There were 232 recorded anti-Semitic incidents in the United Kingdom up to
the end of December 1998, a 5.9 per cent increase over the previous year.
Activity by extreme right-wing groups declined during the year while that of
Islamist groups increased, including anti-Jewish propaganda. The Crime
and Disorder Act adopted in 1998, which relates specifically to racial
offenses, is expected to lead to a reduction in such crimes.
THE JEWISH COMMUNITY
The Jewish community of the United Kingdom numbers approximately
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). Birmingham,
Brighton, Bournemouth, Gateshead, Hull, Leicester, Liverpool, Newcastle-upon-
Tyne, Southend and Westcliff also have sizable communities, and there
are dozens of smaller communities across the British Isles. The Jewish
population has experienced a marked decline of 25 percent since 1967 due
to a low birth rate, 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 Jewish Care, World Jewish
Relief, and the United Joint Israel Appeal. A growing network of Jewish day
schools operates in London and in other major cities, and their are several
institutions for tertiary Jewish studies. The main community newspapers are
the 140-year-old Jewish Chronicle, the Jewish Telegraph, in the North of
England and Scotland, and the London Jewish News. Jewish programs are
broadcast by several local radio stations.
POLITICAL PARTIES AND EXTRA-PARLIAMENTARY GROUPS
The British National Party (BNP), led by John Tyndall, remains the largest
extreme right-wing organization. Its policies promote racial hatred and
Holocaust denial. National and local activity remained at a low level
following large-scale defections in 1996 and 1997, although the influence of
some dynamic local leaders, such as Nick Griffin and Tony Lecomber, during
1998 led to campaigns to recruit farmers, publish on the Internet and oppose
the building of mosques by the Muslim community. The BNP contested 34
seats in the local elections of May 1998, winning 6,029 votes, or 3.28 per cent
of the total votes cast in the wards contested. Covert negotiations early in the
year led to several branches of the National Democrats (see below) defecting
to the BNP in the Midlands area, but the party continued to decline in
influence and activity. The BNP publishes two national journals, Spearhead
and British Nationalist, as well as locally circulated journals, and maintains
The BNP is currently the subject of intense speculation over the
leadership of the party, with predictions that, at some point in 1999, a
coalition of Griffin, Lecomber and the party press officer Mike Newland will
attempt to oust Tyndall.
The National Democratic Party (NDP), led by Ian Anderson, also
continued to decline in activity and influence and contested only 5 wards in
the local elections, securing 622 votes, or 2.4 per cent of the votes cast. The
NDP publications, The Flag and Vanguard, appeared irregularly.
Although now active in only three areas the National Front (NF) took
the lead among extreme right-wing groups in campaigning against the
admission to Britain of East European asylum seekers, and a series of
demonstrations in Dover in the middle and end of the year attracted national
media coverage. At the turn of the year, the NF were trying to establish a
presence in East London, directly challenging the BNP. In the local elections
the NF contested four seats, receiving 551 votes, or 3.02 per cent of the votes
cast. The leaders are John McAuley, Terry Blackham and Wayne Ashcroft.
The group publishes The Flame and The Nationalist, and maintains a
The violently anti-Jewish Combat 18 (C18) has now split into two rival
groups: Combat 18 itself, and the National Socialist Movement (NSM) (see
ASW 1997/ 8). Activity during 1998 was minimal and centered around their
international music interests (sale of CDs, merchandising, etc.). C18, led by
Will Browning, Darren Wells and Del O'Connor publishes Strikeforce and an
occasional anti-NSM bulletin. The NSM, led by Steve Sargent and Tony
Williams, publishes White Dragon, Column 88 and an occasional bulletin
called Racial Comrade and Volk Family.
The International Third Position (ITP), a small National Revolutionary
group, which publishes anti-Zionist and anti-Semitic propaganda, puts up
racist, anti-Semitic, anti-abortion and homophobic stickers and posters, and
has developed links with many US and European extremist groups, using its
daily Internet posting Final Conflict e-mail, to pursue these. It also publishes
two journals, Final Conflict and The Voice of St. George. During 1998 growing
links with Islamists also became apparent.
A breakaway from the ITP, the English Nationalist Movement, led by
Troy Southgate, changed its name during 1998 to the National
Revolutionary Faction (NRF). The NRF publishes Catalyst and English
Alternative, both anti-Jewish but increasingly pursuing a militant Lefebrist
Catholic line (see France). At the end of January the group staged a small
demonstration and handed out anti-Semitic leaflets outside the Museum
of London, which featured the exhibition "The Life and Times of N. M.
