Anti-Semitic Graffiti in Hampstead

Brexit and social media to blame for huge rise in hate crime say anti-racism organisations

Ronan Barnard
Friday 17 January, 16.00

Anti-Racism organisations have said Brexit may have caused a rise in hate crime and triggered including two recent racist acts of vandalism.

The first act of vandalism was anti-Semitic graffiti in Hampstead and Belsize Park, where the Star of David and “911” was painted on several shops, a phone box, and South Hampstead Synagogue.

The graffiti is thought to be a reference to an anti-Semitic conspiracy theory that Jews planned the 2001 attack on New York’s World Trade Centre.

Hampstead Councillor Oliver Cooper said on Twitter: “We must move heaven and earth to eradicate this racist hatred.”

The vandalism caused fear among Jews of a coming violent attack or increased activity among far-right antisemites.

Antisemitism monitor Community Service Trust reported hate crimes in the UK increased for three years in a row.

Racism watchdog Campaign Against Antisemitism says the increase in anti-Jewish sentinment is partly caused by online activity.

CAA Director of Investigations and Enforcement Stephen Silverman said: “I think what we’re seeing here is extreme right-wing politics that focuses on Jews, on Muslims, on anyone who isn’t white.”

“We do see organisation and we largely see it take place on social media.

“There are three main reasons why this is happening.

“One is the prominence of antisemitism in our political discourse.

“Two is the laissez-faire attitude of social media companies who are allowing antisemites to organise on their platforms and spread their message.

“Three is the failure of the criminal justice system to treat antisemitism with the seriousness that it treats hate crimes against other minorities.”

North Brixton

A further act of vandalism occurred at North Brixton Islamic Cultural Centre (NBICC), when Islamophobic slogans were painted on a nearby building on new year’s day.

Police launched an investigation but have not announced any arrests related to the crime.

NBICC Chief Iman Dr Faisal Boadi said: “The people who did this, I pity them, because they wasted their most valuable possession: time.”

NBICC Iman Sheik Mahmoud said: “I told my congregation to not react to this, but to respond with calm and good deeds.”

North Brixton Islamic Cultural Centre Photo Credit: N Chadwick

Islamophobia monitor TellMAMA reported in late 2019 that 2,963 anti-Muslim hate incidents occurred in 2018, more than double the 1,330 reported incidents in 2017.

The antisemitic graffiti in Hampstead may have been a ‘trigger event’ for the attack, according to TellMAMA’s director Iman Atta OBE.

Ms Atta said: “Yes, we have seen a rise recently in anti-Muslim hate crimes.

“This may be because haters are emboldened and it could be that the tension of the Brexit debate came out in the minds of some as racism.”

TellMAMA’s research indicates that far-right organisation online is increasing the amount of hate crime in the UK.

“Far-right groups have been extremely active through social media since 2011.

“They realised that unfettered access to them at the time could allow them to influence a mass number of people.

“It was only in 2015/2016, after public pressure on social media companies that these companies started to take action.”

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