LONDON - Prime Minister Gordon Brown on Friday condemned the record-breaking rise in anti-Semitic incidents last year, urging Britons to be alert to the threat of ant-Jewish hate.
Brown said the spike in anti-Semitic street attacks, arson, and graffiti - most recorded during or in the months after the Gaza conflict - were "deeply troubling."
"Anti-Semitism is one of the most ancient of hatreds - and yet it constantly adapts to modern times, requiring ever greater vigilance from all of us who are determined to stand up for tolerance and for the truth," Brown said in a statement released through the Community Security Trust, which tracks anti-Semitic incidents in the U.K.
Although many were nonviolent, the trust recorded three potentially life-threatening attacks, including an attempt to burn down the home of a rabbi while it was occupied and an attempt to hit a Jewish man with a car as he left a synagogue.
The trust said in a report released Friday that it had identified 924 anti-Jewish incidents in 2009, the highest number since it began tracking them in 1984.
While the trust had already warned that 2009 was its worst year on record, Friday's total shows by just how much. The figure is more than 50 percent higher than the previous record, set in 2006, when Israel invaded Lebanon.
The trust attributed the unprecedented increase in anti-Jewish incidents to extreme reactions to the conflict in Gaza.
Israeli forces invaded the densely populated coastal strip in late 2008 in an effort to stem rocket attacks from the Hamas-ruled territory, a three-week assault that claimed hundreds of Palestinian lives and fanned protests worldwide.
In Britain, nearly 500 incidents were recorded in the first three months of 2009 alone, many of which referenced to the conflict in the Middle East.
In his statement, Brown said there was room in Britain for a debate over Israel's role in the region, but warned that "no strength of feeling can ever justify violent extremism or attacks.
"We will stand firm against all those who would use anti-Israeli feeling as an excuse or disguise for anti-Semitism and attacks on the Jewish community," he said.
On the Net:
Community Security Trust: http://www.thecst.org.uk/