A new report on anti-Semitism in Britain makes uncomfortable reading all round.
The study, a joint enterprise by the Community Security Trust and the Institute for Jewish Policy Research, is an in-depth exploration of anti-Jewish attitudes, the role of animus towards Israel, and the prevalence of prejudice in 2017.
It is a sober analysis and the researchers tend towards restraint – sometimes a little too much restraint – in drawing conclusions from their data. It is this very interpretive modesty that makes the findings all the more concerning. While the report caps the ‘hardcore’ anti-Semite population at five percent, it detects a further 25 per cent who feel negatively about Jews and hold one or two viewpoints that most Jews would consider anti-Semitic. These include traditional Judeophobic tropes of undue influence, divided loyalty, and ill-gotten wealth.
The far-right remains the most anti-Semitic demographic but the far-left, by the force of numbers and its new-found influence over British politics, is roughly on an even keel with reactionaries when it comes to hating Jews.
The findings from Muslim attitudes are especially troubling. In short, British Muslims are markedly more anti-Semitic than the general population, as measured by agreement or disagreement with a series of value statements. Posed the proposition, ‘A British Jew is just as British as any other British person’, 78 per cent of the general population agree but only 61 per cent of British Muslims. Sixty-one percent of Britons believe Jews make a positive contribution to society, a dismayingly modest response but better than the miserable 37 per cent of Muslims who can bring themselves to agree. Muslims are twice as likely to assert that ‘Jews think they are better than other people’ (28 per cent to 13 per cent) and ‘Jews get rich at the expense of others’ (27 per cent to 12 per cent) than the population at large and three times as likely to believe ‘Jews have too much power in Britain’ (27 per cent to 8 per cent).
Twenty-five percent of British Muslims believe that Jews ‘exploit Holocaust victimhood for their own purposes’ — versus ten percent of Britons overall — while 14 per cent consider the Shoah to have been ‘exaggerated’ and eight percent call it a ‘myth’.
Since anti-Semitism is inherent to political Islamism, it might be assumed that this is the cause of its prevalence among British Muslims. However, the report authors note:
‘While contributing to the elevated levels of anti-Semitism among British Muslims, the presence of political Islamism does not explain the elevated levels of anti-Semitism, or indeed anti-Israel attitudes, among Muslims compared to the general population. When the most likely adherents of Islamic fundamentalism were experimentally removed from the calculations, Muslims still exhibited higher levels of anti-Semitism and anti-Israel attitudes relative to the general population.’
Nor can this phenomenon be generalised as a problem with all religions. Christians are not only more likely than Muslims to accept Jews as British and believe they make a positive contribution to the country – they are more likely to do so than the general UK population.
The researchers are at pains not to prompt alarmism, noting:
‘Most Muslims, both in general and among the most religious, either reject, or are neutral about each of the individual anti-Semitic motifs presented to them… Thus broad stigmatisation of all Muslims is neither accurate not helpful – whilst we do find heightened levels of both anti-Semitic and anti-Israel ideas within the Muslim population, significant proportions of Muslims reject all such prejudice.’
While neutrality in the face of racism isn’t exactly a cause for celebration, the point remains that the majority of British Muslims are similarly disposed to Jews as the UK average. They are the frontline in the fight against the hardcore minority of Muslims who espouse an anti-Semitic worldview. Muslim leaders and community groups who challenge anti-Semitism deserve credit but their efforts must be shared by more, and more vocal, members of the Muslim population.
Those who would seek to place all the blame on Muslims have to contend with the question of Israel. While the report concludes that ‘anti-Israel attitudes are not, as a general rule, anti-Semitic’, there is a correlation between the two. Eighty-six percent of Britons who hold no anti-Israel views also hold no anti-Semitic views. However, only 26 per cent of those who hold a large number of anti-Israel views hold no anti-Semitic views. To wit, ‘the stronger a person’s anti-Israel views, the more likely they are to hold anti-Semitic attitudes’.
This is the first major study of British attitudes to demonstrate empirically a connection between hatred of Israel and hatred of Jews. While underscoring that animus towards Jews and the Jewish state are not always related, the authors, in their reserved social science language, conclude that ‘asserting that anti-Semitic and anti-Israel attitudes are unrelated (effectively, that people endorsing harsh critiques of Israel have absolutely nothing against Jews) would be a misdiagnosis of the situation’.
Those who fulminate about ‘apartheid’, boycotts and the ‘Zionist lobby’? It’s not just Israel they have a problem with.
Britain is far from one of the world’s hotbeds of anti-Semitism but this study confirms what many Jews and others have said for some time. We have a problem. We know what it is. And now we have the numbers to prove it.
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