Friday, April 04, 2008

Vandals desecrate Jewish cemetery

Dozens of gravestones and tombs at a Jewish cemetery have been desecrated in what police are treating as a religiously motivated attack.

Vandals smashed headstones and tombs, pulled up graves' marble surrounds, damaged railings and started a small fire at Plashet Cemetery in East Ham, east London.

Scotland Yard said between 30 and 40 gravestones and tombs were damaged in the attack on Saturday.

Det Sgt Gerry Healy said: "We are treating this as a religiously motivated crime and it is shocking to think someone would deliberately cause damage to a burial site and so much distress to local families.

"The cemetery backs onto Lincoln Road, which is a residential area.

"The suspects must have caused considerable noise as they smashed the gravestones and we would like anyone in the area who saw or heard anything suspicious to come forward."

The cemetery, which is attached to the United Synagogue, has been the target of anti-Semitic attacks in the past.

In May 2003, more than 380 headstones were toppled and damaged in the biggest desecration of Jewish graves in Britain.

A Home Office spokeswoman said: "We will not tolerate racially motivated crime of any kind.

"We understand the concerns of Jewish communities and support the police and prosecuting authorities in taking a tough line to stamp out anti-Semitism wherever it occurs.

"We have one of the strongest legal frameworks in the world to protect people from discrimination or persecution on the grounds of their faith or race, and this was strengthened by the introduction of the Racial and Religious Hatred Act 2006.

"This is underpinned by Government strategies and funding to increase racial equality, understanding and dispel the myths that may provoke attacks."

The Community Security Trust (CST), a charity which monitors anti-Semitism and advises Britain's Jewish community on personal safety, condemned the attack.

Spokesman Mark Gardner said: "There has been a considerable rise in anti-Semitic incidents in recent years, and obviously this type of attack is extremely distressing for all concerned.

"We hope that the police will investigate it fully, although at this stage it is too early to say if local vandals or perhaps a more political group were responsible." (Source)


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