How serious is the threat of antisemitism in Britain today?

BBC website, 11th October 2017

Are British Jews the target for more hate crimes than other victim groups?

Dr Alan Maddison, Independent Strategist and Associate Member of JVL
10th November  2017

Specially written for Jewish Voice for Labour.

The media headlines, shown below, appeared widely in the press in July, after the Community Security Trust (CST) charity published its report on antisemitic incidents (CST, 2017). For the first 6 months of 2017 the CST reported an increased of 30% to 767 incidents .

Independent, 26 July 2017

Independent, 15th July 2017

Such statements must be very worrying for many British Jews, especially given the recent rise in the Far Right neo-Nazi movements in the USA and Europe and the increase in Islamist terrorist attacks here.

However, these headlines do not seem to reflect the true picture.

A review of the latest evidence, presented here, suggests that these headlines are unnecessarily alarmist. The pro rata risks for assaults are lower for Jewish people than for those from other races or religions. The increase in antisemitic hate crimes reported to the police is around half that reported for other victim groups. Finally, a Jewish person is 50 times more likely to be the victim of a general assault than one motivated by antisemitism

Whilst not wishing to play down the real and unacceptable levels of antisemitism in Britain today, nor the fear and anxiety it generates, it is helpful to review the latest evidence behind these more reassuring statements, and place antisemitic hate crime in a broader perspective.

We can summarise the key points of available evidence in the following 5 illustrations.

1. Antisemitic hate crimes reported to the police are relatively infrequent and their annual growth was less than for other victim groups.

Source: (Home Office 2017), Aoife O’Neill, Hate Crime, England and Wales, 2016/17, Home Office Statistical Bulletin 17/17, 17th October 2017

The 80,393 (+29%) hate crimes reported to police for England and Wales, to the end of March 2017, are shown above for each victim strand. (The two strands reported by police, “ Sexual Orientation” and “ Transgender Identity” have been combined under LGBT – Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender)

All victim groups showed record high numbers of hate crimes.

Racially motivated hate crimes (62,685) were the most frequent and those motivated by religious hate were relatively low (5,940). This ratio may seem surprising given all the media attention to the latter.

The increase in hate crimes over last year, shown in brackets, was lower for antisemitic hate crimes (+15%) than for all other groups (Independent, 2017: Freedom of Information request). This is also much lower than the 30% growth in CST incident reports to end June 2017 that made the headlines (CST 2017). It is possible that there was a surge in the hate crimes against Jews from April to June, but the explanation probably lies in the types of offences reported by the CST and passed on to the police.

The CST reports less serious ‘incidents’ that are not always ‘crimes’, and that victims are less likely to report directly to police. For instance, Social Media abuse accounts for 23% of CST incidents, when it only represents 2-3% of police reported hate crimes for other groups. So the CST increase of 30% is probably related to an increase in their less serious incidents.

2. Jewish people were victims for only 1.3% of reported hate crimes

Sources: (Home Office 2017), Aoife O’Neill, Home Office Statistical Bulletin 17/17, October 17th 2017 (2), and (Runnymede Trust 2011), Sarah Isal and Klara Schmitz, The Runnymede Trust, “Racist violence in the United Kingdom”, European Network against Racism (ENAR), Brussels, March 2011

The 1078 antisemitic hate crimes accounted for 1.3% of the total reported to police, and percentage share estimates for other victim sub-groups are shown above.*

The BAME (Black, Asian, Minority Ethnic) victims were the largest group and accounted for around 50% of all hate crimes.

EU Immigrants and other races made up a combined 24% share.

The Muslim and Disabled victim group shares are probably under-estimated as their reporting to police is considered to be even lower than the overall 30% rate.

It is true that 1.3% seems a low share for antisemitism, but the Jewish population is only around 263,000, compared, for instance, with an Asian population of 4.37 million. To appreciate the relative risk for British Jews becoming a victim of a hate crime, taking into account population sizes, we need to look at the pro-rata data.


3. Individual risk is higher for racist than antisemitic hate crimes. Jewish victims have a much lower risk for being victims of violence.

Sources: (Home Office 2017), Aoife O’Neill, Hate Crime, England and Wales, 2016/17, Home Office Statistical Bulletin 17/17, 17th October 2017, and (CST 2016), Antisemitic Incidents Report 2016, Community Security Trust

For an antisemitic hate crime the individual or pro rata risk is lower than for victims of racist attacks, but higher than for other groups. An Asian or Black person probably has a relative risk for a hate crime with violence almost 5 times greater than a Jewish person.

