Time to Admit: The Struggle Against Antisemitism is Failing

Tel Aviv University’s annual report on global antisemitic trends paints a bleak picture of the treatment of Jews worldwide

By Israel Today Staff | | Topics: Antisemitism, Holocaust Remembrance
The spirit of antisemitism that fueled the Holocaust is still very much with us, and again gaining strength in our day.
The spirit of antisemitism that fueled the Holocaust is still very much with us, and again gaining strength in our day. Photo: Flash90

“Despite the extensive efforts and resources invested in combating antisemitism in recent years, the phenomenon is on the rise,” wrote the authors of the Annual Report on Antisemitism Worldwide 2021, conducted by Tel Aviv University.

“More funds, more conferences, and more laws won’t necessarily make the difference. We need unsparing examination of the efficacy of existing strategies,” they added.

Some of the highlighted points in a press release sent by the university include:

  • Report identifies a dramatic increase in antisemitic incidents in almost all countries with large Jewish populations. In most countries the increase was also substantial compared to 2019, before Covid-19 related restrictions were imposed.
  • Major causes of the rise in antisemitism in 2021: strengthening of the radical Right and Left in different countries, and the boom in conspiracy theories generated by the Covid-19 crisis.
  • When Israel defends itself, Jews across the world become the target of incitement and hate crimes — the conflict between Israel and Hamas in Gaza in May 2021 led to a sharp increase in antisemitic incidents.

 

Disturbing findings

On the eve of Holocaust Remembrance Day, the Center for the Study of Contemporary European Jewry at Tel Aviv University’s Faculty of Humanities publishes its 28th Annual Report on Antisemitism Worldwide. The Report, which covers events in 2021, is based on analysis of dozens of studies from around the globe, alongside information from law enforcement authorities, the media, and Jewish organizations in various countries.

The disturbing findings indicate a sharp increase in the number of antisemitic incidents in many countries, even compared to the pre-pandemic year of 2019.

The authors report a dramatic rise in the number of antisemitic incidents in the US, Canada, the UK, Germany, and Australia — as well as other countries. According to the Report, the increase stems from the strengthening of both the radical Right and Left political movements in different countries and the vast reach of social networks for spreading lies and incitement. Specifically, the boom in conspiracy theories resulting from the pandemic, as well as the conflict between Israel and Hamas in Gaza in May 2021, generated acute surges of antisemitism.

Young Israelis rally again rising antisemitism around the world.
Young Israelis rally again rising antisemitism around the world. But despite heavy investment in educational efforts, this ungodly phenomenon is only growing. Photo: Hadas Parush/Flash90

Failed efforts

Prof. Uriya Shavit, Head of the Center for the Study of Contemporary European Jewry: “Something just isn’t working. In recent years the fight against antisemitism has enjoyed extensive resources worldwide, and yet, despite many important programs and initiatives, the number of antisemitic incidents, including violent assaults, is rapidly escalating. The easy thing is to say that more laws and more funding are required. But what we really need is a courageous and unsparing examination of the efficacy of existing strategies.”

Prof. Shavit added that “Russian war crimes, accompanied by the cynical distortion of the memory of the Holocaust, prove that some of those who declared their commitment to the fight against antisemitism, were not really serious about it, and had not truly learned the lessons of World War II. The Jewish world must pull itself together and understand that the fight against antisemitism and the fight for liberal democratic values are one and the same.”

 

Social media as an amplifier

The Center’s Founder, Prof. Dina Porat, wrote an analysis of the reasons for the increase in antisemitic incidents, underlining the negative impact of social networks in amplifying antisemitism. According to Prof. Porat, exposure to conspiracy theories that thrive on the internet increased during pandemic lockdowns, which kept people at home, glued to their screens.

These toxic ideas included claims that the Covid-19 virus had been engineered and spread by Israel and the Jews, she explains. Some of those poisoned by such theories for such a long period of time emerged from the lockdowns bitter and aggressive. Prof. Porat also emphasizes Iran’s efforts to spread antisemitic propaganda through social media and to fund specific channels, and the need to make these efforts known and denounced throughout.

Institutionalizing antisemitism

The extensive, in-depth reviews by the Report’s authors reveal disturbing phenomena in a range of countries.

