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Poll: Nearly half of UK Jews avoid visible signs of Judaism due to anti-Semitism

  • January 17, 2021

A new survey shows 44 percent of British Jews avoid visible displays of their Judaism, such as a kippa, a Star of David or other symbols, due to fear of anti-Semitism, The Guardian reported Sunday.

It was the highest figure since 2016, according to the poll carried out by the Campaign Against Antisemitism group and King’s College London.

Nine out of ten respondents said media bias against Israel was fueling persecution of Jews in the UK. Two-thirds were “deeply concerned” by the BBC’s coverage of matters related to Jews, and 55% felt the same about its alleged mishandling of complaints of anti-Semitism.

At the same time, 78% believed politicians weren’t doing enough to protect the community.

However, UK Jews were more optimistic about their future than last year, a figure attributed mainly to Jeremy Corbyn being ousted as Labour Party leader.

Some 57% said they feel welcome in Britain, with 18% saying they feel somewhat or very unwelcome.

“Britain’s Jews are back from the brink,” said Gideon Falter, chief executive of Campaign Against Antisemitism. “This study starkly shows that Labour under Jeremy Corbyn dealt a crushing blow to Jews’ confidence in their very future in this country, and that our community is now beginning to recover.

“But scars remain. Notwithstanding the relief felt by so many, our data shows that nearly half of those who normally wear outwards symbols of their Judaism now feel they have to hide it.”

During Corbyn’s five-year tenure at the helm of Labour, British Jews became increasingly disenchanted with the party. Labour had been seen for decades as a natural political “home” for British Jews, but their discomfort with the party grew due to what was seen as systemic anti-Semitism and no more than palliative measures against it by Corbyn.

The survey also checked anti-Semitic sentiments within the general public, finding that 45% expressed such feelings by agreeing or disagreeing with certain statements, while 55% did not agree with any of them.

These included “Jewish people talk about the Holocaust just to further their political agenda” (8% agreed), “Israel has a right to exist as a homeland for the Jewish people” (6% disagreed), “Israel can get away with anything because its supporters control the media” (16% agreed), “I am just as open to having Jewish friends as I am to having friends from other sections of British society” (4% disagreed).

Nearly a quarter (23%) agreed with the statement “Israel treats the Palestinians like the Nazis treated the Jews.”

The surveyors said 12% agreed with four or more out of 12 statements, indicating they had “entrenched anti-Semitic views.”

In early 2020 the British Community Security Trust (CST), a charity that monitors anti-Semitism and provides security for the Jewish community in Britain, said it recorded 1,805 anti-Semitic hate incidents nationwide in 2019, the highest total it had ever recorded in a calendar year. It was the fourth year a row in which the CST reported record-high totals of anti-Semitic cases.

Numbers are believed to have dropped somewhat in 2020 — largely as a result of the coronavirus pandemic and its restrictions and lockdowns.

New Labour chief Keir Starmer, who was elected leader in April 2020, has vowed to root out anti-Semitism in Labour that opponents alleged went unchecked and flourished under Corbyn, and saw Jewish members and lawmakers leave in droves.

Starmer ousted Corbyn as a Labour MP after he refused to accept the findings of a report by the UK’s Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) that said Labour under Corbyn had broken the law in its “inexcusable” handling of anti-Semitism complaints.

Corbyn questioned the motives of the two-year independent probe and insisted the scale of the problem had been “dramatically overstated for political reasons by our opponents inside and outside the party, as well as by much of the media.”

Corbyn has said he would take legal action against the party after it refused to readmit him to its parliamentary ranks.

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