The year 1997 was marked by a relatively low level of far right activity
in the UK. This was partly due to a series of trials against leading
extremists, including a number of Combat 18 activists for anti-Semitic and
Holocaust denial offenses. A slight decrease of 5 percent was noted in overall
anti-Semitic acts, although there was a rise in violent assaults. The Crime
and Disorder Bill, due to become law in 1998, is aimed at addressing gaps in
existing legislation by creating new offenses of racial violence and
THE JEWISH COMMUNITY
The Jewish community of the United Kingdom numbers 300,000 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). The Jewish population has experienced a marked
decline of 25 percent since 1967, mainly due to a low birth rate,
intermarriage and emigration.
The central organization of British Jewry is the Board of Deputies of British
Jews. Security and defense activity is organized through the Community
Security Trust. The main community paper is the 140-year-old Jewish Chronicle,
which is read by an estimated 75 percent of the community, and also enjoys a
worldwide readership. British Jewry participates fully in public life,
including the highest offices of state.
EXTREMIST ORGANIZATIONS AND HATE GROUPS
Extreme Right-Wing Political Parties and Groups
Britain's ultra-right-wing political parties, the British National Party
(BNP), the National Democratic Party (NDP) and the National Front (NF),
maintained a low level of activity during most of 1997. The media attention
devoted to all three parties is disproportionate to their real political
power, which remains marginal.
All three fielded candidates in the May general election. The BNP received an
average of 1.35 percent of the vote, doing well in traditional areas of
support, such as the East End of London and the West Midlands. The NDP
obtained an average of 1.12 percent, with one candidate gaining as much as
11.39 percent. The NF was the least successful, with only 0.98 percent of the
vote. All three also contested seats in by-elections, in most cases winning no
more than 2 percent of the vote.
The BNP's foreign connections were further strengthened during 1997 when in
June it hosted the Ring-UK Summer Camp in Derbyshire, attended by members of
other European neo-Nazi groups, and by sending a small delegation in September
to attend the trial in France of Robert Faurisson and thereafter a meeting of
the FN (see France). In addition, a TV documentary revealed efforts by a
prominent BNP activist, Nick Griffen, to obtain funding from the French FN.
The BNP remains committed to anti-Semitic and neo-Nazi ideology, although its
public stand is to promote opposition to the "global economy" and European
economic and political integration. It has been increasingly appealing to
middle-Britain, the so-called white vote, which it believes to be intimidated
by Britain's ethnic and religious minorities.
The various extra-parliamentary right-wing groups connected to the violent
Combat 18 (C18) and its political umbrella group, the National Socialist
Alliance, were troubled by feuding during 1997, following the trial and
imprisonment of two leaders, Charlie Sargent and Will Browning, in February
for publishing grossly anti-Semitic literature (see below). Sargent, together
with Martin Cross, another C18 leader, was subsequently convicted and
sentenced to life imprisonment in January 1998 for the murder of a junior
C18 member. Between them Sargent and Browning had controlled Blood & Honour,
the neo-Nazi skinhead music movement, and it was over the management of the
merchandising revenues from this organization that the feud began.
The loosening of control over the movement led to the establishment of a
number of new groups, the most notable of which was the National Socialist
Movement (NSM), led by Sargent's brother Steve, and Dave Myatt. The Ku Klux
Klan moved its area of activity from the provinces to London and began a
recruitment campaign under its new leader Alan Winder. These groups, however,
have only loosely defined identities of their own, and membership frequently
Other marginal right-wing groups include the International Third Position,
which is increasingly influenced by Lefebrist Catholic ideology and is
strongly anti-Zionist, and the Third Way, which now tends to concentrate on
local political issues.
Extremist Islamic and Other Groups
In recent years Britain has become a center for militant Islamist activists,
either fleeing persecution in their countries of origin, or who chose Britain
as a safe haven from which to operate, in some cases, against their homeland.
During 1997, Britain encountered criticism from several Arab and Muslim
countries for giving asylum to Islamist militants whose countries of origin
sought their extradition.
