Reduction in antisemitism ‘clearly influenced’ by pandemic, as hate goes digital

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Reduction in antisemitism ‘clearly influenced’ by pandemic, as hate goes digital

Annual report by the CST showed 1,668 incidents in 2020 which constitutes an eight percent fall on the year before

'Zoombombing' has become the new method of attack for online antisemites
'Zoombombing' has become the new method of attack for online antisemites

The UK’s antisemitism monitor has said a reduction in anti-Jewish racism last year was “clearly influenced” by the pandemic, as its newly published its 2020 figures.

The annual report from the Community Security Trust (CST) showed 1,668 incidents last year, an eight percent fall on the year before. This was “largely due” to lockdown restrictions from March, it said.

Figures back that up, the lowest monthly totals correlating to the first and second wave, and consequently to the first and second national lockdowns. The highest monthly totals included January and February – before the virus hit.

The charity also reported on 41 instances of antisemitism that specifically referenced the deadly coronavirus, and on a new method favoured by locked-down antisemites, which has been termed ‘Zoombombing’.

Despite the reduced incidents, 2020 was still the third-highest annual total the CST has ever recorded, as several online events – typically held over the Zoom app – were breached (or ‘Zoombombed’) by digital intruders expressing antisemitic abuse.

“This is an entirely new type of incident, informed by a sudden widespread reliance on such platforms,” said the CST. “It demonstrates the ability, opportunism and speed of antisemitic offenders to adapt to a new social reality.”

Covid-19 has also affected where and how antisemitic incidents are occurred. The number of incidents relating to Jewish schools or schoolchildren went from 122 in 2019 to 53 last year, reflecting extended school closures.

Likewise, incidents at or near home, such as those involving neighbours, shot up by 25 percent, as the charity said pandemic-related conspiracies were unsurprising, because “antisemitism follows events in the news cycle”.

Online antisemitic incidents fell by 9 percent, but the year’s most shocking example of Jew hatred – espoused over several day by the grime artist Wiley – was broadcast to his millions of followers through social media sites.

Drawing on tropes about Jewish power and money while comparing Jews to the Ku Klux Klan, he even “appeared to encourage others to express their own antisemitism”, said the CST, which recorded 23 incidents in relation to it.

Home Secretary Priti Patel said it was “shameful” that the Jewish community still faced antisemitism, while Shadow Home Secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds said overall numbers were “still too high”.

Lord Mann, the Government’s independent adviser on antisemitism, said the pandemic had led to “a rise in antisemitic conspiracy theories and the use of dangerous alterative media platforms”, a point echoed by law enforcers.

The pandemic had “provided a new focus for historic hostilities,” said National Policing Lead for Hate Crime, Deputy Chief Constable Mark Hamilton. “We’ve seen conspiracy theories affecting many communities often include antisemitic tropes. This presented us with new challenges in 2020.”

CST boss Mark Gardner said he had hoped that antisemitism would fall by more than it had done during 2020. “The fact it didn’t means we must remain even more vigilant for 2021,” he said, “especially as the economic impact of Covid-19 may cause more extremism and division within society”.

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