Other marginal extreme right-wing anti-Semitic groups include the
British National Socialist Movement (BNSM; formerly the British
Movement), the League of Saint George which overlaps in membership
with the Friends of Oswald Mosley, and the British League of Rights,
which overlaps with Lady Jane Birdwood's British Solidarity. Colin Jordan,
the founding leader of the British Movement, an authoritative figure among
neo-Nazis in Britain and elsewhere, publishes the occasional Gothic Ripples,
as well as anti-Semitic leaflets and stickers.
Militant Islamist and Other Extremist Groups
Britain remains an international center for Islamist activity. The transnational
Islamist groups Ikhwan al Muslimun (Muslim Brotherhood), the Pakistan-based
Jamaat Islami, and Hizb ut-Tahir (Islamic Liberation Party -- HUT)
all maintain a presence in Britain, publishing literature and raising funds,
among other activities. All are anti-Jewish, but HUT has been the most
prominent in recent years in promoting anti-Jewish, anti-Sikh and anti-Hindu
demonstrations and confrontations. During 1998 its activities declined, a
consequence of divisions within the Middle East-based leadership. The
founder of HUT in Britain, Omar Bakri Fostok (Muhammad), is now the
leader, and Anjem Choudary and the Saudi exile Muhammad al-Massari head
al-Muhajiroun (The Emigrants -- AM), which was the most active anti-Jewish
Islamist group during 1998 (see below).
Despite media attention in the early summer period, the Nation of Islam
was not publicly active during the year, preferring to build its infrastructure
through recruitment and educational means. The Muslim Parliament (MP),
which in past years made many anti-Semitic statements, has virtually
collapsed as a consequence of financial problems, although Iqbal Siddiqui,
the son of the late Dr. Kalim Siddiqui, retains his position as head of the MP-linked
Muslim Institute (MI) and as the editor of Crescent, the pro-Iranian
international Islamist journal.
Violence, Vandalism, Threats and Insults
Recorded anti-Semitic activities and incidents increased marginally in 1998,
to 232, compared to 219 in 1997. As in previous years the largest numbers
of incidents were acts of abusive behavior against members of the Jewish
community (133 incidents in 1998; 86 in 1997). The second largest group was
the targeted distribution of anti-Semitic literature (36 incidents in 1998; 33 in
1997). Publishers and distributors of such literature remain cowed by the
successful criminal prosecutions of extreme right-wing activists which took
place during 1996 and 1997, and the only large-scale distribution of offensive
mail was in December 1998 when a large number of veterinary surgeons and
others in North London received hoax letters in the name of the Cats
Protection League, accusing Jews of killing domestic cats for religious
purposes. They bore the hallmarks of some of the previous hoax mail
distributed in 1996, the distributors of which were subsequently arrested and
convicted; it is thought that the 1998 leaflets were written by members of the
same group, former NF leaders.
The third group of recorded incidents was that of damage and
desecration of communal property. The substantial reduction in 1998 (31
incidents compared to 58 in 1997) may be ascribed to a lessening of Middle
East tensions and of corresponding reportage, successful police action
against extreme right-wing criminal activity and the continuing emphasis
placed on Jewish communal security. No major acts of vandalism took place
during the year.
Written and verbal anti-Semitic threats constituted the fourth group of
incidents. Again the fall (15 incidents in 1998; 19 in 1997) may be ascribed
to the reduced level of activity within the extreme right and reduced tensions
in the Middle East.
A similar decline in non-life-threatening assaults against members of the
community may also be ascribed to the above. In 1998, 17 assaults were
recorded, compared to 19 in 1997. There were no life-threatening assaults in
1998 (4 in 1997).
Most anti-Semitic propaganda is disseminated by militant Islamist groups,
such as the AM and HUT, but more moderate groups sometimes also convey
an anti-Jewish message. For example, in late January an issue of the weekly
Q-News published an article entitled "Jews Hail Temples of Doom," which
discussed the possible reaction of British Muslims to the destruction of the
holy sites in Jerusalem, allegedly in accordance with "Zionist designs." The
author claimed: "Outnumbering Britain's Jews by a ratio of seven to one, and
with little to lose, Britain's Muslims would certainly eliminate much of the
Jewish population, along with the entirety of identifiable synagogues. This
grim prospect would represent the largest civil war in this country since
Cromwell ... war on our streets, the final and loathsome consequence of
Western indulgence of Zionism since 1917, is a possibility for which we must
Two recurring themes featured in much Islamist propaganda during the
course of the year: that allied military action against Iraq supposedly
furthered a Zionist American plot to seize Muslim lands; and that Jerusalem
was a Muslim holy city, with neither Christians nor Jews having any claim
More than any other Islamist group, AM has made anti-Semitism a feature
of its activity. It pervades its meetings, its publications and its public
announcements. HUT, from which it split, remains active but in a less
provocative manner and without openly seeking to promote anti-Semitism.
