Antisemitic Discourse Report 2018

CST’s Antisemitic Discourse Report covering 2018 is released today. Its study of the Labour antisemitism controversy is a timely reminder of the weight of offence that caused the Jewish communal leadership to hold the unprecedented Enough is Enough demonstration in March last year; and what subsequently caused Labour to be formally accused of institutional antisemitism. Given the Discourse Report’s content, it is somewhat ironic that it had to be delayed due to the 2019 General Election being called, as publication would have risked CST breaking electoral and charitable guidelines

Antisemitic Discourse means antisemitism that occurs in politics, media, sport and other public settings. CST’s report covers both actual antisemitism and issues that impact on it and British Jews. The 2018 report goes well beyond the Labour antisemitism controversy. Other sections include antisemitism from other political parties and in the Brexit debate, university campuses; social media, football, Gilad Atzmon, Katie Hopkins and Baroness Jenny Tonge. The report also includes polling information on antisemitism and summaries of initiatives that opposed antisemitism during the year. 

Executive summary

Antisemitism played an unprecedented role in British public life in 2018. It became a regular feature in national politics and media to an extent not seen before, largely but not exclusively as a result of the ongoing controversy over alleged antisemitism in the Labour Party.

At various points in 2018, the national debate over antisemitism focused specifically on the past conduct of Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn MP. The suggestion that the leader of one of Britain’s main political parties may be personally antisemitic is itself unprecedented in recent decades, and indicates the extent to which public debate over, and awareness of, antisemitism reached new heights in 2018.

The question of how to define antisemitism, and how to determine its relationship with anti- Israel language and sentiment, was a subject of widespread attention in 2018 due to Labour’s internal debate over whether to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism.

This new prominence of antisemitism in the media also involved several stories about antisemitic insults or comments involving celebrities or public figures during 2018.

There is some evidence that concerns in the Jewish community over alleged antisemitism prevented the Labour Party from winning Barnet, the London borough with the largest Jewish population, in the local elections in May 2018.

Scandals over alleged antisemitism from party representatives or supporters also affected the Conservative Party and Scottish National Party in 2018.

Some Brexit campaigners, including Nigel Farage and the Leave.EU campaign, used conspiratorial language about George Soros, immigration and the EU that echoed antisemitic tropes about Jews, money and political manipulation.

Social media and the internet was a particular focus of concern over antisemitism and extremism in 2018. These included revelations about secret Facebook groups with pro-Jeremy Corbyn or anti-Israel titles where antisemitic posts and comments were common; antisemitic videos from popular YouTubers; and debates over the extent of social media companies’ responsibility to remove hateful content from their platforms.

Several stories emerged in 2018 about antisemitism and racism in football, while Chelsea FC launched a new campaign against antisemitism.

The European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) published their second opinion poll of Jewish perceptions and experiences of antisemitism in the EU. This found that 75 per cent of British Jews think antisemitism is a “very big” or “fairly big” problem in this country, compared to 48 per cent who said this in the first poll in 2012. Eighty-four per cent of British Jews said antisemitism was present in “political life”, the highest figure of any country in the poll, compared to 34 per cent in 2012.

A poll by the Pew Research Center found that 23 per cent of British people said they would not accept a Jewish person in their family; two thirds of people said they know “not much” or “nothing at all” about Judaism; and 55 per cent said they personally know somebody who is Jewish.

Source: CST