Nearly one-third of Brits still hold antisemitic ideas, study claims

Memorial to the 6 million murdered Jews of Europe in Berlin, GermanyAlessio Maffeis/Unsplash

Nearly a third of the population of Britain still holds antisemitic ideas about Jewish people, according to a report issued today.

A small proportion of British adults can be categorised as 'hard-core' antisemites – about two per cent – yet antisemitic ideas can be found at varying degrees of intensity across 30 per cent of British society, the study says.

While this categorically does not mean that 30 per cent of the British population is antisemitic, it does demonstrate the 'outer boundary' of the extent to which antisemitic ideas are present in British society, it adds, and:  'As such, it goes some way towards explaining why British Jews appear to be so concerned about antisemitism, as the likelihood of them encountering an antisemitic idea is much higher than that suggested by simple measures of antisemitic individuals.'

The research draws a distinction between 'counting antisemites' and 'measuring antisemitism'.

This study takes an in-depth look at attitudes towards Jews and Israel among the population of Great Britain, both across society as a whole and in key subgroups within the population, notably the far-left, the far-right, Christians and Muslims.

It introduces the concept of the 'elastic view' of antisemitism, arguing that as antisemitism is an attitude, it exists at different scales and levels of intensity. 

The study by the Institute for Jewish Policy Research consists of an analysis of more than 5,400 'observations'.

It found that one per cent of British society believes actual violence against Jews is 'often' justified. A further three per cent believe that it is 'sometimes' justified. This compares also with a figure of 7.5 per cent who believe violence against Muslims is both 'often' or 'sometimes' justified.

Against immigrants in general it is seven per cent, the same level as against banks or big business. Twelve per cent of the British population have 'hard-core' negative feelings towards Israel.

Levels of antisemitism and anti-Israel attitudes among Christians are in line with levels found in the population of Great Britain in general – neither higher nor lower.

The report states: 'The Christian theological idea that Jews are cursed in some way because they do not believe in Christ is still in circulation among a small minority of Christians, but its current role in feeding antisemitic feelings and thoughts is unclear and probably minimal.'

By contrast, levels of both antisemitism and anti-Israelism are consistently higher among the Muslim population of Great Britain than among the population in general.

The presence of antisemitic and anti-Israel attitudes is two to four times higher among Muslims compared to the general population.

Non-religious Muslims are the least likely group among all Muslims to hold antisemitic or anti-Israel attitudes, and come closest to the levels found in the general population, although they still remain above average.

Yet most Muslims – 60 per cent – religious or not, agree with the statement: 'A British Jew is just as British as any other person.' Most either disagree with, or are neutral on, every one of the antisemitic statements presented to them.

Dr Jonathan Boyd, director of the IJPR, told the BBC: 'Our intention here was not to make any broad generalisations about the Muslim population and their attitudes towards Jews.

'There does seem to be some relationship between levels of religiosity in the Muslim population and antisemitism.'

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