Blaming the left

JVL Introduction

In the aftermath of the Pittsburgh massacre it didn’t take long for some to blame the left and – in this country – Jeremy Corbyn, for “normalising” antisemitism.

Looking at the latest statistics about hate crime in Britain, Alan Maddison shows the absurdity of such claims. He echoes Jeremy Corbyn’s immediate twitter response: “We must stand together against hate and terror”.

Lessons of the Pittsburgh synagogue killings lost by irresponsible journalism       

Dr Alan Maddison, October 2018

Certain journalists have shamefully tried to exploit the dreadful murders of 11 American Jews attending the Tree of Life Pittsburgh synagogue on Saturday.  Despite the fact that the perpetrator was a far right extremist, the Guardian’s Christina Patterson linked this savage attack to Jeremy Corbyn. Patterson claimed Corbyn had encouraged a climate in which increasing antisemitism was seen as relatively normal in Britain (1).

Jeremy Corbyn has always spoken out against antisemitism and racism. He has done more than any political party leader to eliminate it in his own party.  Allegations over three years involved only 0.07% of members and recent surveys show antisemitism to be more prevalent on the right and far right of the political spectrum (2).  Since Corbyn became leader antisemitism seems to have declined amongst Labour and Tory voters (3).

Nobody should have to live in fear and anxiety simply because of who they are.  But if we are to combat abuse, discrimination and hate crimes motivated by prejudice in our UK society, then we need to base this on the facts, not cynical distortions or ignorance.

Analysis of the recent Hate Crime Report (4) along with other surveys, suggests that such irresponsible comments by Christina Patterson can seriously damage the genuine fight against hate crime in the UK.  Let me explain why after reviewing the evidence.

There were 94,098 (+17%) hate crime offences reported to police for the 12 months to the end of March 2018, representing 2% of all reported crimes. We see the main categories of hate crimes below but will focus here on the motivations relating to Race and Religion.

Hate crime motivated by Race accounted for 76% of those reported and grew by 14% over last year. They include crimes against Black, Asian, mixed-ethnicity victims and EU Immigrants. Religion motivated only 9% of hate crimes but was the fastest growing at +40%.

These reported numbers of hate crimes are considered to be an under-estimate. They will reflect the level of real events but will also be affected by changes in police recording as well as improved willingness of victims to report.

For the first time national data in this year’s report has been supplemented by religious sub-groups as shown below.


This is not the full picture as no similar breakdown is provided for the 76% of hate crimes motivated by Race. However, crime surveys in this report show Muslims are almost twice as likely to be victims to a hate crime motivated by Race than Religion. The estimated overall number of religious and racial hate crimes involving Muslims is 12,900. We do not have comparable data for Jewish victims, but as the majority are white it is expected that most antisemitic hate crimes will be classed under Religion.

Of course the Muslim population is 10 times that of the Jewish population, so the pro rata risks for reported hate crimes are similar, between 0.4 and 0.5%.

There is thus no evidence that Jews are targeted more than other victim groups.

In the illustration below we combine historical data on antisemitic hate crimes reported to police, as published following a freedom of information request (5), to the Home Office report data.

Over the three years to end March 2018, reports of antisemitic hate crimes grew by 43% and those for all other religions by 185%. This latter figure seems driven mostly by increases in Islamophobia.

The latest Community Security Trust reports (6) show that antisemitic incidents grew by only 3% in 2017 and for the period January to June 2018 actually fell by 8% compared with the same period in 2017 (7).

So recent evidence is that religious hate crimes have almost trebled over three years, probably mostly driven by Islamophobia. In contrast a rise in antisemitic hate crimes has been more modest at 43%, and a more recent report indicates a fall.

It is tempting to question if the pattern in antisemitic hate crimes is related to a reported fall in antisemitic prejudice in both Labour and Tory voters (3).  However, prejudice does not equate to hatred, and most manifestations have always come from the far right.

According to CST and TellMama, the far right are the perpetrators of up to 70% of antisemitic and Islamophobic hate crimes each year. TellMama (8) has reported that experts think the dramatic increase in Islamophobic incidents in 2017 was driven by trigger events such as terrorist attacks, but also by a growing far right.

We may ask why, if the far right has contributed to significant increases in religious and Islamophobic hate crimes, we have not seen similar increases in antisemitism.

This could be because the current focus for the growing far right movements seems to have been on targeting Immigrants and Muslims rather than Jews. We see a similar pattern to other far right groups in Europe, currently being encouraged and financed by US extreme right groups.

Tommy Robinson the ex EDL leader and head of the recently formed extreme right  Democratic Football Lads Alliance  is pictured below on a recent trip to Israel.

It does seem that Robinson sympathises, and seems popular, with some of the Israeli right. Such a relationship was described in Haaretz (9), with the following standfirst:

“At their Tel Aviv rally, supporters of the alt-right’s latest free speech ‘martyr’ accused the U.K. of ‘subservience to Islam.’ But Jews who think the far right is offering them authentic ‘friendship’ are clearly capable of particularly delusional thinking.”