Among those groups seeking to influence Britain's indigenous Muslim community
are Hizb ut-Tahrir (Islamic Liberation Party -- HUT) and al-Muhajiroun (The
Emigrants - AM). Both groups reverted to their former mode of recruitment and
activity within the Muslim community, via mosques and "study circles,"
following the 1995 ban by the National Union of Students, but since the start
of the 1997 academic term they have returned to campus activity, albeit under
In August AM organized an "International March Against Oppression" for which
publicity was circulated worldwide via posters and the Internet. The march was
planned as a series of simultaneous events in America, France, Pakistan,
Turkey and Britain, but only the London rally took place, in Trafalgar Square,
attracting only seven hundred participants and reflecting AM's marginal
position within the Muslim community. During interviews to the media on
several occasions in 1997, AM leader Omar Bakri Mohammed justified Islamist
terrorism and attacked moderate Muslim statements.
Due both to financial and political considerations, the Muslim Parliament (MP)
met infrequently during the course of 1997, and suffered a setback when it was
forced to dismiss the chairman of its Human Rights Committee for negligence
and mismanagement. However, during the summer the MP announced plans to reform
itself, among other steps, giving seats to representatives of other radical
Islamist groups, including the Campaign for the Defense of Legitimate Rights
and the Algerian Islamic Salvation Front (FIS).
In October the MP convened an international conference entitled "Islamophobia:
the oldest hatred," which, as with previous conferences, provided a venue for
Islamists from around the world to meet. Attending the conference were the
Swiss convert and Holocaust denier Ahmed Huber, and the anti-Semitic deputy
director of the Muslim Institute, Dr. Yaqub Zaki, both of whom made
The Nation of Islam (NOI), headed by the American Louis Farrakhan, continued
to grow in Britain, albeit slowly and without much success; however, members
attended meetings of expatriate Islamist groups which had previously shunned
them. In autumn, a campaign was initiated to have the 1986 exclusion order
lifted on Farrakhan. As a consequence, and despite the fact that the order was
reviewed and extended in 1996, the home secretary has undertaken to re-examine
the evidence in order to establish whether Farrakhan's entry into Britain
would be "conducive to the public good."
Whilst the secular, left-wing anti-Zionist groups in Britain were weakened by
the peace process in the aftermath of the Madrid Conference, they were
invigorated in 1997, and both the Palestine Solidarity Campaign and the
Friends of Samar Alami, formed to secure the release of the Palestinian
bombers of the Israel Embassy and Joint Israel Appeal headquarters in 1994,
held meetings and demonstrations.
There were 217 recorded incidents during 1997, a 5 percent reduction compared
with the previous year (228 incidents). As in 1996 this decrease may be
ascribed to more effective policing, criminal prosecutions and a more
determined and open defensive posture by the Jewish community.
Violence, Vandalism, Threats and Insults
Despite the overall decrease, violent assaults and acts of life-threatening
violence both increased (18 violent assaults versus 13 in 1996 and 4
life-threatening acts versus 1 in 1996). Worthy of note were several
hit-and-run attempts around the High Holy Days in Manchester and Borehamwood,
when car drivers deliberately attempted to hit worshippers on their way to or
from synagogues, assaults against Orthodox Jews in Golders Green, Stamford
Hill and Manchester, and the air rifle shootings at a rabbi and congregants in
Damage and desecration of communal property constituted the second largest
number of incidents, after abusive behavior, rising to 57 (31 in 1996).
However, there were no instances of the large-scale desecrations of cemeteries
or synagogues seen in previous years. A series of arson attacks was carried
out on Ruislip Synagogue in April, May and August, a Jewish-owned estate
agency's windows opposite the Central London Mosque were smashed by a convert
to Islam, in September (see below), and there was a continuing series of
incidents against communal institutions in Manchester.
Anti-Semitic threats fell to 19 reported incidents (42 in 1996), almost
equally divided between non-repeated threats to individuals and nuisance bomb
hoaxes. Abusive behavior fell to 86 incidents from 115 incidents in 1996.
Notable in this category was the attack on a performance of a play about Anne
Frank, by a non-Jewish theater company at the Warehouse Theatre in South East
London in October. As with several other similar incidents, it marked a new
trend in which members of far right groups have begun to attend public events
associated with the Holocaust or with Anne Frank.
Although the large-scale distribution of literature rose to 33 reported
incidents (26 in 1996), this category has seen consecutive reductions in
recent years as police action against the perpetrators has become more
effective (see below).
