80% of British Jews Feel Blamed for Israeli Actions

New study says Muslims, teens are considered biggest anti-Semites in U.K.; boycotts of Israeli goods and services are seen as anti-Semitic.

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Thousands of protesters march through Whitehall in central London, to call for an end to Israeli military action in Gaza and 'justice and freedom' for Palestine, July 19, 2014.
Thousands of protesters march through Whitehall in central London, to call for an end to Israeli military action in Gaza and 'justice and freedom' for Palestine, July 19, 2014.Credit: AP

Some 80 percent of British Jews say non-Jews blame them for the Israeli government’s actions, a new study on anti-Semitism in the United Kingdom shows.

According to the study, authored by Dr. Laura D. Staetsky and Dr. Jonathan Boyd for the Institute for Jewish Policy Research, anti-Semitism is regularly connected to circumstances in Israel, as Jews feel they are held responsible for military and political decisions of the Israeli government.

While they do not perceive simple criticism of Israel as anti-Semitism, U.K. Jews say that hostile criticism of the Jewish state is experienced as anti-Semitism, particularly when it involves calls for boycotts, divestment and sanctions, or accusations of ethnic cleansing.

One-third of Jews surveyed feels that a non-Jew advocating for a boycott of Israeli goods or products is definitely anti-Semitic, while an additional third feels that it is probably so, the study says, while almost half feels that parallels drawn between Israeli treatment of Palestinians and Nazi treatment of Jews is "definitely" anti-Semitic. Furthermore, the study says, “most respondents (over three-quarters) maintained that they hear the Israel/Nazi parallel in Britain at least occasionally.”

Citing other research in the field of Jewish attitudes, the report says the relationship of Jews in the Diaspora with Israel is often “deeply personal.” For them, it says, “Israel does not simply represent a place or a conflict, but is rather a fundamental component of Jewish identity.”

When asked who the perpetrators of anti-Semitic acts are, the two most common groups identified were people with a Muslim extremist view and teenagers, the report says, noting that victims of anti-Semitism “more commonly identified their assailant as someone holding left-wing views than right-wing views.”

The study shows that there has been an increase in the perceived prevalence of anti-Semitism in the United Kingdom. A “clear majority,” almost 70 percent of respondents, said they believe anti-Semitism had become more acute in Britain in the five years leading up to the survey, for which data was collected in 2012 and was published July 18, 2014. Publication of the survey conicided with escalated fighting between Israel and the Gaza Strip and the Israel Defense Forces' Operation Protective Edge.

The most problematic forms of anti-Semitism are those committed online and in the media, according the survey, while violence and vandalism appear to be rare. Harassment, on the other hand, is more common: one in five respondents said they had experienced in the 12 months leading up to the survey, and a similar proportion said they had experienced discrimination in that time.

The study in Britain took place as part of a larger exercise by the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights that included eight additional European Union member states: Belgium, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Romania and Sweden.

In comparison to the other EU states surveyed, the United Kingdom is found to have a relatively low level of anti-Semitism. “For example,” the report states, “the proportion of British respondents who think antisemitism is a problem in the country (about one half) is lower than the equivalent proportions in Belgium, France, Germany and Italy. The same is true in relation to experiences of antisemitic harassment in the past twelve months.”

The report also explored matters of brit milah (male circumcision) and shechita (ritual slaughter), contentious issues in modern-day Europe, showing that a “clear majority” (over 80 percent) of respondents “would consider a ban of brit milah to be a problem, and two-thirds would feel similarly about a ban of shechita.” The surveyors suggest that it is highly probable that any move in this direction would be commonly perceived as an assault on Jewish life.

According to the report, Orthodox Jews are more likely to experience anti-Semitism, as are younger Jews and men.

When it comes to reporting anti-Semitism to the authorities, the report indicated that many incidents go unreported. "[C]ases of harassment [are] least likely to be reported: an estimated seven out of ten such cases are never reported to an appropriate authority or organisation”, it says.

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