promoting an African Liberation ideology it follows the
anti-Jewish ideology of a group of the same name founded in the US by Khalid
Abdul Muhammad, a former NOI spokesman.
The Islamic Party of Britain suspended its activities in June.
Founded in 1989 by Sahib Mustaqim Bleher and David Musa Pidcock, it has failed
to attract supporters. It does however retain its Internet website.
Violence, Vandalism, Threats and Insults
The CST recorded
a total of 375 antisemitic incidents during 2003, a 7 percent increase over the
previous year (350 incidents). Violent assaults rose by 15 percent (54
incidents) over 2002 (47 incidents).
Damage and desecration of communal property increased by 31 percent from
55 incidents in 2002 to 72 in 2003. These included 22 synagogue and 7 cemetery
Verbal and written threats to members of the community increased by 22
percent, from 18 incidents in 2002 to 22 incidents in 2003. Abusive behavior
declined by 2 percent, from 216 incidents in 2002 to 211 in 2003. This category
encompasses the full range of low-level, often spontaneous, antisemitic abuse
and is usually taken as an indicator of the level of antisemitism in society.
The number of such incidents has risen in recent years, but the likelihood of
under-reporting in this particular category makes analysis difficult.
The targeted distribution of antisemitic literature continues at low
levels, rising from 14 in 2002 to 16 incidents in 2003.
It should be noted that 57 incidents overall were recorded during October
2003, the second-highest monthly total ever recorded, and the catalyst for this
was thought to be a major suicide attack in Haifa followed by Israel’s bombing
of a terrorist training facility in Syria. Forty-eight incidents were recorded
during March 2003, the month that the Iraq war began, almost double the number
of incidents recorded during March 2002 (26). Of the 375 antisemitic incidents
in 2003, 75 showed specific anti-Zionist motivation compared with 53 incidents
indicating far right motivation.
Sixty-seven incidents overall appeared to be opportunistic attacks, both
physical and verbal, on members of the community, including women and children,
and these constituted the most common type of incident. The second largest
category of incidents (63 incidents) targeted Jewish communal organizations
including old people’s homes, cultural organizations and representative bodies.
Fifty-four incidents were attacks on synagogue buildings and a further 11
incidents were directed against synagogue congregants on their way to or from
prayers, which may also have been opportunistic.
Over 500 gravestones were smashed in the east London cemetery at Plashet
at the beginning of May, the largest such desecration ever recorded. A group of
youths of varying religious backgrounds were subsequently convicted.
continued to be principal source of antisemitic propaganda in 2003/4. In
February a video of a jihadist rap song, “Dirty Kuffar,” was advertised on the
website of Muhammad al-Mas‘ari, the
Saudi Islamist expatriate who founded the Committee for Defense of Legitimate
Rights in Saudi Arabia, and was referred to the prosecuting authorities. At the
end of the year the government undertook to investigate ways of ending the
satellite broadcast of antisemitic material into Britain, particularly that
from the al-Manar Hizballah TV station following complaints from the BoD and
Especially troubling was the infiltration of antisemitic opinions to the
mainstream. In February the London Evening
Standard newspaper was forced to apologize after columnist A.N. Wilson
recommended an antisemitic book by Michael Hoffman III, the American Holocaust
denier and far right propagandist, in an anti-Israel article. Tom Dalyell (Labour),
the longest serving Member of Parliament, was widely criticized in the media
and in Parliament following a press interview in May in which he stated that
Prime Minister Tony Blair was unduly influenced by a “cabal” of Jewish advisors
in his Middle East policy.
A preview of the Mel Gibson film, The Passion of the Christ, was
attended by film critics, representatives of the churches and the Jewish
community and others. Jewish community leaders were unanimous in their concern
that the film would set back the course of Christian-Jewish dialogue.
ATTITUDES TOWARD THE HOLOCAUST AND THE NAZI ERA
Holocaust Memorial Day (HMD) on 27 January, the anniversary of the liberation
of Auschwitz, was marked by a national meeting held in Belfast addressed by
Prince Andrew, Nobel laureate Seamus Heaney, government ministers and Jewish
community leaders. HMD will henceforth be planned and coordinated by the Home
Office-funded Holocaust Memorial Day Trust. It will be composed of
representatives of the Holocaust Education Trust, the BoD, the privately-funded
Beth Shalom Holocaust museum near Nottingham, and others. HMD was commemorated
in schools around the country and received considerable national and local
media coverage. Football clubs, in particular, marked the day with articles in their
fixture programs, and several cities noted the role of World War II citizens
who had saved Jewish lives.
