EU security chief warns over ‘new’ terrorism rooted in conspiracy theories

Gilles de Kerchove also said hate speech and violence towards Jews had increased during pandemic


The European Union’s counter-terrorism coordinator has expressed concern about the potential rise of “new forms of terrorism, rooted in conspiracy theories and technophobia”.

Gilles de Kerchove also warned of the rise of hate speech and violence towards Jews during the coronavirus pandemic, and claimed that a “strong strain” of antisemitism on the far left was linked to “anti-Zionism and an anti-Netanyahu” sentiment.

Speaking to the Combatting Terrorism Centre, Mr de Kerchove pointed to the burning of 5G masts as an example of “small-scale acts of violence caused by a belief in conspiracy theories”.

A recent CST report referred to online conspiracy theorists blaming the Jews for spreading coronavirus using the mobile towers. Similarly, a July report by the Commission for Countering Extremism said figures such as David Icke had played a significant role in spreading antisemitic conspiracy theories linked to Covid-19.

“Disinformation is not necessarily rooted in political ideologies, although it is often amplified by right-wing and left-wing extremists,” the EU counter-terror chief commented.

Violent right-wing extremists had been “particularly shrewd” at exploiting the pandemic according to Mr de Kerchove, who reported that “extremist hate speech and incitement to violence on the internet has increased dramatically since the start of the coronavirus crisis.

“Violence against minorities—particularly Jews—has increased during the pandemic,” he said. “We need to tackle these problems and counter antisemitic hate speech and violence.”

He warned of a risk of increased terrorist attacks in the future, motivated by coronavirus-related hate speech: “We must prevent the current health and economic crisis from becoming a security crisis as well.”

Mr de Kerchove, who has held his position since 2007, also pointed to a “strong strain of antisemitism on the far left” fuelled by a dislike for Israel and the Israeli government.

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