The police define violence as including ‘pushing and shoving without injury’, up to ‘wounding’ and even ‘homicide’.

What seems surprising in the above illustration is that the hate crimes involving violence, with or without injury, against Jewish people,** only represented 10% of antisemitic hate crimes (CST, 2016) compared but an average of 33% for all other victim groups (Home Office 2017).

In addition, there were no reports of injury for Jewish victims, but for all other victim groups, injury was reported in about one quarter of the assaults.

So the pro rata risk for hate crimes, with or without violence, is lower for a British Jew than for a potential victim of a racially motivated hate crime.


 4. A Jewish person is 50 times more likely to suffer an assault unrelated to antisemitism

Source: (ONS 2017), Office for National Statistics, Crime in England and Wales: year ending March 2017, 20/7/17; (Home Office 2017), Aoife O’Neill, Hate Crime, England and Wales, 2016/17, Home Office Statistical Bulletin 17/17, 17th October 2017; and (CST 2016), Antisemitic Incidents Report 2016, Community Security Trust

Not all assaults are a result of hate crimes. In fact the general population was exposed, over the same period, to 1 167 426 general assaults (defined as ‘violence against a person’) with 466 018 of them inflicting injury. Of these assaults only 26 500 (2.3%) were reported as a hate crimes.

In the table above we compare the relative risk of being a victim of a general assault, or an assault motivated by either racism or antisemitism, for each victim group.

All British residents share an average risk of 21 per 1000 for being the victim of a reported assault. This is 50 times greater than the risk for a British Jew being the victim of an antisemitic assault (0.41 per 1000).

As seen earlier, the Jewish community is also exposed to only one fifth of the pro rata risk for hate crime assaults compared with victims of racial hate crimes (0.41 versus 1.9).

Some may consider that relative risk for antisemitic hate crimes may be higher if Jewish people were more easily recognisable in society. This is probably true. But another parameter, besides visibility, that helps our assessment of relative risk is that of the relative prejudice against Jewish people and other victim groups.


5. Unfavourable opinions about British Jews are much lower than for people from other races or religions

Source: Pew Center Research, Global Attitude & Trends, 11th July 2016

The survey above indicates some negative views about Jews do exist, but seems to be restricted to a small minority of people (7%) in the UK, with 28% having negative views about Muslims and 45% about Roma Gypsies.

Jews were probably the most persecuted people in the world for centuries and yet now only 7% of the UK population say they hold any negative views about them. This supports the important idea that specific prejudices can be modified over time.

According to another survey undertaken by YouGov, a similar figure to the Pew result was found with only 8% of UK citizens holding some negative views about Jews, but 58% about Roma Gypsies and 40% about Muslims (YouGov 2015).

One journalist despaired that the media were now treating Muslims in the same way they treated Jews in the 1930s. The Roma Gypsies are of particular concern in UK society too.

A regular survey into British Social Attitudes (NatCen Social Research 2013) reports some general racial prejudice is admitted by around 30% of the population and has not changed a lot since 1991. This too suggests that the 6-8% prejudice against Jews seems relatively low.


A review of the latest evidence, presented here, suggests that the alarmist headlines are neither justified nor helpful. The pro rata risks for hate crime are small for Jewish people and the risk for a violent crime lower than for those people from other races or religions.

The increase in antisemitic hate crimes reported to the police is around half that for other victim groups. Finally, the prejudice against British Jews is lower than for other minority groups.

Having said that, no British Jew, nor anyone else, should have to live in fear, be attacked, abused or discriminated against, simply because of whom they are. Exaggerating the risks simply increases anxieties. Better to unite to combat this unacceptable level abuse and hate crime in our society, including those motivated by antisemitism. The main perpetrators of religious and racial hate crimes are on the Far Right, so there is common purpose.

Eliminating the prejudice that underlies hate crimes is a huge challenge. It will be best achieved by bringing communities together, not by segregation or division. This bringing together of all communities is precisely what the Jewish Voice for Labour (JVL) refers to in our statement of principles below.

Jewish people have a long history of fighting exclusion, hatred and discrimination. The latest evidence suggests that they have had some considerable success. It is only right that Jewish groups now reach out to other more vulnerable victim groups for co-operation and mutual support in fighting prejudice and all its manifestations. This will take place within the Labour Party and in our wider society, and the JVL will play its part.



