Is the Coronavirus Pandemic Anti-Semites’ Latest Weapon?

Anti-Semitism, Anti-Israel - Coronavirus
(Photo: Mahmoud Illean/AP)

Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, there has been a rise in the spread of anti-Semitic content online, particularly on social media, Israeli activists report, citing “hundreds” of examples of anti-Semitic remarks and conspiracy theories that accuse the Jewish people and the state of Israel of spreading the virus.

Internet use has apparently increased since much of the world has been following instructions to shelter at home, bringing a parallel rise in anti-Semitic discourse.

A report from the group Israeli Students Combating Anti-Semitism, a collaboration between the National Union of Israeli Students and the Foreign Ministry, has cited hundreds of instances of anti-Semitic postings on Facebook Twitter, YouTube, and Instagram in the space of a single month. The posts were made in English, Russian, and Spanish.

Tomer Aldobi, founder and director of the ISCA, explained that “the content includes conspiracy theories and hate content that link Jews and Israel to the [corona] pandemic in various ways: [calling] the virus a Jewish invention, or accusing Jews and the state of Israel of spreading it.”

According to Aldobi, “the content is spread and shared both by individual user and by public and private accounts.”

The movement’s report said that 58% of the anti-Semitic content identified originated on Twitter. However, anti-Semitic content specific to coronavirus was particularly prevalent on Facebook, followed by Instagram and Twitter.

Aldobi’s group has managed to have some of the anti-Semitic posts removed, but questions remain about the social media platform policies that allow such content to go online in the first place.

Attorney Nir Kaplan, one of the co-founders of the ISCA, noted that the amount of anti-Semitic content online was far greater than the specific instances cited in the group’s report.

“A number of activists who follow content influence the content that is tracked and reported. Likewise, a cutback in the manpower [at the social media platforms] responsible for tracking user reports on social media these past few months allows a lot of anti-Semitic content to get through rather than being taken down,” Kaplan said.

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