The Jewish Chronicle
Virus fuels online antisemitism surge
LAST YEAR’S global pandemic led to a sea-change in the nature of antisemitism, according to a report issued this week.
The Kantor Centre for the Study of Contemporary European Jewry at Tel Aviv University said there were “contradictory trends” on display in 2020.
While there was a decrease in physical violence and encounters between Jews and violent antisemites, thousands of testimonies worldwide indicated a worrying rise in conspiracy theories and accusations against Jews, not least in claiming that Jews and Israel were in some way responsible for the global pandemic.
On the release of the report, Dr Moshe Kantor, president of the European Jewish Congress, said: “In a year of physical restrictions, it is obvious that physical attacks should decrease.
“During times of social crises, Jews are always scapegoated and targeted and we have seen this throughout the Covid cycle. Jews have been blamed for the virus and the cure, and the restrictions
and vaccines have been inappropriately compared with the Holocaust, which minimises and diminishes the murder of six-million Jews. We hope that what we are witnessing is not the calm before the ‘perfect storm’ of Jew hatred in the years ahead.”
Dr Kantor added: “Blaming the Jews and Israelis for developing and spreading the coronavirus (or ‘Judeovirus’) is a graver accusation than any previously made against Jews throughout history: as the pandemic began to spread across the globe, it was immediately followed by accusations that the virus had been developed and was being spread by Jews and Israelis: they are the ones who would find a cure and vaccine for the disease, selling it to the ailing world and making a huge profit. Over the following months this libel spread rapidly.”
At a press conference in Tel Aviv on Wednesday to launch the report, Dr Kantor said part of the trend was a rise in protest movements against vaccines, “filled with far-right elements”, presenting a serious security threat, together with a worrying growth of “extremists” joining the police or the military and gaining access weapons and training.
The report shows that in 2020, the total worldwide number of violent antisemitic events decreased from 456 (2019) to 371 (2020). At the same time a 20 per cent increase was observed in desecrations of synagogues, graveyards and Holocaust memorials (which were closed or unguarded due to the lockdown and therefore easy prey for antisemitic vandalism).
In addition, the report said, “new phenomena developed on the internet, such as Zoombombing and the Dark Net, which are difficult to quantify”. Zoom-bombing emerged when Zoom became a major means of communication. Antisemites adopted the activity to break into Zoom conferences of synagogues, Jewish community centres and Jewish students, disrupting the meetings and using the platform to display swastikas, antisemitic presentations or speeches, etc. In the US alone, 200 cases of antisemitic Zoom-bombing were registered.
Vaccine opponents “equated the restrictions and lockdowns for containing the pandemic with policies of the Nazi regime”.
Phenomena developed on the internet, such as Zoombombing’