Surge in antisemitism fuelled by Hamas war and Covid conspiracies goes global

“When Israel defends itself, Jews across the world become a target”


Rage against Israel during the Hamas war and Covid conspiracy theories fuelled a huge surge in antisemitism all over the world last year, according to a disturbing new study.

Researchers at Tel Aviv University found a dramatic rise in almost all the countries around the world with significant Jewish populations.

But the UK stood out even against this dramatic backdrop, with a total of 2,255 antisemitic incidents recorded in 2021 - a 34 per cent increase on the previous year. Incidents during this period included the “hate convoys” who shouted out antisemitic slogans in Jewish areas as part of protests against Israel. Physical assaults on Jews in Britain rose by 78 per cent in 2021 compared to the year before.

Although this may in part be due to the extremely low levels of all social activity under tight lockdown restrictions in 2020, last year’s figure was still up 10.2 per cent on that of 2019, before the pandemic.

According to the Antisemitism Worldwide Report 2021, there was “a significant increase in various types of antisemitic incidents in most countries with large Jewish populations”.

The Israel-Hamas war in May 2021 triggered an enormous number of physical attacks on Jews. Incidents in the US in that month more than doubled, rising by 115 per cent, there was an increase of 54 per cent in Canada, and the UK and Australia both recorded the highest ever total of antisemitic incidents for a single month.

The number of antisemitic incidents for the year rose in all European nations with available data, with the exception of Italy, where there was a fall. In France the number rose by 74 per cent. In Germany, there were 3,028 instances of what the authorities categorise as “politically motivated crimes with an antisemitic hate crime”, the highest total recorded to date.

Across the world, there was a year-on-year increase in 16 of the 22 countries in the study, with four recording no change, and just two seeing a drop.

Compared to 2019, six of 13 countries with available data saw a rise, four recorded no change and just three saw a drop.

The report by the Center for the Study of Contemporary European Jewry at Tel Aviv University’s Faculty of Humanities draws upon scores of other studies in individual countries.

Police and law-enforcement agencies, Jewish organisations and media outlets are other sources.

Tel Aviv University lecturer Dr Carl Yonker, who compiled the report, told the JC: “The report reveals a problematic connection that when Israel defends itself, Jews around the world become a target of incitement and hate crimes.”

North America and Western Europe are the key areas where efforts to defeat antisemitism are failing, according to Dr Yonker. He says social media has been a key driver in the period under study, with antisemitic material online growing much faster during lockdown when people were spending far more time in the digital world.

The pandemic also gave rise to antisemitic conspiracy theories, as Jews and Israel were accused of spreading the virus to then develop and profit from vaccines - a clear reincarnation of an ancient blood libel.

Despite the “extensive efforts and resources” that have been invested in the fight against antisemitism in recent years, more funding and conferences “won’t necessarily make the difference”, the authors say. They are calling for an “unsparing examination of the efficacy of existing strategies”, and say that having a global picture of the prevalence of antisemitism is crucial. They argue that current strategies are failing, and there is a need to understand why that is in order for efforts and funding to be directed most effectively.

The researchers say a large part of the problem is that much of what happens online goes unchecked, allowing antisemitism to spread without resistance.

Dr Yonker said he and his team hoped their report would “encourage introspection, discussion, and to start brainstorming new ideas and reassess”.

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