British Minister Vows to Fight 'Dark Forces' of anti-Semitism

Communities Minister Eric Pickles plans to give Jewish schools extra funding for security, toughen punishments for hate crimes; homes in Hackney sprayed with anti-Semitic graffiti.

Bloomberg

Britain intends to introduce new measures to counter increasing anti-Semitism, the country's communities minister announced Monday.

Minister Eric Pickles vowed to fight the "dark forces" of anti-Semitism across university campuses and soccer pitches. Under the new initiative, Jewish schools would be given additional funding for security and tougher punishments would be meted out for hate crimes.

"The irrational hatred of Jews is like cancer," Pickles writes in the Daily Express. "Once beaten it can come back. It lurks in the shadows, and in 2014 there has been a revolting relapse of this ancient evil."

Britain is not immune, he added.

Just one day before Pickles' announcement, more than 20 houses and cars were sprayed with anti-Semitic graffiti, including swastikas, in Hackney, northeast London, the Jewish News reported.

During and after the summer war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza, the number of reported anti-Semitic incidents in the U.K. spiked, hitting an all-time high in July, according to the Community Security Trust charity.

There were 302 incidents that month, compared to 59 the previous July, while August saw 241 such attacks.

The increase prompted British Prime Minister David Cameron to address the issue in Parliament.

“Let me be clear, we must not tolerate this in our country," he was quoted as saying. "There can never be any excuse for anti-Semitism, and no disagreements on politics or policy should ever be allowed to justify racism, prejudice or extremism in any form.”

Pickles' remarks Monday coincide with the publication of a new government report by the Department for Communities and Local Government, which says progress has been made in tackling anti-Semitism in Britain.

Pickles said that more work needs to be done, however, as he detailed some of the incidents that he found unacceptable.

“Institutions that should have stood up to this thuggish behavior did not," he writes. "Like the Holborn branch of Sainsbury’s, clearing their shelves of kosher food to satisfy anti-Israeli yobs outside. This casual acceptance of anti-Semitism was outrageous.

“Even some councils have behaved irresponsibly," he added. "Like Tower Hamlets, engaging in their own municipal foreign policy by flying the Palestinian flag. These public bodies should be using their position of authority to actively reduce tensions, not stir them up.

“Anti-Semitism and hate crime are completely incompatible with traditional British values and totally unacceptable in our society,” Pickles said.