A pandemic of antisemitism
Antisemitism 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 antisemitism than their parents, in fact over double. The rise of the internet provides a blanket of anonymity to antisemites, 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. Whatever the reasons, the trend is clear. The pandemic has only accelerated this.
COVID-19 as a platform for antisemitism
Even more worrying is that the coronavirus pandemic appears to be speeding up this process. In early April, Germany’s antisemitism 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 antisemitic 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 antisemitism as a virus which people must be concerned to eradicate.
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 antisemitic material online. Authorities fear that the isolation endured by the country’s 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.
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.
The UN Secretary-General has called on religious leaders to use their spiritual authority to fight against such messages of hate and animosity. 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 antisemitism to be as contagious as COVID-19, and work just as hard to eradicate it from our lives.
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