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Antisemitism in contemporary Great Britain: Key findings from the JPR survey of attitudes towards Jews and Israel – Daniel Staetsky

December 12, 2017

While encouraging, this report should give us all a moment’s pause. It shows that when presented with an array of different statements considered antisemitic by the Jewish community, 70% of respondents rejected all of them. And yet this still leaves 30% of respondents who agreed with one or more of these statements which included notions of Jews benefitting financially at the expense of others, having too much control over society and emotionally exploiting the Holocaust. This remains a cause for concern. While levels of antisemitism in British society appear to be low and the number of people who could be deemed to be antisemites (by their strong association with several antisemitic beliefs and statements) is also low, the diffusion of various antisemitic ideas into the general population is worrying.

The report also showed that anti-Israel beliefs were significantly more widely held and agreed to than antisemitic or anti-Jewish statements, and that people who held anti-Israel beliefs were statistically more likely to agree with one or more antisemitic statements. This demonstrates that the interplay between antizionism or anti-Israel beliefs and antisemitism is incredibly complex and must be handled sensitively.

Looking at subgroups within the population, the report finds that levels of antisemitism and anti-Israelism among Christians are no different from those found across society as a whole, but among Muslims they are considerably higher on both counts. On the political spectrum, levels of antisemitism are found to be highest among the far-right, and levels of anti-Israelism are heightened across all parts of the left-wing, but particularly on the far-left. In all cases, the higher the level of anti-Israelism, the more likely it is to be accompanied by antisemitism. Yet, importantly, most of the antisemitism found in British society exists outside of these three groups – the far-left, far-right and Muslims; even at its most heightened levels of intensity, only about 15% of it can be accounted for by them.

“… we need to ascertain what it is that is of chief concern to British Jews; what it is that is causing the level of concern and fear that has been widely reported in the media. Much of the data … demonstrates that, taken as a whole, the British population does not appear to be overwhelmingly antisemitic, certainly when contrasted with other European or Middle Eastern populations. In theory, at least, this should bring significant comfort to British Jews, and assuage many concerns. Yet, the discourse about Israel, particularly in summer 2014, the spike in antisemitic incidents that took place at that time, and an uncomfortable sense that an Islamist extremist attack on a Jewish site or sites in the UK is almost inevitable, are all generating widespread anxiety. In building a research agenda going forward, one needs to be absolutely clear about the specific problems that require investigation, and then focus energy clearly and robustly on those.”

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