Many other Islamist groups, and indeed many mosques, now promote a
form of anti-Semitism which sees Jews as usurpers and misinterpreters of
their own prophet's teachings, and who will receive their final retribution on
the Day of Judgment.
In March, AM posted stickers around London which stated "Holocaust --
Real Fact or Hollywood Fiction." These were in anticipation of their
demonstration against Israel's 50th anniversary celebrations, organized by
the Jewish community at Wembley Conference Centre in April. There, the
group organized a picket of the celebrations which was addressed by Yakub
Zaki, the deputy leader of the MI, whose anti-Semitic speech was the subject
of several complaints to the police.
In June, AM's poorly attended "Rally for Oppression II" in Trafalgar
Square, led to further complaints to the police with a request that one of the
speakers, Avais Khan, be prosecuted (a decision on this is still pending).
During the course of his speech, Khan stated: "The Jewish Holocaust was a
fabrication, and everybody knows that. But the way they kill the Muslims in
Palestine, that is the true Holocaust ... the dirty, cursed people, Yahud
[Arabic word for Jews], they make Hitler look like a saint ... How wicked,
how evil these Jews are ... they don't even deserve the death of a dog." AM's
subsequent "Rally for Islam II" in Trafalgar Square in July, attracted little
AM's largest gathering during the year was the "Conference of Islamic
Revival Movements," held London in November. Between 450 and 500
people attended the conference, which featured speakers from the AM as
well as from various other transnational Islamist groups. The aim of the event
was to bring together "all Islamic movements working for Islamic revival."
AM plan two more conferences early in 1999, the first of which is to be run
by Abu Hamza.
In December, forty members of AM held a demonstration opposite the
prime minister's official residence in Downing Street. Among the organized
chants were "bomb bomb London, bomb bomb JewSA [USA], JewK [UK] you
will pay, more bombs are on the way, terrorism is on its way, die die Tony
Blair, Blair's bullet is on the way." When the demonstrators started to burn
American flags, and were warned by the police to desist, violent clashes
ensued which led to six arrests.
During the autumn, members of AM disrupted the first two meetings of
the Calamus Maimonides Student Forum at London University, which has
brought together Jewish and Muslim students to discuss matters of mutual
Some Muslim bookshops continued to display versions of The Protocols
of the Elders of Zion and Henry Ford's The International Jew, and many sold
variations thereof, or other anti-Jewish material, much of which was
published in Iran.
On the far right, while criminal convictions of those responsible for
publishing crude anti-Semitism in recent years has led to a notable decline
in such material, the move by some activists into so-called animal rights and
farmers' campaigns against central government, has led to a small but
growing movement against shechita (Jewish ritual slaughter). In March 1998,
members of the BNP and ITP took part in the large "Countryside March" in
London, at which copies of a new BNP journal, British Countryman, were
distributed. This contained an article entitled "Stop the Real Cruelty," which
stated: "Hundreds of thousands of animals die in terror and agony by having
their throats slashed open without humane stunning. Halal and kosher ritual
slaughter of fully conscious animals is a barbaric affront to the British
tradition of livestock ... Ritual slaughter is a deliberate torture!"
Following its annual November rally, the BNP launched an attack on the
BOD and CST for supposedly trying to disrupt the event. An article in
Spearhead under the title "Jewish Nazis Try to Sabotage BNP Rally," stated
that "the rally has become the focus of a sinister attempt by a shadowy group
of Nazis calling itself the Board of Deputies of British Jews, to sabotage it
and stifle what little freedom of speech does still exist in Britain. Most people
have little idea that behind this innocuous-sounding name, the Board of
Deputies is in fact a front for politically motivated extremists to conduct
vendettas against their perceived enemies."
Internet. The Internet continued its growth as a favored medium for militant
Islamists and the far right. During the year, the AM site was twice closed
down by its Internet service providers following publication of offensive and
anti-Semitic postings. Most far-right groups have their own website, but ITP,
with its Final Conflict e-mail, is the most prolific publisher, with a daily
posting of articles and news drawn from many different countries. This daily
e-mail often contains anti-Semitism more extreme than anything seen in
printed form in the UK.
