There has been a 1,350% increase in hate crimes against Jewish people as the Middle East crisis erupted, the Metropolitan police have said, with no arrests so far in nine out of 10 alleged offences.
Figures from the Met covering London show that 218 antisemitic offences were recorded from 1 October to 18 October this year, compared with 15 in the same period last year.
Hamas attacked Israel on 7 October, and Israel attacked Gaza shortly after.
Ade Adelekan, the deputy assistant commissioner, described the rise as “significant” and said Islamophobic offences in London were up 140% over the same period, from 42 in 2022 to 103.
Both Jewish and Muslim communities have previously complained of feeling underprotected from hate crimes.
Police said they made 21 arrests in the first 18 days of October, in just under 7% of cases, with investigations continuing into others.
A man was arrested in Camden, north London, for allegedly tearing down posters depicting hostages taken by Hamas, which the British government designates as a terrorist group.
Police said a man was arrested for 10 alleged incidents of Islamophobic graffiti at bus stops in New Malden and Raynes Park, south London.
The Community Security Trust, which aims to protect the Jewish community from hate crime, said that while crises in the Middle East led to increases in offences in Britain, the increase this time appeared unusually large.
Dave Rich, policy director for the CST, said: “This huge spike in anti-Jewish hate crime happens every time Israel is at war, yet other foreign conflicts such as the war in Ukraine do not trigger similar outbursts of hate crimes here in the UK. It is shameful and appalling that this still occurs in modern Britain, and yet it happens time after time.”
New figures show hate crimes since the Hamas atrocity are increasing nationwide, with 533 hate incidents – including 19 physical assaults – recorded from 7 October to 20 October, in increase of 651% compared with the same period last year.
Of the incidents, 31 were attacks on Jewish property. Three-quarters were online, including threats; 35 were at schools and 45 at universities.
The Union of Jewish Students said some young people had stopped wearing items that may identify them as being Jewish, while others had received death threats and virulent antisemitic abuse.
More protests are scheduled this week over the Israel-Hamas war, with police trying to navigate their way through a series of tense disputes.
The Met said a chant used by some protesters – “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” – would usually be treated as lawful. Some say it is calling for the destruction of Israel and thus is automatically antisemitic, while others say it is merely calling for Palestinian self-determination.
Adelekan said the chant would be viewed as lawful in a protest setting unless it were directed at Jewish people or close to Jewish buildings such as synagogues and cultural centres. Discussions between police commanders and prosecutors have been held to seek clarity about when it could be an offence.
Adelekan said: “It is likely that its use in a wider protest setting, such as we anticipate this weekend, would not be an offence and would not result in arrests. This is just one example of the difficult decisions facing officers.”
In a letter to police heads, the home secretary, Suella Braverman, wrote: “I would encourage police to consider whether chants such as ‘From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free’ should be understood as an expression of a violent desire to see Israel erased from the world, and whether its use in certain contexts may amount to a racially aggravated section 5 public order offence.”