Thousands protest in Berlin, Germany, against rising anti-Semitism, Oct. 13, 2019, days after a man attacked a synagogue in the eastern German city of Halle. (Paul Zinken/dpa via AP) (Paul Zinken/dpa via AP)
Germany Protest Anti-Semitism

Like in the Middle Ages during the Black Plague, Jews are falsely accused of responsibility for the COVID-19 pandemic, said World Zionist Organization Vice-chairman Yaakov Hagoel.

By AP and TPS 

A special report by the World Zionist Organization (WZO) released on Monday, on the eve of Holocaust Remembrance Day, reveals a sharp increase in cases of anti-Semitism following the outbreak of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

The report – produced by Eli Nahum, who for 17 years served as a researcher on anti-Semitism at the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office – reveals a sharp rise in anti-Semitism worldwide in the first quarter of 2020.

The findings concurred with an annual report published by Tel Aviv University (TAU) researchers showing an 18 percent spike in attacks against Jews last year. The TAU report warns that the pandemic has threatened to amp up incitement even more.

The WZO  report notes that in countries where there are many cases of anti-Semitism, there are no organized programs to combat the phenomenon.

Diaspora Jews report fear of walking around in public with Jewish attire such as a skullcap or a Star of David necklace, Nahum noted in the report.

As early as 2019, Jews in various countries experienced anti-Semitism of a magnitude not seen before in recent years, the report says, adding that in most countries where anti-Semitic events are being monitored, a record number of incidents have been recorded in the past year.

There are several countries around the world where the data is of acute concern, the report continues, such as in Gremany and the US, which are experiencing an alarming increase in the number of violent incidents with an anti-Semitic motive.

Daily Attacks Recorded

In the US, at least one Jewish attack occurs each day on average, and in Germany, a Jew is attacked every three days, says the WZO report, which lists all the findings that occurred during the past year from Yom Hashoah 2019 to Yom HaShoah 2020.

Although the TAU report did not include 2020 statistics, the researchers said the hatred has come from sources as varied as right-wing European politicians, ultra-conservative American pastors, anti-Zionist intellectuals and Iranian state authorities.

“Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a significant rise in accusations that Jews, as individuals and as a collective, are behind the spread of the virus or are directly profiting from it,” said Moshe Kantor, president of the European Jewish Congress, an umbrella group representing Jewish communities across the continent. “The language and imagery used clearly identifies a revival of the medieval ‘blood libels’ when Jews were accused of spreading disease, poisoning wells or controlling economies.”

Kantor warned that the virus had the potential to spark populist extremism, similar to what erupted after the Great Depression and contributed to the rise of Nazism.

The dire warning comes on the heels of another difficult year for Jews, capped by the October shooting attack on Yom Kippur against a synagogue in the German city of Halle. Germany averaged five anti-Semitic incidents a day in 2019. Overall, at least 169 Jews were physically attacked in the world in 2019, some close to or even in their homes.

A recent survey, led by the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights, found that four out of 10 European Jews under the age of 60 have considered emigrating because of the rise in anti-Semitism. It doesn’t say where they want to emigrate. Also, the survey said eight out of 10 feel anti-Semitism is a problem in their countries.

‘We Will Fight this Deadly Phenomenon’

Due to the findings, Vice-Chairman of the WZO Yaakov Hagoel scheduled an urgent online meeting this week with the heads of Jewish communities around the world to formulate an action plan.

Hagoel stated that “the findings of the report show that the scourge of anti-Semitism has already become a malignant disease that disperses its poison around the world.  We have already seen this phenomenon in the Middle Ages during the Black Plague. Then, as today, there is incitement against the Jewish community and a false accusation that somehow Jews are behind the epidemic.”

“Nevertheless, we will combat this deadly phenomenon,” he vowed.

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