‘Judeovirus,’ Zoom bombing, darknet extremism: Israeli anti-Semitism study offers 2020’s gritty details

One worrying change, the report notes, is that accusations against the Jews spilled out to populations without strong ideological identities.

By World Israel News Staff

Where there’s actual plague, the plague of anti-Semitism quickly follows is the theme of the “Anti-Semitism Report for 2020,” published by Tel Aviv University’s Kantor Center on Wednesday.

“Blaming the Jews and Israelis for developing and spreading the coronavirus (or the ‘Judeovirus’), was the main motif in this year’s anti-Semitic manifestations. This notion is rooted in a deep fear of the Jew/Israeli as a spreader of disease in both the past and present,” said Prof. Dina Porat, head of the Kantor Center.

Blaming the Jews and Israelis for developing and spreading the virus is a graver accusation than any previously made against Jews throughout history, the report says.

“As the pandemic began to spread across the globe, it was immediately followed by accusations that the virus had been developed and was being spread by Jews and Israelis: they are the ones who would find a cure and vaccine for the disease, selling it to the ailing world and making a huge profit,” the report said.

One worrying change, the report notes, is that accusations against the Jews spilled over from extremist circles and anti-Israel accusers into “populations without well-defined political or ideological identities.”

Online anti-Semitism

The report notes that new phenomena developed on the internet, such as zoom bombing and extremism shifting to the darknet.

Since the public space was shut down during the pandemic and people stayed at home, activities on social media, including anti-Semitic activities, increased significantly, characterized by aggressiveness and verbal abuse. Such phenomena, however, are inherently difficult to quantify, says the report.

The report also noted the phenomenon called zoom-bombing – breaking into zoom conferences of synagogues, Jewish community centers and Jewish students, disrupting the meetings and using the platform to display swastikas, anti-Semitic presentations or speeches. In the U.S. alone, 200 cases of zoom bombing were registered.

Extremist groups, especially from the far right, like white supremacists and neo-Nazis, left the open social networks and descended into the darknet, which grew significantly over the past year. There, they are free of any supervision or restrictions and can run their own websites, undisturbed. Consequently, the number of anti-Semitic manifestations on the open networks declined, while activities on the darknet intensified, the report says.

Fewer violent events

Lockdowns in the various countries reduced encounters between Jews and their ill-wishers, and consequently the number of violent events declined from 456 (in 2019) to 371 in 2020 – a number that was typical of 2016-18.

No one was murdered this year for being Jewish (although physical attacks could potentially have had fatal outcomes), and the number of bodily injuries decreased from 170 in 2019 to 107 in 2020. Damage to private property was also reduced from 130 to 84 incidents, simply because people mostly stayed at home.

In most countries a decrease was registered in the number of violent incidents, attacks on both people and their property, threats and arson. However, vandalism towards Jewish communal property and institutions remained as frequent, and in some cases they became more frequent.

The number of desecrations of graveyards, Holocaust memorials and other Jewish monuments (open and unprotected sites) rose from 77 (2019) to 96 (2020) incidents worldwide, and the number of vandalized synagogues (being closed, they became easy targets) also increased from 53 (2019) to 63 (2020).

In the U.S., a gradual rise in acts of violence has been observed for several years, reaching 119 this year (compared to 99 in 2017 for example), and Germany also saw a significant escalation in the total number of cases, from a total of 2,032 in 2019 to 2,275 in 2020, including 59 physical injuries. In both countries, vandalism accounted for most of the incidents.

A significant decline was noted in Australia, the UK and especially France, where the Ministry of the Interior and the Jewish Community both reported a drop of 50% in all types of anti-Semitic incidents, due to the tight lockdown, as well as in Canada, where the number of violent cases dropped by more than half.

Most incidents occurred in countries with large Jewish communities: the U.S., Canada, the UK, Australia, France and Germany. In all other countries, with the exception of Ukraine, less than 10 incidents (per country) were reported in 2020.

Vaccine opponents and the Holocaust

Vaccine opponents equated the restrictions and lockdowns aiming to contain the pandemic with policies of the Nazi regime, accusing the establishment and governments in various countries of applying means of coercion.

Lockdowns were compared to incarceration in ghettos and concentration camps; vaccines were described as medical experiments; certificates granting privileges after vaccination were seen as the infamous ‘selection’ procedure in Nazi death camps.

Anti-vaxxers felt that they were as undesirable and persecuted as the Jews had been; the epitaph on the gate to Auschwitz served as a source for the new slogan ‘Vaccination liberates’; and so on.

In Germany, where opposition to the vaccines is particularly strong, demonstrators wore a yellow star on their clothes, with the word ‘unvaccinated’ replacing the word ‘Jew,’ and called Chancellor Merkel a Nazi.