A pandemic of anti-Semitism

A pandemic of anti-Semitism

The coronavirus pandemic affects everyone in Europe, but Jews are feeling the impact more than most. The amount of anti-Semitic material circulating online has increased dramatically during lockdown, much of which blames Jews for causing the pandemic. Moreover, COVID-19 is proving more deadly to Jews than other demographics.

Anti-Semitism is on the rise across Europe: that is according to a number of studies and decades of careful research. Young Jewish Europeans are facing substantially more anti-Semitism than their parents, in fact over double.[1] The rise of the internet provides a blanket of anonymity to anti-Semites, and greatly increases their audience. The racist and xenophobic language used recently by European leaders has also acted to normalise intolerance, bringing it into the public sphere.[2] Whatever the reasons, the trend is clear.

COVID-19 as a platform for anti-Semitism
Even more worrying is that the coronavirus pandemic appears to be speeding up this process. In early April, Germany’s anti-Semitism Commissioner, Felix Klein, warned that far-right extremists were taking advantage of the world’s fear of COVID-19, and using it as a platform to spread their anti-Semitic message. Conspiracy theories which blamed Jews for intentionally releasing the coronavirus, or unintentionally causing its transmission, peaked during the middle of the lockdown. Klein spoke of such anti-Semitism as a virus which people must be concerned to eradicate.[3]

The UK has been the latest to notice a similar trend. A new report shows an increase in British-registered social media platforms spreading neo-Nazi and anti-Semitic material online. Authorities fear that the isolation endured by the country’s population COVID-19 lockdown has allowed vulnerable residents to become radicalised. The report highlights that many smaller social media providers such as Bitchute and 4chan were being used, where content is less strictly policed than on the giants of Facebook and Twitter.[4]

Religious minorities affected most by COVID-19
As if this picture could not get any worse, COVID-19 itself appears to affect Jews and other religious minorities worse than most. A new study conducted in England and Wales found that Jewish men are twice as likely to die from coronavirus than Christian men. The demographic most likely to die from COVID-19 was Muslim men, closely followed by Jewish men. Statisticians say that a large factor in these results is socioeconomic variation between the religious groups and differences in living conditions, but even taking this into account, substantial discrepancies remain.[5]

The UN Secretary General has called on religious leaders to use their spiritual authority to fight against such messages of hate and animosity.[6] The religious values of mutual respect and tolerance are hoped to triumph over the messages of hate sewn by right-wing radicals. As Felix Klein points out, the world must understand anti-Semitism to be as contagious as COVID-19, and work just as hard to eradicate it from our lives.

Frazer MacDiarmid

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[1] Young Jewish Europeans face more abuse than their parents: study
[2] Hungary accused of fuelling xenophobia with anti-migrant rhetoric
[3] ‘Direct links’ between rise in Jew-hate and coronavirus spread, says German antisemitism commissioner
[4] Alternative online platforms littered with antisemitic and neo-Nazi hate material, new CST report claims
[5] Jewish males twice at risk of dying from Covid-19 than Christian men, ONS report reveals
[6] UN chief urges faith leaders to challenge harmful messages