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’

 ??  ?? A recent antisemiti­c cartoon
A recent antisemiti­c cartoon

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