Natan Sharansky
Natan SharanskyHillel Meir/TPS

The Combat Anti-Semitism Movement (CAM) recently held a virtual conference that dealt with, among other things, the dissemination of anti-Semitic propaganda related to the coronavirus epidemic.

The conference was originally scheduled to take place at the National Museum of American Jewish History in Philadelphia, but owing to the current situation, it was held online instead. More than 30,000 people participated in the digital event, including those in home quarantine, from the United States, Europe, and Israel. Two of the keynote speakers were the US government’s Special Envoy for Monitoring and Combating Anti-Semitism, Elan Carr; and human rights activist Natan Sharansky.

In his speech, Sharansky focused on recent virulent anti-Semitic propaganda originating in Iran, Turkey, and various other countries around the world, where Jews are being blamed for spreading the coronavirus. In Iran, the state-controlled media is also contributing to the incitement, blaming “Zionists” for the epidemic and warning people not to use a coronavirus vaccine if it is developed by Israeli scientists.

“They are blaming the Jews, accusing us of trying to destroy the economy in order to make money. They also blame Israel for causing the virus. We know that accusing Jews of spreading plague is nothing new. We saw it in the Middle Ages, during the Black Plague that swept through Europe. Then, too, they accused Jews of causing the spread of disease. The difference between then and now is that today, we have a strong State of Israel, and we are determined to fight anti-Semitism and defeat it.”

Sacha Roytman-Dratwa, CAM’s director, emphasized the importance of holding the event specifically now: “The coronavirus epidemic provides fertile ground for the propagation of anti-Semitic propaganda. Due to this, and in light of a general increase in anti-Semitic acts in recent months, we urge governments to take a firm stand against any emergence of anti-Semitism, and we also advise Jewish communities to take extra precautions.”

The conference also featured an awards ceremony following a competition held by CAM in association with 37 other organizations, designed to encourage the development of initiatives against anti-Semitism. A total of $100,000 in prize money was given out, recognizing initiatives in the fields of art, internet video, lobbying, and raising awareness on university campuses.

Elan Carr congratulated the winners of the contest, noting that a mass movement against anti-Semitism has the ability to bring about significant change. “Look at what happened in Great Britain,” he said. “People went out onto the streets and declared that they wouldn’t let their country be infected by hatred. They opposed the rise in anti-Semitism and it caused an earthquake.” Carr also highlighted the policies of the current US administration, asserting that “the current administration is doing more to combat anti-Semitism than any administration before it.”

The Combat Anti-Semitism Movement is a global, apolitical, and interfaith movement that was founded in order to serve as a platform for both organizations and individuals fighting anti-Semitism in all its manifestations. Since the establishment of the movement in February 2019, 210 organizations and 190,000 individuals from all around the world have joined.