Lockdown led to less antisemitic incidents recorded the first half of 2020, according to the organisation charged with protecting Britain’s Jewish community, but also introduced new lines of attack for anti-Semites.
In the latest half-yearly update from the Community Security Trust (CST), figures from January to June show that there the number of antisemitic assaults almost halved, with 47 incidents recorded, compared to 85 in the first half of last year.
The lowest numbers were recorded in March and April, when all but essential workers were told to “stay at home”, when the monthly total fell below 100 for only the third time in four years.
Likewise, there were 28 percent less antisemitic threats, 28 percent less incidents involving damage or desecration to Jewish property, and 50 percent fewer instances of mass-produced antisemitic literature.
However, CST chiefs said the pandemic had forced people to find new ways of communicating, and in so doing had introduced completely new categories of antisemitism, such as the ten reported instances whereby educational or religious online events were “hijacked with antisemitic content”.
The organisation said: “This is an entirely new type of incident, informed by a sudden widespread reliance on such platforms, demonstrating the ability, opportunism and speed of antisemitic offenders to adapt to a new social reality.”
Coronavirus also provided fertile ground for online antisemitic imaginings, the CST said, with conspiracies about Jewish involvement in creating and spreading the virus, to “simply wishing and hoping that Jewish people catch the virus and die from it”.
The report also highlighted the continuation of a long-term trend, whereby an ever-increasing proportion of total incidents is online antisemitism.
The proportion rose again during the first six months of 2020, up four percent. Online incidents now comprise 44 percent of the total, compared to 36 percent this time last year.
While the CST typically records most incidents of antisemitism in areas with large Jewish populations, it noted a worrying dispersal of hatred this week.
“CST has observed a broader geographical spread of antisemitic incidents, even though the overall total has diminished,” it said. “In the first six months of 2020, CST recorded an antisemitic incident in all but two Police regions across the UK, compared to nine in the first half of 2019.”
It said one reason for this trend may be the increased incidence of online antisemitism, because whereas the antisemite may be based elsewhere, or even abroad, the “incident” is reported in the region of the person reporting it.
The report’s publication follows a 48-hour Twitter boycott by some of Britain’s most prominent commentators, and the social media giant will have further pause for thought by the CST’s figures, which show that 238 instances of antisemitism on the platform were reported in just six months – equivalent to almost ten per week.
CST chief executive David Delew said it was “worrying that new antisemitic lies have emerged to add to old hatreds,” adding: “History tells us that antisemitism grows at times of great social upheaval. We need to ensure the same is not happening here.”