(CST 2016), Antisemitic Incidents Report 2016, Community Security Trust

(CST 2017), Antisemitic Incidents Report, January-June 2017, Community Security Trust

(Home Office 2017), Aoife O’Neill, Hate Crime, England and Wales, 2016/17, Home Office Statistical Bulletin 17/17, 17th October 2017

(Independent, 2017), Hayden Smith, “Police and prosecutors ‘failing to protect British Jews from hate crime’, new data suggests”, Independent

(NatCen Social Research 2013), 30 years of British Social Attitudes self-reported racial prejudice

(ONS 2017), Office for National Statistics, Crime in England and Wales: year ending March 2017, 20/7/17.

(Pew Center Research, Global Attitudes & Trends, 2016), Richard Wike, Bruce Stokes and Katie Simmons, Europeans Fear Wave of Refugees Will Mean More Terrorism, Fewer Jobs, 11th July 2016.

(Runnymede Trust 2011), Sarah Isal and Klara Schmitz, The Runnymede Trust, “Racist violence in the United Kingdom”, European Network against Racism (ENAR), Brussels, March 2011

(YouGov 2015) Roma people and Muslims are the least tolerated minorities in Europe



* Not all regional police forces Police record more specific victim details for racial or for religious crimes and such data are currently difficult to find at a National level. The distribution breakdown data given here are estimates extrapolated from police reports from regions where such details were consistently reported, or summarised from published analyses (Runnymede Trust 2011).

**The fact that only 10% of antisemitic hate crimes involved violence may again be because the CST has succeeded in its mission to encourage reporting of the less serious incidents. This includes third party reporting, so those incidents are less likely to motivate Jewish victims to report to the police directly. The CST transmits the incidents reports they receive onto the police. This could mean that by reporting such less severe forms of abuse, the 1078 antisemitic incidents reported may be “inflated” in relation to direct police reports for other hate crimes by a factor of around three to four.

† The CST reported no serious injuries, no GBH, for 2016. But it is not clear if there were minor injuries, as they were not mentioned















Comments (6)

  • Philiph35 says:

    All true, doubtless. The major risk for most UK Jews is a government violently hostile to Zionism, not individual assaults.

  • John says:

    Of course CST over-exaggerate the figures.
    They provide the rationale for their existence.
    Their income relies upon exaggerating the figures.
    They are probably motivated by wanting to encourage levels of aliyah too. As for Philiph35’s comment above, the real problem is a UK government which violently favours zionism to the detriment of all UK Jews.
    The analysis shown above is an excellent piece of research.

  • Philiph35 says:

    How is a government which violently favours zionism a detriment to all UK Jews?

  • admin says:

    JVL MODERATOR’S COMMENT: this article is about antisemitism statistics.

    It is NOT the place for a diversionary discussion about another topic introduced by Philip35. Contributions attempting to continue that discussion here will be deleted.

  • Anne Watkins says:

    I am not Jewish but did have Jews in my family. I am Christian with Muslims friends. I see all religions as equal and all races too. I am a Labour voter but not currently a member because of the constant accusations of anti-Semitism which make me unable to debate without fear of being misunderstood.

    I worry that making anti-Semitism different from other religious prejudice may result in other issues being ignored. I see much Islamophobia on the internet and have had some very spiteful comments made to me about my religion. I usually block people who do this as I see it as ignorance and refusal to see another viewpoint.

    All prejudice hurts and divides people.

    I agree that the best way forward is bringing communities together. Having joint services would perhaps help. Prejudice is surely caused by ignorance. Many older people only had Christianity taught in schools. So unless they meet Jewish people, they may not be aware of the shared values. I guess young people are similar in that the chances for meeting people of other faiths is still very small in the UK.

  • Stephen Bellamy says:

    Well that’s what’s so cool about being a Quaker Anne.We got evangelical Quakers, Jewish Quakers,Muslim Quakers,Jedi Quakers,ferret fancier Quakers, Moonie Quakers,Catholic Quakers with unlikely Quaker names like Maggie O’Hara. We even have got the obligatory Quaker Friends of Israel Quakers ( though we don’t talk about them much)

    Give it a whirl.But do be careful which local meeting you alight on. Always available to advise on that point o:)

Comments are now closed.