Coronavirus Lockdown Causes Reduction in Antisemitic Incidents in UK, but Rise in Conspiracy Theories
British Jews in London demonstrate against antisemitism. Photo: Reuters / Henry Nicholls.
Antisemitic incidents in the United Kingdom decreased by 13 percent in the first six months of this year primarily because of the coronavirus lockdown, the British Jewish community’s security agency disclosed in a new report issued on Wednesday night.
The Community Security Trust (CST) recorded 789 antisemitic incidents nationwide in the first six months of 2020 — a 13 percent fall from the 911 incidents recorded in the first half of 2019.
However, the agency emphasized that the total was “still the third-highest number of incidents CST has ever recorded in the January to June period of any year” since it began systematic monitoring in 1984.
March and April recorded the lowest number of incidents — 98 and 102 respectively. “These months correlate with the period when coronavirus lockdown measures were most forcefully communicated and enforced: the instruction to close down religious premises, schools, restaurants, pubs and other venues was issued towards the end of March, while messaging was relaxed in May,” the report observed.
The pandemic “also influenced the way antisemitism manifested during this period,” the report noted.
The agency received several reports of educational or religious online events being hijacked with antisemitic content or behavior, alongside incidents that combined antisemitic rhetoric with references to the pandemic, “such as conspiracy theories accusing Jews of inventing the coronavirus ‘hoax,’ or of creating and spreading COVID-19 itself, for various malevolent and financial purposes; or simply wishing that Jewish people catch the virus and die,” said the report.
It noted that “while the overall number of incidents fell by 13 percent in the first half of this year, the number and proportion of antisemitic incidents that occurred online increased to 344 incidents, comprising 44 percent of the overall total.”
In an accompanying statement, CST chief executive David Delew declared: “Any reduction in antisemitism is welcome, but it is worrying that even during a national lockdown antisemitic incidents only fell by 13 percent and new antisemitic lies have emerged to add to old hatreds. History tells us that antisemitism grows at times of great social upheaval and we need to ensure the same is not happening here.”