"Britain is setting a shameful new record in anti-Semitic incidents this year," Liberal Democrat Shadow Home Secretary Chris Huhne said Thursday in reaction to a report by Britain's Jewish community which speaks of an unprecedented number of anti-Semitic hate crimes.
The Community Security Trust (CST), which monitors anti-Semitism and provides security for the Jewish community in Britain, said that it had recorded 609 anti-Semitic incidents across the U.K. from January to June this year - over double the 276 for the same period last year, mostly connected to Israel's operation in Gaza.
Huhne added that "it is absurd that home-grown bigots should hold British Jews responsible for the actions of a foreign government. We cannot have overseas conflicts echoed on Britain's streets."
The report names 2009 the worst year since CST's records began in 1984, with the number of incidents already exceeding that of the previous record year, 598 in 2006. Israel's conflict with Hamas in Gaza and southern Israel is cited in the report as the main reason for the record high, since it "produced an anti-Semitic reaction."
Of the incidents, 286 occurred in January, with over half of them (158) featuring direct reference to the fighting.
"This was by far the worst single month ever recorded, but the anti-Semitic surge continued," the report said. February saw 111 anti-Semitic incidents. Levels had returned to "normal" by May, with 51 incidents.
In response to the report, British Foreign Office Minister Ivan Lewis said: "I am deeply concerned by the rise in the number of anti-Semitic incidents as reported by the CST today. The British government is firmly committed to tackling and reducing all forms of racism including anti-Semitism. We simply cannot tolerate those who seek to use foreign conflicts to justify racism and criminal acts against any U.K. citizen."
"The U.K.'s Jewish community is an integral part of the rich fabric that makes up modern Britain and must be able to live their lives free from fear of verbal or physical attack. The Government was in regular contact with senior community figures and the CST during the Gaza conflict and remains alert to their concerns," he added.