Britain said on Monday it would become one of the first countries to adopt an international definition of anti-Semitism to clamp down on hate crime after an increase in the number of reported incidents targeting Jews.
Adopting the definition formulated in May by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) is meant to make it harder for people to get away with discriminatory or prejudiced behaviour due to unclear or differing definitions of what anti-Semitism actually is.
“It means there will be one definition of anti-Semitism – in essence, language or behaviour that displays hatred towards Jews because they are Jews – and anyone guilty of that will be called out on it,” Prime Minister Theresa May said in pre-released extracts from a speech she was due to deliver.
No details were immediately available as to where the speech would be made.
The government is due to publish its response on Tuesday to an inquiry into anti-Semitism conducted by a committee of lawmakers and another report published in 2015.
The IHRA definition adopted by the group’s 31 member countries, including Britain, reads:
“Anti-Semitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of anti-Semitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.”
Tackling anti-Semitism has risen up the political agenda in Britain, home to the world’s fifth largest Jewish population, as those incidents rose over the last two years.
In the first half of this year, the number of incidents recorded by the Community Security Trust (CST), which provides security advice to Britain’s 270,000 Jews, rose by 11 percent.
The CST said most of the anti-Semitic incidents in the first half of the year took place in April, May and June when the issue of discrimination against Jews was in the news.
Politicians have warned about rising levels of hate crimes due to the Brexit vote, but it is difficult to establish the exact reason behind any increase and whether better relations between police and minorities account for more reporting.
One Labour Jewish lawmaker, Luciana Berger, reported in April she had received thousands of online abusive messages including threats to rape her.
Last week, a man was jailed for subjecting Berger to what Britain’s Crown Prosecution Service described as “highly offensive, hateful and racist articles” in 2014 and 2015.
The opposition Labour party has launched an inquiry into whether the party had a problem in its ranks with anti-Semitism because of statements by former London mayor Ken Livingstone to Oxford University students.
(Reporting by Costas Pitas; Editing by Tom Heneghan)