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New Report: Global Pandemic Triggered Anti-Semitism Rise Online

In this Dec. 4, 2019 file photo, Strasbourg chief Rabbi Harold Abraham Weill looks at vandalized tombs in the Jewish cemetery of Westhoffen in eastern France.  (AP Photo/Jean-Francois Badias, File)
In this Dec. 4, 2019 file photo, Strasbourg chief Rabbi Harold Abraham Weill looks at vandalized tombs in the Jewish cemetery of Westhoffen in eastern France. (AP Photo/Jean-Francois Badias, File)

JERUSALEM, Israel – A new report says the coronavirus pandemic gave birth to a rise in “blatant” anti-Semitism on the internet and especially on social media sites. Many of the conspiracy theories blame Jews for the global outbreak, raising fears that there could be an increase in violence against Jews in the post-pandemic world.

The report was released by Israeli researchers at Tel Aviv University’s Kantor Center for the Study of Contemporary European Jewry.

"The coronavirus pandemic and the resulting reality dictated both the nature and extent of antisemitism in 2020, which was an unusually tense and turbulent year all over the world,” said Prof. Dina Porat, Head of the Kantor Center.

“Blaming the Jews and Israelis for developing and spreading the coronavirus (or the 'Judeovirus'), was the main motif in this year's antisemitic manifestations. This notion is rooted in a deep fear of the Jew/Israeli as a spreader of disease in both the past and present,” she added.

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Conspiracists spread claims that Jews created the virus so they could eventually develop a vaccine and make huge profits by selling it to the world.

Researchers also said that conspiracy theorists drew false comparisons between the coronavirus health restrictions and vaccines and the Holocaust. Some equated lockdown restrictions to incarceration in Nazi ghettos and concentration camps, where millions of Jews were murdered.

“Vaccines were described as medical experiments; certificates granting privileges after vaccination were seen as the infamous 'selection' procedure in Nazi death camps,” the study said.

“Moreover, the accusation was heard not only from extremist circles, such as white supremacists, ultra-conservative Christians, or the usual accusers like Iran, Turkey and the Palestinian Authority, and especially Iran, that invested efforts in disseminating the accusation. It also spread to populations without well-defined political or ideological identities,” the study said.

The report also highlighted a phenomenon it referred to as “zoom-bombing,” in which anti-Semites would break into video conferences hosted by Jewish community centers and synagogues and post hateful messages.

The Israeli researchers noted a decrease in physical attacks against Jews in 2020. They attributed this to the reduced encounters between Jews and violent anti-Semites due to global lockdowns.

But many are concerned the rise in anti-Semitism online will soon translate into physical violence.

“Anti-Jewish hatred online never stays online," said Moshe Kantor, president of the European Jewish Congress. "We have to be prepared that anti-Semitic conspiracy theories could lead to physical attacks on Jews when lockdowns end.”

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