There was an 11% increase in the number of anti-Semitic hate incidents recorded in the UK in the first half of the year compared to the same period in 2015, new figures have shown.
The charity Community Security Trust (CST), which protects Jews in Britain from anti-Semitism and related threats, said there were 557 anti-Semitic incidents in the first six months of 2016, against 500 in the first half of last year. In contrast, in the first six months of the years 2012, 2013, and 2014, the number of recorded anti-Semitic incidents was between 220–300.
The figure announced today is the second-highest half-yearly total since the charity began recording anti-Semitic incidents in 1984. In the first half of 2009 there were 629 anti-Semitic incidents recorded, after Israel's offensive into Gaza at the beginning of the year.
The CST said there was "no obvious cause" for the increase this year, but noted a sharp rise in the months leading up to the EU referendum – May (125 incidents) and June (112 incidents) gave the fourth- and sixth-highest monthly totals ever recorded respectively.
Overall levels of hate crime shot up during the last days of campaigning for Brexit and in the vote's aftermath.
CST spokesperson Dave Rich told BuzzFeed News there was no noticeable spike in anti-Semitic incidents recorded in the week after the referendum result: "Generally during that period there was a heightened atmosphere of public debate and that contributed to a general increase. But we can’t pin down cause and effect.”
He said that the Labour party's anti-Semitism row this year involving MP Naz Shah and then former London mayor Ken Livingstone had also probably contributed.
"People are more likely to shout things from cars if these stories are on the front pages," Rich said.
Four out of five anti-Semitic incidents recorded by CST originated in Greater London or Greater Manchester, but while recorded incidents in Great Manchester were down 54% on the same period in 2015, in London they were up 62%.
Of the total of 557 anti-Semitic hate incidents, 133 were made on social media. The actual number of anti-Semitic social media incidents is “much larger”, but targeted campaigns involving individual victims, although they may involve dozens of accounts and thousands of tweets, are only counted as one incident. The many instances of anti-Semitism that regularly feature on extremist websites or during demonstrations are not recorded.
The most common type of anti-Semitic incident – any verified malicious act aimed at Jewish people reported to the CST – was random, spontaneous, verbal anti-Semitic abuse, directed at people who look Jewish while they go about public life.
Where it was possible to record, 84% of the offenders were male, and 59% white European, while 24% of offences were politically motivated.
Commenting, home secretary Amber Rudd condemned the "deplorable" rise in anti-Semitic hate incidents.
Communities secretary Sajid Javid said: “There can be no excuses for anti-Semitism or any other form of racism or prejudice. Crimes must always be reported, and the law enforced, but we also want to create an environment that prevents hate crime from happening in the first place."
Shadow home secretary Andy Burnham said: "There are worrying increases in incidents of anti-Semitic behaviour as many forms of hate crime rise across the country too."
He added: "It is repugnant, unacceptable and scars our society. I will take action to make sure people are safe and urge anyone who experiences hate crime of any kind to report it to the police.”