Earlier this week, the Antisemitic Incidents Report 2020, was released by the Community Security Trust, which advices on terrorism, antisemitism, and other security issues in the UK. The findings of the report pointed towards “historically high” and “innovative” instances of flagrant antisemitism amidst the pandemic, backed by the power of social media.
Although the report found antisemitic incidents to have dropped off slightly in comparison to 2019, they were often connected to COVID-19 and found online. The CST found that 1,668 antisemitic incidents took place in the UK in 2020. While this is the third-highest total the CST has recorded, it nonetheless represents a decrease of 8% compared to 2019.
With links to the pandemic, the report found that the landscape of antisemitism in the UK in 2020, and the decrease in reported incidents, have been strongly influenced by the Covid-19 pandemic. The highest monthly totals in 2020 were January (188 incidents), February (140 incidents), June (178 incidents) and July (180 incidents). They correlate neatly with the periods in the year that lockdown measures were either not-yet-existent (preMarch) or most relaxed (in the case of the latter two).
It also said the pandemic has led antisemites to be increasingly “innovative” in their attacks on the Jewish community, providing “new strands” of hateful discourse. According to the report, in 2020, CST received 19 reports of educational, religious, and social online video events hijacked with antisemitic content. 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.
In the report, the CST argued that the rise of pandemic-related antisemitism is indicative of a wider trend: “antisemitism follows events in the news cycle and public interest, almost irrespective of their relevance to the Jewish community.” As a result, antisemitic incidents often cluster around major news events, holidays, or anniversaries, such as pandemic lockdowns, Holocaust Memorial Day, and the controversy over antisemitism in the Labour party.
Meanwhile, 396 cases made reference to Hitler, the Nazis, the Holocaust, employed discourse based on the Nazi period, and/or punctuated their abuse with a Nazi salute or the depiction of a swastika. This is an increase from the 331 such incidents recorded in 2019, and the most common individual discourse reported in 2020. Of these, 78 glorified the Holocaust, its perpetrators, and/or their ideas, or expressed a desire to see the mass extermination of Jews once again. A further 61 incidents contained denial of the Holocaust.