ATTITUDES TOWARD THE HOLOCAUST AND THE NAZI ERA
Holocaust Commemoration and Education
The annual Kristallnacht commemoration ceremonies were held in Britain
with the participation of anti-racist groups and the Jewish community. The
Holocaust has an increasing presence in educational activity, with the Anne
Frank Foundation's traveling exhibition, the Holocaust Education Trust
(HET), and the BOD Yad Vashem Committee continuing to provide valuable
resources for educators and the school system. The pioneering work of the
Searchlight Educational Trust was recognized at the end of 1998 by a
substantial award from the National Lottery Charities Board. During the year,
Anne Frank exhibitions were held at several universities and other
Far right groups continue to promote Holocaust denial literature through
their book clubs and publications but it is among Islamist groups that the
distribution of Holocaust denial literature has been growing.
Britain's leading Holocaust denier David Irving was seldom active
publicly in Britain during the year, preferring to tour America where he was
engaged in several national speaking tours to far-right groups. His civil
action in Britain against Professor Deborah Lipstadt and her publishers,
Penguin Books, and Gitta Sereny and her publishers, Guardian Newspapers,
will take place in January 2000. With the dismissal of his libel action against
the BOD in 1997, Irving was forced in January 1999 to repay the costs of his
failed action to the Board's solicitors, following several court applications to
have him made bankrupt as a result of his repeated failure to pay.
Anthony Hancock, the owner of Cromwell Press and the Centre of
Historical Review, continues to publish and distribute Holocaust denial
material, mostly in Germany and Scandinavia, from his Sussex base. German
judicial and police investigations into his Holocaust denial literature during
1997 and 1998 ceased following the realization that Hancock could not be
extradited to Germany, as the crimes which he had committed there have no
place in British law. However, his printing press was raided in January 1999
as part of a wider investigation into publishing and distribution of anti-Semitic
and Holocaust denial hate literature sent to members of the public
during the later part of 1998 by BM leader Colin Jordan.
In response to a government promise to review legislation governing
Holocaust denial, the Institute for Jewish Policy Research held a conference
on Holocaust denial legislation at the end of December 1997, and
commissioned a legal report which is expected to be published in 1999.
Following the December 1997 international conference of the Tripartite Gold
Commission, a fund was established to compensate surviving victims of the
Holocaust. In April the Department of Trade and Industry announced the
publication of a report by Foreign Office historians on the treatment of
enemy property during and after World War II, and as a consequence of its
findings, established a claims procedure to compensate those Jewish
refugees whose assets were seized by the British government during the war.
The compensation scheme was launched by the president of the Board of
Trade, Margaret Beckett MP, who stated that the government deeply
regretted the insensitive attitude displayed by some of those in government
who had dealt with claimants after the war. To aid its search, the government
published on the Internet 25,000 names of people for whom records existed.
If the two million pounds set aside was not fully taken up, the government
promised to devote the balance to an independent body for disbursement to
victims of Nazi persecution who continue to suffer hardship. In August 1998
the government agreed to open up its archives on assets seized from Jews
living in Mandatory Palestine during the war.
War Crimes Trials
In February 1999 Britain's second war crimes trial commenced against
Anthony Sawoniuk, who allegedly murdered Jews in Belarus in 1941. The
first trial, against Szymon Serafinowicz, was abandoned in January 1997 (see
ASW 1998/ 9). There may be one further trial, possibly during 1999 or 2000,
resulting from the investigation of over 300 cases by the now disbanded
Metropolitan Police War Crimes Unit.
RESPONSES TO RACISM AND ANTI-SEMITISM
Major improvements in the law against criminal racial offenses, including
anti-Semitic acts, were enacted in the Crime and Disorder Act 1998, in
fulfillment of the Labour Party's promise prior to the 1997 elections. The act
introduces specific racially aggravated offenses, that is, if either the offender
demonstrates racial hostility towards the victim at or around the time of the
offense, or the offense itself is motivated by racial hostility. It also enshrined
in legislation the 1995 Court of Appeal ruling that a sentence could be
lengthened if a racially motivating element was proven.
At the end of January Charlie Sargent, the former Combat 18 leader, and
Martin Cross, the former organizer for Blood & Honour, were both sentenced
to life imprisonment for the murder of fellow neo-Nazi Chris Castle. Castle
had been fatally stabbed in February 1997 after an argument at Sargent's
house in Harlow, Essex. The court case highlighted the growing split within
the hardcore neo-Nazi movement as former colleagues of the two accused
lined up to testify against them. Supporters of the Sargent brothers' faction
and of the Will Browning faction, who retain the title of Combat 18, both
appeared in court and a confrontation was avoided only by police
Also, at the end of January the trial of Dowager Lady Jane Birdwood, on
charges of incitement to racial hatred, was halted on the grounds that she no
longer had the mental capacity to stand trial. The case arose from the
production and distribution of the racist and anti-Semitic publication Choice.
