A worldwide wave of antisemitism unleashed by COVID-19 pandemic

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The Kantor Center for the Study of Contemporary European Jewry at Tel Aviv University, published a special report: a summary of worldwide antisemitic phenomena associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. The report relies on hundreds of accounts from different locations around the world, and come from an international network of colleagues, living in 35 countries, who identify and classify acts of anti-Semitism, which are added the material to The Moshe Kantor Database on Antisemitism.

The network was established by Tel Aviv University over 30 years ago and today numbers about 60 participants. The database is an up-to-date collection of materials and resources on trends and events related to contemporary antisemitism, which includes English summaries based on source materials in all languages and formats including texts, visuals and audiovisuals.

Professor Dina Porat, Head of the Kantor Center said: “These common motifs perpetuate antisemitic accusations from previous generations and other global catastrophes, once again presenting the well-known image of the Jew. However, the antisemitism generated by the coronavirus is fiercer and more intensive, has continued unremittingly for several months, and reflects a high level of anxiety and fear in many populations. This having been said, the situation should be seen in its overall context — in which others are also blamed for spreading the virus: first of all, the Chinese, 5G antennas and the authorities who allegedly are not doing enough to stop the epidemic. Countries close down their borders, every foreigner is a suspect, and no new immigrants are allowed”.

Antisemitism in the age of coronavirus

Coronavirus-related antisemitism is manifested in many parts of the world: A significant portion comes from the US and from Middle Eastern countries such as Iran and Turkey as well as the Palestinian Authority, but also from Europe and South America. While in the US, accusations come mainly from white supremacists and ultraconservative Christians, pointing the finger at Jews in general and Haredi Jews in particular, accusers in the Middle East mostly blame Israel, Zionism and the Mossad for creating and spreading the virus and intending to make a vast fortune from medications and the vaccine they are already developing.

In the western world, the main elements promoting antisemitic discourse are civil society groups with various ideologies, while in the Middle East some of this discourse is put forth by the regimes themselves.

Dr. Giovanni Quer adds: “Universal disasters have been attributed to the Jews and to Israel before, giving rise to antisemitic discourse — such as conspiracy theories blaming Israel for 9/11, or false reports accusing Israeli soldiers of harvesting organs from the bodies of dead Palestinians. The current wave of antisemitism is unprecedented, however, because, spreading very swiftly through the social media, it focused at first on the COVID-19 crisis and then quickly moved on because of social and political changes: Just a few days passed between the coronavirus crisis and the racism-related social crisis in the US, but antisemitic discourse remained just as fierce, with its proponents simply adapting their antisemitic narratives to the changing social contexts.”

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