Anti-Semitic propaganda is generally published only by the fringe organizations mentioned above. Prosecutions during the course of the year halted the publication of obscene and violent material but not the overall quantity, and indeed, the loosening of control within the BNP and C18 prompted several emerging factions to start their own publications.
Among the most noteworthy anti-Semitic publications were Who Are the
Mind-Benders, written by Nick Griffin and Mark Deavin, for the BNP, and a
four-page pamphlet entitled "Zionist-Jewry's 'Security' Outfit Is OUT OF
CONTROL." The former, a magazine modeled on an American original, asserts that
Jews seek to control the thought processes of the British, and is illustrated
with the names and photographs of several hundred Jews prominent in the media
and advertising. The latter, published by Inner Circle Researchers, a front
for former NF leader Martin Webster, accuses the Community Security
Organisation of being a paramilitary body working for the Mossad.
Among the more extreme publications is Strikeforce, published by C18 leader
Will Browning, following his early release from prison (see below), in which
he makes clear C18's involvement in the Danish letter bomb plot of January
1997 (see Denmark) and his intention to continue terrorism.
The posting of anti-Semitic material on the Internet continued, but most
anti-Semitic material originated in the US. British postings of note, however,
included that of NSM leader Dave Myatt, whose violent neo-Nazi creed is posted
from Canada. Most far right parties and extra-parliamentary groups now have
their own sites, as do the Islamists.
ATTITUDES TOWARD THE HOLOCAUST AND THE NAZI ERA
In December 1997, the British government convened a major international
conference dealing with Nazi gold in London. Forty governments, three banks
and an international Jewish delegation met to discuss the historical facts and
review the steps taken for compensation.
Most far right groups promote Holocaust denial through their associated book
clubs and recommended reading lists; the main pseudo-scientific and
pseudo-historical publications may be purchased only from them and are not
available in mainstream bookshops. The same applies to David Irving's works,
few of which are retailed by bookstores.
As in recent years, Irving was mostly active in America rather than Britain
during 1997. His attempts to give evidence on behalf of Frederick Toben,
director of Australia's Adelaide Institute, which promotes Holocaust denial,
came to naught when in November he was refused a visa to visit Australia for
the fifth time in four years (see Australia). Irving continued to harass his
detractors through the English courts, and in late 1998, or early 1999, the
courts will hear his actions for alleged defamation against Professor Deborah
Lipstadt and her publishers, Penguin Books, and against Gitta Sereny and
Observer Newspapers (see ASW 1996/7).
Cromwell Press and the Centre for Historical Review, both owned by Anthony
Hancock, continued to publish Holocaust denial, as well as far right and
neo-Nazi publications for the international market.
Szymon Serafinowicz, who would have been the defendant at Britain's first war
crimes trial, died in January at the age of eighty-six. A second war crimes
trial was due early in 1998, when Andrzej Sawoniuk was to be charged with
killing Jews in Belarus.
Some Islamists also promote Holocaust denial, most notably AM, but the
overwhelming influence of teaching the Holocaust within the national history
curriculum coverage of the Second World War, has ensured that deniers remain
confined to the anti-Semitic political fringe.
RESPONSES TO RACISM AND ANTI-SEMITISM
The Crime and Disorder Bill, which will become law in 1998, aims at addressing
gaps in the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act of 1994 by creating new
offenses of racial violence and harassment. It will provide for the immediate
arrest, without warrant, of anyone suspected of committing a racially
aggravated public order offense and stipulate stronger penalties where racial
aggression is proven.
Guidelines drawn up by a working party of magistrates and justice clerks, and
approved by the lord chancellor and lord chief justice (the head of the
criminal justice system), were sent to all magistrates in April. The
guidelines urge that racial motivation be taken into account when sentencing
in all offenses of violence, burglary and criminal damage.
