Covid fuels highest rate of online antisemitism ever recorded, says charity

The first half of 2020 has seen the highest rate of online antisemitism ever recorded, according to a charity, with the Covid-19 pandemic breeding new forms of hate and anti-Jewish conspiracies.

That six-month period saw 344 reports of online antisemitism, the highest number ever recorded by the charity.

The CST states that these trends correlate to the UK lockdown.

Five reports were made about antisemitic hate occurring when perpetrators hijacked online events hosted by synagogues and communal bodies providing remote access to prayer services and study sessions.

The CST describes this as a “completely new kind of antisemitic incident … born out of the sudden reliance on these platforms for social participation”.

The charity also recorded a number of incidents that combined antisemitic discourse with reference to the pandemic. 

These ranged from conspiracy theories about Jewish involvement in creating and spreading Covid to hate speech  wishing that Jewish people would catch the virus and die from it.

Explaining the trend, the CST said: “The fact that antisemitic discourses evolved so immediately regarding Jews and the pandemic is reflective of a wider trend of antisemitism following events in the news cycle, almost irrespective of their direct relevance to the Jewish community.”

Quantifying this claim, data from the CST showed that the highest rates of pandemic-related antisemitism came in March; when lockdown came into force, and the YouGov Covid tracker showed fears of the virus at an all-time high in the UK.  

Other forms of antisemitism also pertained to the news cycle, with rhetoric and symbology relating to Hitler, the Nazis and the Holocaust most prevalent in January, the month commemorating the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz and Holocaust Memorial Day in the UK.  

While reports of Labour Party-related antisemitism were at their highest in April and June: the former saw the election of new leader Keir Starmer, and the latter a positive and widely-publicised meeting between Starmer and representatives of various Jewish communal and leadership organisations.  

The Home Office recorded that the Jewish community makes up 19 per cent of victims of hate crimes where the religion is known. This makes them the second most targeted religious group after Muslims.  

Antisemitism has risen by 188 per cent from 2015 to 2019. 

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