Jewish teachers and students faced a wave of “racist hatred, abuse and intimidation” in the wake of the Gaza conflict, a charity has warned, as anti-Semitic incidents reached a record high.
In a report published on Thursday, the Community Security Trust (CST), a the Jewish charity which monitors anti-Semitic incidents in Britain, said there was an “unprecedented number” of anti-Semitic incidents in the month from May 8 to June 7, during and in the wake of the conflict in Israel and Gaza.
The CST, which has recorded anti-Semitic incidents since 1984, said that there were 628 hate incidents during this period, the highest number it had ever recorded in any month-long period.
For comparison, the charity recorded 146 incidents during the same period in 2020, and 135 incidents in the month prior to 8 May 2021
However, “perhaps most worryingly”, the charity found that anti-Semitic incidents during the recent conflict in the Middle East “disproportionately affected the educational sector” in Britain, with 154 of the total incidents occurring in schools (93) and universities (61).
Incidents ranged from Jewish students receiving death threats, being targeted on their way to or from school or via social media.
The majority of university-related incidents were online, with 45 incidents occurring on social media or messaging apps. The incidents which occurred on campus also included eight threats, two of which were death threats sent to Jewish students.
Students targeted outside school gates
Regarding the trend for anti-Semitism in educational establishments, the report said: “This phenomenon poses a challenge to schools, local authorities and teaching unions, as well as universities.
“They need to balance the right to free expression and pressure to address the conflict within schools, with the discriminatory and intimidatory impact that anti-Israel campaigning can sometimes have on Jewish students and teaching staff.”
Researchers found Jewish schoolchildren and students were “singled out and pressured to declare their position on the conflict or justify Israel’s existence”, either by classmates at non-Jewish schools or by passersby outside of school.
In May, for example, a pupil at a mainstream school in northwest England circulated a petition about Israel and Palestine and told other students “the Jews are killing Muslims” and “the Jews are bad.”
Jewish secondary school students in north London were also stopped by a man who threatened to punch them if they did not say they supported Palestine; saying: “Tell your —-ing mum and dad they are murderers and killing babies.”
On May 28, Gavin Williamson sent a letter to headteachers and school leaders across the country specifically addressing the increase of anti-Semitic hate crime incidents in some schools in response to the recent conflict.
The Education Secretary acknowledged the sensitivity of the issues relating to the conflict but reminded schools of their legal duties of political impartiality and condemned the rise in anti-Semitic incidents, “including the expression of antisemitic views and bullying towards Jewish students and teachers”.
He also emphasised that it was “unacceptable to allow some pupils to create an atmosphere of intimidation or fear for other students and teachers” and urged “schools to deal with these incidents with all due seriousness.”
Responding to the report, Mark Gardner, chief executive of the CST, said: “This anti-Jewish rage was fuelled by extremists and directed against everyone from schoolchildren to rabbis, coming as violence and intimidation in schools, streets and shopping centres.
“We need firmer action against the perpetrators, and an end to the selective anti-racism from those who passionately oppose most racism but uniquely ignore, misrepresent or make excuses for this type of anti-Jewish hate.”
The Department for Education was contacted for comment.