The attorney general stressed that the judgment did not amount to a
discharge or an acquittal, nor was it a bar to further proceedings. The
editorship of Choice has now passed to former NF official Martin Webster.
Joint police action in Britain and France in February led to the arrest in
both countries of members of the neo-Nazi Charlemagne Hammerskins (see
also France). Members of the group were subsequently tried and convicted
in France for desecration of graves, and in Britain the leader, Hervé Guttuso,
was the subject of an extradition order in connection with hate material
posted by Bernard Klatt's FTCNET site based in British Columbia, Canada.
FTCNET was also the service provider for David Myatt's NSM postings, and
at the beginning of February police raided his home in the Midlands and
confiscated computer equipment and files. Although charged with
publishing hate material, which included a terrorism manual, Myatt's case did
not subsequently come to court as it was felt that the evidence provided by
the Canadian authorities was insufficient for a successful prosecution.
In February, Amir Mirza, a member of AM, stood trial for incitement to
racial hatred following a demonstration outside Ealing Town Hall at which
he refused to take down a banner that read "The hour will come when the
Muslims fight the Jews. The only place to meet Jews is on the battlefield.
What Holocaust?" The case against him was dropped, however, due to confusion
over whether it had been him or his twin brother who had been
warned by the police. Amir Mirza stood trial again in January 1999 for fire-bombing
a Territorial Army base in West London during the US bombing of
Baghdad. His case was referred to a higher court for a hearing at the end of
At the end of April, Francis William Pitt was convicted of incitement to
racial hatred following the distribution of BNP leaflets about the time of the
general election in May 1997. The case was an important one as it defined
what constitutes racial hatred in the context of political campaign literature.
A month later, Nick Griffin was found guilty of the possession and
distribution of the racist and anti-Semitic magazine The Rune, along with his
fellow BNP activist, Paul Ballard, who had previously pleaded guilty. Griffin
received a nine-month prison sentence suspended for two years and Ballard
was given a six-month sentence, also suspended for two years. Witnesses for
their defense included the Anglo-French Holocaust denier Robert Faurisson,
and Osiris Akebala, an American black separatist.
During July police interviewed Paul Twino, the Manchester organizer of
Operation Farrakhan, a campaign to have the exclusion order on Louis
Farrakhan lifted. During his campaign Twino had sent offensive and anti-Semitic
letters to the home secretary, the prime minister and the BOD.
Following lengthy discussions, however, it was decided in early 1999 that
there was not sufficient evidence to proceed with a prosecution.
During the course of 1998 Colin Jordan, the veteran neo-Nazi campaigner,
published a series of anti-Semitic articles in his journal Gothic Ripples, as well
as stickers suggesting that readers write or telephone BOD president Eldred
Tabachnik QC to complain about police raids on Jordan's home. In January
1999 it was decided to prosecute and it is expected that Jordan's trial will
take place later during the year.
Political and Public Activity
The governing body of British universities, the Committee of Vice Chancellors
and Principals, published its report on extremism and intolerance on
campus in June 1998. The report recommended that British universities
guarantee religious and political expression and clamp down on harassment
of Jewish students, moderate Muslims and others, by militant Islamists.
Public concern at the failure of the police to deal effectively with racial
crimes, despite wide-ranging reforms introduced during 1996 and 1997, led
to the establishment of a government inquiry under a high court judge. Its
purpose was to inquire into the failure of the police to investigate properly
the killing of Stephen Lawrence, a black teenager murdered in South East
London in 1993 by white racist youths. The first part of the inquiry investigated
police failings; the second part examined wider issues of racism in Britain.
The inquiry was due to report early in 1999.
Continuing the government's determination to crack down on societal
racism, the home secretary appointed a Race Relations Forum, whose members
will provide informal advice and guidance, and the Metropolitan Police
established a Racial and Violent Crimes Task Force, in part advised by a
panel of lay experts. Representatives from the Jewish community will participate
in both bodies.
At the end of June the home secretary published an announcement stating
that he was inclined to retain the exclusion order from Britain of Nation
of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan. Farrakhan could apply to enter Britain at
some point in the future but only after undertaking to abide by British law
relating to racial hatred.
During November the CST jointly authored the submission "Harmful
Content on the Internet" for the Inter-Governmental Meeting of the Council
of Europe in Strasbourg, and made the presentation "Combating New Forms
of Racism: The Hate Web" to an international conference of interior
ministers, police, academics and grass roots activists at Wilton Park, the
British Foreign Office-linked conference center.