Comprehensive new study presents complex picture of anti-Semitism in Britain

30 percent of Britons harbor attitudes which in certain aspects could be categorized as anti-Semitic, yet only two percent could be called "hard-core” anti-Semites, according to a new report released on Tuesday by the London-based Institute for Jewish Policy Research.

The survey introduced what it called an "elastic view” of anti-Semitism, stating that Judeophobia is an attitude and that "like all attitudes, it exists in society at different levels of intensity, and with different shades to it.”

"The elastic view explicitly takes this into account: some people may be strongly antisemitic, others less so; and while still others may not fit into either of these categories, they may still hold certain attitudes – even if these are small in number and weak in intensity – that have the potential to make Jews feel offended or uncomfortable. Thus, no single figure can capture the level of antisemitism in a given society,” the authors wrote.

"The existence of strong, sophisticated, perhaps internally coherent and at times even ‘learned’ antisemitism, where open dislike of Jews is combined with developed negative ideas about Jews, does not exceed 2.4% of British adults,” the report continued, adding that an additional three percent can be termed “softer” anti-Semites, who exhibit "fewer, but nonetheless multiple antisemitic attitudes, often couched in less certain terms.”

 

While thirty percent of Britains hold views of one sort or another that can be considered anti-Semitism – responding affirmatively to questions including Jews think they are better than other people" and "Jews exploit holocaust victimhood for their own purposes" - JPR cautioned that "this emphatically does not mean that 30% of the population of Great Britain is anti-Semitic”.

"A majority of people who agreed with just one negative statement about Jews in this survey also agreed with one or more positive statements about Jews, suggesting that the existence of one antisemitic or stereotypical belief in a person’s thinking need not indicate a broader, deeper prejudice towards Jews.”

However, the fact that some anti-Semitic opinions are held by people who would not, by any reasonable standard, be considered anti-Semites, " goes some way towards explaining why British Jews appear to be so concerned” about the issue "as the likelihood of them encountering an anti-Semitic idea is much higher than that suggested by simple measures of anti-Semitic individuals."

In fact, around seventy percent of British society holds philo-Semitic opinions and "do not entertain any antisemitic ideas or views at all.”

While the common view among Jewish communal officials is that anti-Zionism is a form of anti-Semitism, given that it seeks to deny the Jewish people the universal right of self-determination, the new report stated that while the two antipathies are closely correlated they "exist both independently of one another and separately” and that "that levels of anti-Israelism are considerably higher than levels of anti-Jewish feeling.”

However, those who harbor anti-Israel sentiment are much more likely to also exhibit anti-Semitic opinions and while such anti-Zionism. Around 12 percent of Britains hold “hard-core” negative views of Israel while 56 percent of the population holds at least one negative view.

In a separate report released last week, the Community Security Trust, a community watchdog, noted that anti-Semitism became an important issue in Britain’s national discourse in 2016.

"Explicit prejudice or hostility towards or about Jews, simply for being Jewish, is rarely voiced in British public life; but antisemitism became a national political issue in 2016, while media discussion of the subject was more prominent than it had been for many years,” the CST said in a statement introducing its findings.

Much of this is due to a controversy over anti-Semitism in the Labour Party, "which peaked in April 2016 with the suspensions of Naz Shah MP and Ken Livingstone for alleged antisemitic comments,” the group stated.

The party has been wracked with anti-Semitic scandals over the past two years and is in the midst of conducting an internal investigation into anti-Semitic comments made by Livingstone, the former mayor of London.

Looking at several opinion surveys from 2016, the CST stated that "antisemitic attitudes are more prevalent amongst British Muslims than in the general population. This was particularly the case in relation to conspiracy theories about alleged Jewish power and influence in politics, media and finance.”

Last month, British Jews welcomed an announcement by the country’s public prosecutor that it would launch a crackdown on online hate speech.

The United Kingdom saw a record number of anti-Semitic incidents in the first half of 2017, the CST announced in July, citing a 30 percent rise in incidents over the same period last year, with more than 100 incidents occurring every month.
 

Add new comment

We welcome any comments you may have on this article. Comments are moderated and we reserve the right to edit or remove any which are derogatory or offensive. The WJC is not responsible for the content of any comments.

Comments

There are no comments

Fill up the form above and be the first one

Subscribe

Subscribe to our newsletter

Sign up!
News
WJC in the media