In September the home secretary unveiled a memorial statue to the Kindertransport
at Liverpool Street Station. The Kindertransport operation, supported by the
British government, evacuated 10,000 children from Nazi Germany, most of whom
arrived at the rail terminal in the City of London just prior to the outbreak
of World War II.
The veteran Nazi war crimes investigator, Simon Wiesenthal, was awarded
an honorary knighthood by the Queen in February 2004 in recognition of his
unparalleled standing in the fight against antisemitism and racism.
Holocaust denier David Irving continued to seek the return of his archive
through legal action in the courts. Cambridge University Union cancelled its
invitation to him to participate in a debate on free speech in April, and his
publicized 2003 speaking tour of the UK failed to take place. However his fifth
annual Real History Conference took place in Cincinnati, US, in August,
attended by only a few dozen participants.
Open Holocaust denial in Britain is promoted mainly by Islamist groups,
but local BNP, NF and WNP organizers all disseminate it at their meetings..
Responses to Racism and Antisemitism
regulations came into force to comply with the European Commission Race
Directive of July 2000. These set out a new definition of indirect
discrimination bringing it into line with that of the Sex Discrimination Act
1975. The regulation creates a new definition of harassment, making it an
explicit offense; it introduces a new defense where race is a genuine and
determining requirement for a job; reverses the burden of truth in employment
tribunal proceedings; and brings the Race Relations Act into line with the Sex
Discrimination Act, so that the burden shifts to the employer to prove that
there was no racial discrimination if an applicant proves a prima facia case of
The Religious Offences Committee of the House of Lords reported in
December following a two-year investigation. It concluded that there was
insufficient evidence to suggest a need for additional legislation to make
incitement to religious hatred an offense. It also recommended that the (rarely
used) law on blasphemy remain as it is, protecting only Christianity, on the
grounds that it would be too difficult to update.
In December the Employment Equality (Religion or Belief) Regulations came
into force, making it illegal to discriminate in employment and vocational
training on the grounds of religion or a belief that is akin to religion or
similar philosophical belief.
In November the government began a consultation process to explore the
application of a restorative justice strategy to the adult criminal justice
Section 95 of
the Criminal Justice Act 1991 requires the Home Office to publish annual
statistics on race hate crimes, but only in recent years have criminal justice
agencies begun their monitoring in a consistent and reliable fashion.
The number of racist incidents recorded by the police rose by 2 percent
from 53,092 in 2000/1 to 54,351 in 2001/2. The number of racially aggravated
offenses rose by 20 percent from 25,120 in 2000/1 to 30,113 in 2001/2. These
resulted in 8,890 prosecutions in 2001/2, which in turn led to 2,480
convictions in the lower magistrates courts and 1,490 convictions in the higher
Antisemitic incidents and crimes are not reported separately but analysis
of the incidents recorded by the CST indicate that they follow the national
trend and that the majority of racist incidents are either damage to property
or verbal harassment.
Among the convictions for racist/hate crimes in 2003/early 2004: in
January Francis Dunlavey, a Manchester City football fan, was banned from
football grounds for three years and fined for making indecent and racial
chants when he made antisemitic comments at a game against Tottenham Hotspurs
in December 2002. In February Philip Norman from Bucknel was jailed for
eighteen months after pleading guilty to a campaign of racially aggravated
harassment against Ed Doolan, a Jewish Radio West Midlands presenter. Norman
had bombarded him with more than one hundred antisemitic and threatening
In July 2003 the High Court rejected an appeal brought by Mark Anthony
Norwood, BNP regional organizer for Shropshire and a local councilor, following
his conviction in 2002 for displaying a poster in the window of his home which
was offensive to Muslims. During the same month Norwood was also given a
six-month community rehabilitation order and ordered to pay court costs after
being found guilty of an assault on a man whom he had thought was Jewish.
In November 2003 the Broadcasting Standards Commission upheld a complaint
that James Stannage, a Manchester radio disk jockey, had made remarks that were
offensive to Jews.
Several Muslim extremists were arrested and/or jailed in 2003/early 2004.