An alliance between the Israeli and UK far right movements may explain the current focus of the growing UK far right on Immigrants and Muslims rather than Jews, but as pointed out it is obviously risky.

One lesson from the tragic events in Pittsburgh is that Jews are not safe from the growth in the far right. The historical fascist hatred for all “others” will risk manifesting against Jews too, as it has done in Pittsburgh.

So the danger to our UK society, posed by such irresponsible attacks by the likes of Christina Patterson on Labour and Jeremy Corbyn, is that they crucially take attention away from other victim groups and from dealing with the real and growing danger of the far right for millions in the UK, including Jews.

In 2016, the UN criticised the UK media and right-wing politicians for inciting hatred against EU Immigrants and Muslims. It is sad to see some journalists now distracting our attention from the most active perpetrators of hate crime on the far right, and attacking those in Labour who stand up to them in solidarity with those from our ethnic and religious minorities.

As Jeremy Corbyn said in his twitter message, “we must stand together against hate and terror”, and I’m sure such solidarity is exactly what the victims of the Pittsburgh synagogue would have wished for too.


  1. MSM journalists’ Shame – Exploit Pittsburgh Synagogue Murders to attack on Corbyn, Skwawkbox 28 October 2018
  2. L Daniel Staetsky, Antisemitism in contemporary Great Britain, Institute for Jewish Policy Research September 2017
  3. Antisemitism Barometer Campaign Against Antisemitism
  4. Home Office, Hate Crime, England and Wales, Statistical Bulletin 20/1, 16 October 2018
  5. Hayden Smith, Failing to protect British Jews from hate crime , Independent 15 Jul 2017
  6. CST Antisemitic Incidents Report 2017
  7. CST Antisemitic Incidents Report for January-June 2018
  8. Sarah Marsh, Record number of anti-Muslim attacks reported in UK last year, Guardian 20 July 2018
  9. Esther Solomon,#Free Tommy: Why Israeli fan boys back a UK far right anti-Muslim campaigner, Haaretz, 30 May 2018









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Comments (6)

  • Simon Lynn says:

    ‘We do not have comparable data for Jewish victims but as the majority are white it is expected that most antisemitic hate crimes will be classed under religion’..
    I think this is an assumption missing the various ways antisemitic racism and hate crime can manifest itself.


    Thanks for your comment.

    The CSEW data indicates that the pro rata risk for a Muslim to be victim to a Religious hate crime is 0.8%, and for a hate crime motivated by Race it is 1.5%. It seems important to recognise this when comparing overall hate crime pro rata risks.

    There is no similar crime survey data for Jewish victims, so assumptions need to be made on whether the majority of hate crimes against Jewish victims have been captured in the 1080 police reports registered as a Religious hate crime.

    The Community Security Trust reported 1384 hate incidents against Jews for 2017, but not all are hate crimes. They also include 247 online incidents, so the off-line incidents were 1137. The CST has a national agreement with the police and there is a two way exchange of antisemitic reports. So given the CST data the 1080 antisemitic hate crimes reported by the police probably captures most of the total hate crimes they record involving Jews, as I stated in the article.

  • John says:

    I was at the Eastern Region Labour Party Conferen e when news of the shootings came through.
    Jeremy Corbyn was present and immediately expressed his sadness at hearing the news, and called on all decent people to oppose such awful acts of racism and antisemitism.
    I am not surprised a Guardian correspondent would react in the way she did. She and her paper clearly hate Corbyn and the Labour Party.
    It is impossible to reason with such people.
    They are just bigots – plain and simple.
    Their intellects have surrended to bigotry.

  • Rick says:

    One major problem with the reporting of ‘antimsemitic’ incidents is the inaccuracy of definition introduced by the confusions of the IHRA, and the related right-wing pressure to extend the definition to include legitimate criticism related to Israel.

  • Marge Berer says:

    I am glad to see this review of national data and the comment in reply to it above. I have despaired of some of the very emotional posts JVL has shared since the shootings in Pittsburgh, because they have not taken the context of this massacre into account. On 15 February 2018, the Guardian reported that according to the Gun Violence Archive, there had been 1,624 mass shootings (defined as four or more people shot in one incident, not including the shooter) in the US in 1,870 days. That is, a mass shooting nine out of every 10 days on average, They also reported that Americans own an estimated 265 million guns, more than one gun for every adult. This is a sickness in US society that is out of control, within which anti-semitism is one facet, and I believe must be understood as such.

  • Jan Brooker says:

    The Guardian has ‘crossed the road’ on accuracy in relation to the LP and anti-semitism. A recent media study showed ther G and BBC as the most one-sided or inaccurate in its reporting of the issue.

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