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Unintended consequences of COVID-19: Rise in antisemitism

Story in brief:

  • The Kantor center revealed that the global rise in antisemitic sentiments since 2018 has been worsened by the COVID-19 outbreak.

  • Given the uncertainty and confusion surrounding COVID-19, people have begun accepting simplistic solutions spread by conspiracy theorists regarding the origins of the virus.

  • In recent US COVID protests, demonstrators reportedly used antisemitic images.

Speaking during the release of the Annual Report on Antisemitism Worldwide 2019 in Tel Aviv on Sunday, Dr. Moshe Kantor, President of the European Jewish Conference claimed that there has been a rise in antisemitic manifestations relating to the spread of the disease and the economic recession triggered by the pandemic.

In recent U.S. protests against coronavirus restrictions, some demonstrators reportedly used anti-Semitic images. On Sunday in Columbus, Ohio, several signs showing a rat with a Star of David superimposed on the Israeli flag with the text, “The real plague,” were displayed, according to The Washington Post

“Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a significant rise in accusations that Jews, as individuals and as a collective, are behind the spread of the virus or are directly profiting from it,” Dr. Kantor said. “The language and imagery used clearly identifies a revival of the medieval ‘blood libels’ when Jews were accused of spreading disease, poisoning wells or controlling economies.” He was, in part, referring to the Black Death of 1348 which the Jews were accused of causing and spreading.

Unfortunately, these COVID-related antisemitic manifestations are only continuing and worsening the consistent rise of antisemitism over the last few years, especially online, on the streets and in mainstream society, politics and media.

According to the Kantor center, 456 severe and violent incidents were recorded worldwide in 2019 compared to 387 in 2018, an 18% increase. The number of persons physically attacked also rose in 2019 by almost 30 (a rise of 22%), life-endangering threats by 40 (an increase of 47%), and an additional 25 private properties were damaged (a 24% rise). Additionally, seven Jews were killed in antisemitic incidents last year.

Kantor said that as unemployment skyrockets due to lockdowns to curb the spread of COVID-19, “more people may seek out scapegoats, spun for them by conspiracy theorists.” He called on world leaders to address the problem of growing extremism “already at our door.”

This kind of scapegoatism is not exclusive to Jews. Health workers, Muslims, Asian immigrants, North-east Indians, African immigrants are just some groups that have been blamed for the causation and spread of the pandemic and its economic impact.

What you need to know about the unintended negative consequences of COVID-19:

A rise in Islamophobic sentiments in India: Muslims, the new victims of fake Coronavirus news in India?

Racist incidents against Asian immigrants in the US, India and Australia: Coronavirus does not discriminate, people do.

Global criticism against the re-opening of wet markets in China: Should Chinese wet markets be closed down permanently?

Violence against doctors in India: is an end in sight?

The world requires the international community to come together in such trying times. As the community strives to mitigate the financial ramifications of the pandemic, the community should not ignore the societal and political crisis that is already starting to emerge.

As we've mentioned before, change does not need to start at the top, but sound guidance delivered by leaders who lead by example can go a long way in inducing change at the bottom.