Shaykh Abd ‘Allah al-Faysal, who had urged Muslims to kill Jews, was jailed for
nine years in March for soliciting murder and using threatening and insulting
words in taped lectures. He was further sentenced to be deported on completion
of his prison term. In February 2004 his sentence was reduced to seven years by
the Court of Appeal.
In September the former Iranian Ambassador to Argentina, Hadi Soleimanpour,
a post graduate student in Britain, was arrested in connection with the July
1994 bombing of the AMIA building in Buenos Aires. However, he was subsequently
released after a court decided there was insufficient evidence to fulfill the
Argentinean extradition request.
In January 2003 the House of Lords dismissed appeals by Samar Alami and
Jawed Botmeh who had been convicted of conspiracy to bomb the Israel Embassy
and Balfour House in 1994.
Official and Public Activities
In July the CPS
launched its Public Policy Statement on Racist and Religious Crime which sets
out the nature of racist and religious criminal offenses and penalties for
breaches of the law. The booklet, written by a working party of senior
officials of the CPS, the Metropolitan Police Service and others including a
representative of the BoD/CST, was distributed to all police stations, public
libraries and citizens’ advice bureaus.
During 2003 the Metropolitan Police Authority Racial Violence Sub-Group
began a series of regular meetings to examine the nature of racial and
religious violence in London, and the consequences of prosecution. Small
working parties were established, including one composed of senior CPS officials,
the deputy head of the Metropolitan Police Racial and Violent Crime Task Force,
the Central Criminal Court, Searchlight magazine and the BoD/CST, to
analyze and assess the statistics on racial crime drawn from the police, the
prosecuting authorities and the courts.
In February Professor Roderick Floud, president of Universities UK
(formerly the Committee of Vice Chancellors and Principals), the umbrella body
for British universities, wrote to all university and college heads to draw
their attention to the rise in antisemitic activities across universities, and
requesting that they take appropriate action.
During 2003 the National Union of Teachers published a public statement
and guidelines for teachers on combating racism and antisemitism. In addition
to policy recommendations, which note the religious and Middle East origins of
antisemitic incitement, the statement also provides useful information on the
Jewish community and guidance on commemorating HMD.
In October the National Union of Students passed a motion opposing
antisemitism and other forms of racism including Islamophobia. The motion noted
the global increase in antisemitic violence, condemned academic boycotts and
noted the existing bans on AM and HUT.
The joint presidents of the Council of Christians and Jews, the
Archbishop of Canterbury, the Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster, the moderator
of the Church of Scotland, the moderator of the Methodist Church, the Orthodox
bishop and the chief rabbi published an open letter in The Times newspaper
on HMD condemning the rise in antisemitism. In their letter, which was widely
reported in the media, they acknowledged that some antisemitism extended to a
denial of Israel’s right to exist and served as a justification for attacks on
Following the release in February 2004 of the CST Antisemitic Incidents
Report, Patsy Calton and a group of 55 MPs tabled an Early Day Motion in the
House of Commons which noted the rise in antisemitic incidents and welcomed the
prosecution of anti-Jewish hate crimes.
The BoD and CST were actively involved in the European political process
to analyze and take action against antisemitism. They did so on their own
account, through the BoD’s membership of the European Jewish Congress and via
multilateral bodies such as the OSCE (Organization for Security and Cooperation
Public Opinion Poll
In January 2004
the Jewish Chronicle published the results of a poll it had commissioned
from Independent Communications and Marketing Research (ICM). In response to
the question, “Do Jews make a positive contribution to political, social and
cultural life in Britain?” 23 percent strongly agreed, 37 percent agreed and 44
percent said they did not know. Only 20 percent disagreed, of which 11 percent
In response to the question, “Do Jews have too much influence?” 31
percent strongly disagreed, 47 percent disagreed, and 35 percent did not know.
Only 18 percent agreed, of which 8 percent strongly agreed.
In response to the question, “Would a British Jew make an equally
acceptable prime minister as a member of any other faith?” 40 percent strongly
agreed, 53 percent agreed, and 28 percent declared themselves neutral. Only 18
percent disagreed, of which 11 percent strongly disagreed.
In response to the question, “Has the scale of the Nazi Holocaust against
the Jews during the Second World War been exaggerated?” 62 percent strongly
disagreed, 70 percent disagreed, and 15 percent declared themselves neutral.
Only 15 percent agreed, of which 10 percent strongly agreed.