On Monday, April 20, 2020, Tel Aviv University's Kantor Center for the Study of Contemporary European Jewry and the Moshe Kantor Database for the Study of Contemporary Antisemitism and Racism held a press conference via Zoom with the European Jewish Congress to highlight their annual report on the state of antisemitism worldwide.
The conference was led by Prof. Dina Porat, Head of the Kantor Center; Dr. Giovanni Quer, Academic Director of the Kantor Center; and Adv. Arie Zuckerman, Chairman of the Kantor Center Board. Dr. Moshe Kantor, President of the European Jewish Congress, made taped opening remarks.
The main points underlined in the report included the following:
There was an 18% rise in violent antisemitic incidents worldwide over 2018, the highest rise since 2014.
There were 456 major violent antisemitic attacks; 53 attacks on synagogues; 169 attacks on individuals; and seven murders.
There is now a new crop of antisemitism: COVID-19-related antisemitism. People are using the pandemic to spread racism, xenophobia and antisemitism. This kind of antisemitism proposes that Jews as a collective and Jews as individuals are behind the spread of the virus or are directly profiting from it.
This "new" antisemitism draws on "classic" antisemitism: medieval blood libels; Jews as responsible for the spread of disease, poisoning wells and controlling the economy.
As people feel the economic effects of the lockdown, they look in tandem for someone/something to blame. This allows conspiracy theories to flourish, with Jewish people and other minorities at the center of these.
Social distancing measures have positioned online platforms as the main mode of communication. The Kantor Center suggests enforcing stricter rules against hate speech online, including but not limited to closing any pages that promote hate speech.
"If leaders do not respond to the social and economic effects of the COVID-19 health crisis, the consequences will be catastrophic not only for the Jewish community but for our societies and our future," Dr. Kantor said in a taped statement.
"There has been a dramatic increase in online hate speech, and what happens on the internet does not stay on the internet," said Dr. Quer. "Major violent attacks have exemplified this. There is a causal link between online hate speech and violence."
"There is a discrepancy between action taken by governments and the impression on the streets. It is our main mission to try to bridge the gap in antisemitism between government and society," said Prof. Porat. "It is terrible what we are being accused of: We are being accused of manufacturing this virus to create a vaccine to sell it to the entire world and make money off of people's suffering. It is terrible, but we must remember we are not alone. Chinese people are being detained everywhere; we are not alone in this. That said, some 40% of young Jewish people are contemplating leaving Europe today, which is very serious."
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