The establishment of a team of detectives within the Metropolitan Police
dedicated to investigating violent neo-Nazi and other subversive and terrorist
groups, has begun to disrupt the activities of some of the most violent
neo-Nazis, and has led to the arrest and imprisonment of some of them. The
team's main focus is within Britain but inquiries, and assistance to other
police forces, has extended to the US, Canada, Australia, France, Germany and
This international cooperation was manifested in the investigation and
prevention of the C18-inspired bombing campaign which spanned Britain,
Denmark, Austria and Sweden, and in the banning of the Rock against Communism
Aryan Music Fest due to have taken place in South Wales in August, and to
which one thousand neo-Nazis were expected. Following the ban, Billy Bartlett
of Celtic Warrior, the organizer, and three American neo-Nazis, were arrested.
As a result of these measures, a series of trials against prominent
anti-Semites and Holocaust deniers from the far right took place in 1997. In
March, three leaders of C18, Charlie Sargent, Will Browning and Martin Cross,
were given prison terms of 12 to 17 months for publishing and distributing
issues nos. 1 and 3 of Combat 18, which contained crude anti-Semitic articles
and drawings, advice on how to construct bombs and booby-traps and elements of
Holocaust denial. In September, Mark Atkinson and Robin Grey were sentenced
for publishing and distributing The Stormer, with hit lists of anti-fascists,
Jews and Jewish communal institutions, and famous black sportsmen. Many people
on the lists received hate mail and threatening phone calls and several
synagogues were attacked. In addition, in July, four northern leaders of
Combat 18 were imprisoned in Oldham, Lancashire, for distributing anti-Semitic
and anti-immigrant material likely to incite racial hatred, and one of the C18
men involved in the international letter bomb campaign, Darren Wells, was
subsequently imprisoned in Scotland for possession of an offensive weapon.
Alexander Baron, a so-called libertarian, and prolific writer of anti-Semitic
and Holocaust denial publications, was found not guilty of intimidating a
witness and making threats to kill, following an investigation of his
financial affairs by the Department of Social Security. Baron conducted his
own defense financed with support gained from adverts placed on the Internet
site of the American neo-Nazi Harold Covington, alias Winston Smith. In
September his civil case against Gerry Gable, editor of the anti-fascist
magazine Searchlight, who had labeled him an anti-Semite, was settled out of
court, but Gable was not forced to retract his statement. In December,
however, Baron was charged with offenses under the Malicious Communications
Act, and his case was due to be heard early in 1998.
Among other cases: In July, Gerald Rowe, a seventy-year-old former senior NF
member, was found guilty on sixteen charges of possession of material likely
to incite racial hatred, with a view to distribution. Rowe was known to the
Jewish community as having been responsible, with others, for the production
and distribution of large numbers of anti-Jewish hoax letters, during the
early- and mid-1990s. In August, five drunken football fans traveling by train
between Glasgow and Aberdeen were arrested and subsequently convicted for
screaming '"We hate the Jews," "Kill the Bill" (police), and for giving Nazi
salutes. Nick Griffin, a former NF leader and now a leader of the BNP, and
Paul Ballard, a BNP activist, were charged in July with race hatred offenses
in connection with their magazine The Rune, which contains both anti-Semitic
libel and Holocaust denial material. Ballard has since pleaded guilty and the
trial was due to take place inl April 1998. Griffin made clear his intention
to challenge the facts of the Holocaust and to call as defense witnesses the
French denier Robert Faurisson and the American Michael Hoffman II.
The first trial of an Islamist militant charged with inciting anti-Semitism was
due to take place in February 1998, following the refusal of Amera Mirza of the
AM to stop displaying anti-Semitic and Holocaust denying placards at a picket
outside Ealing Town Hall in October. The case of Anthony Millington, a convert
to Islam, who smashed the windows of a Jewish-owned estate agency opposite the
Central London Mosque and then assaulted the police officers called to arrest
him, was deferred to early 1998 to await psychiatric reports.
Britain's assumption of the presidency of the European Union (EU) in 1998, and
its planned ratification of the European Convention on Civil Liberties and
Human Rights, are expected to lead to other initiatives during the course of
1998. The 1997 EU Year Against Racism was not generally successful in Britain,
and applications to fund Jewish community-led schemes to monitor racism and
promote tolerance were not supported, although three small Jewish community
initiatives did receive financing.
The Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals, the umbrella body for
British universities, produced a draft report in June 1997 on extremism and
intolerance on British campuses. It is expected that this will lead to new
guidelines proscribing the activities of Islamist groups like AM and HUT
within British universities.