New York bus stop during COVID-19 pandemic
New York bus stop during COVID-19 pandemic iStock

A new report from the London-based Community Security Trust (CST) examining antisemitism in the COVID-19 conspiracy movement found a deeply disturbing level of antisemitism.

In April 2020, at the start of the pandemic, CST released a research briefing titled “Coronavirus and the Plague of Antisemitism” that “demonstrated how the pandemic was being used by far right extremists online to push antisemitic narratives and conspiracies.”

“Today, antisemitic images and language have become much more common in online spaces used by the Covid-conspiracy movement,” CST said. “These include conspiracy theories claiming that the virus is a Jewish hoax, and that vaccines have been invented by Jews to poison the population.”

CST said that the COVID conspiracy movement brings together people form the far right, far left, new age and mixed ideologies.

“It reaches well beyond traditional forms of extremism: leading figures even include a celebrated street artist and a rapper, both of whom feature in detailed case studies in the report,” the report said.

“This is the first time that Britain has had a domestic political movement fueled primarily by conspiracy theories, that is active both online and offline. It has outlived the ending of Covid restrictions and is likely to retain its influence in the future,” they added.

CST recorded 118 antisemitic hate incidents in 2020 and 2021 that involved language or imagery linked to the pandemic next to antisemitic language or images, including verbal abuse and threats directed at Jewish people, graffiti blaming Jews for Covid, and antisemitic leaflets.

“An alternative form of antisemitism that became prominent in the Covid conspiracy movement is the grotesque and offensive misuse of language and symbols related to the Holocaust,” CST said. “Anti-vaccine and anti-lockdown protestors have worn yellow stars (similar to the identifying badges the Nazis forced Jews to wear during the Holocaust) and compared vaccination centers to death camps.”

They added: “Most worryingly, there are elements within the Covid conspiracy movement that are moving in a more confrontational and violent direction.”

Incidents in the UK have included the harassment of politicians, journalists and police officers. In Germany, far right extremists have been involved in violent attacks.

“The antisemitism in the Covid conspiracy movement, combined with this gradual move towards violent activism, could therefore pose a direct threat to the Jewish community,” CST said.