Dr. Inna Shtakser discusses the rise of state-sponsored antisemitism under Belarus’ authoritarian leadership.

Dr. Carl Yonker and Dr. Lev Topor describe how antisemitic white supremacists are penetrating mainstream American conservatism.

Dr. Ofir Winter analyzes voices in the Arab world that paint the Abraham Accords with unmistakably antisemitic colors.

And Adv. Talia Naamat demonstrates the challenges for French courts to recognize Islamist antisemitism for what it is.

 

Main points of the Annual Report on Antisemitism Worldwide 2021

The following are the main points of the Report, demonstrating a significant increase in various types of antisemitic incidents in most countries with large Jewish populations during 2021. The full report can be found here.

 

United States:

In 2021, the NYPD recorded 214 anti-Jewish hate crimes compared to 126 in 2020, and the LAPD recorded 79 such crimes compared to only 40 in 2020. 251 antisemitic incidents were recorded in the US in only three weeks during the riots around the Israel-Hamas conflict in May.

According to the annual survey of the American Jewish Committee (AJC), 2.6% of American Jews said they had been the victims of antisemitic physical attacks in the past five years.

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) recorded a 27% increase from 2020 and a 113% increase from 2019 in incidents of white supremacist antisemitic propaganda. These data are particularly disturbing given that there was a slight decrease in the overall number of white supremacist propaganda distributions.

 

France:

The Service de Protection de la Communauté Juive (SPJC), in cooperation with the French Ministry of Interior, recorded 589 antisemitic incidents in 2021, a 74% increase from 2020 and a 14% decrease from 2019.

 

Canada:

In May 2021, B’nai Brith Canada reported 61 assaults against Jews – a 40-year record (since monitoring began in 1982) in antisemitic physical violence in one month. Altogether 226 incidents were recorded during May — a 54% increase from the same period in 2020.

 

United Kingdom:

The Community Service Trust (CST) recorded 2,255 antisemitic incidents in 2021, an increase of 34% from 2020 and 24% from 2019. A sharp rise of 78% compared to 2020 was recorded in physical assaults against Jews.

 

Germany:

The German Police recorded 3,028 antisemitic incidents during 2021 — an increase of 29% from 2020, and 49% from 2019.

Another worrying phenomenon registered in 2021: German anti-vaxxers likened their situation to that of the Jews in the Holocaust. The authors of the Report argue that this has led to trivialization of the Holocaust.

 

Australia:

447 antisemitic incidents were recorded in 2021 — an increase of 35% from 2020 and 21.5% from 2019. The highest monthly total ever was recorded in May — 88 incidents.

Jews were blamed by antisemitic conspiracy theorists first for being the creators and spreaders of Covid-19, and then for forcing a ‘diabolical’ vaccine upon the world population. Israel’s successful vaccination campaign was presented as ‘proof’ for this heinous accusation. Photo: Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90

Reasons for the sharp rise in antisemitic incidents worldwide

The Report suggests that the number of antisemitic incidents in the world was directly impacted by two major events: The conflict between Israel and Hamas in Gaza in May 2021 (Operation Guardian of the Walls), and the Covid-19 pandemic.

  • Operation Guardian of the Walls: The authors of the Report note that the operation in Gaza led to a sharp rise in antisemitic incidents around the world, and state that “the conflict exposed an unacceptable reality: when Israel defends itself, Jews across the world are attacked.” Social networks played a major role in this wave. This raises concerns regarding the utility of legislation and agreements reached with social media companies on banning antisemitic expressions from their platforms. The gravest concern is the dark web, which shelters extremists of all types, and where antisemitic content is freely and openly spread. The Report also notes that Iran invests substantial time and funding in spreading antisemitic propaganda online, focusing their campaigns mainly in the United States and Latin America.
  • The Covid-19 pandemic: Right at the outset of the pandemic in 2020, conspiracy theories began to sprout around the world, blaming the Jews and Israel for spreading the virus. These accusations were reminiscent of centuries-old blood libels. The lockdowns, which glued people to their screens at home, contributed significantly to popularizing toxic antisemitic discourse on social networks. In 2021, when the lockdowns were gradually eased, antisemites returned to the streets, and physical violence against Jews increased. At the same time, activity on social media did not diminish, becoming a definer of identity for some participants.
  • Some anti-vaxxers accused the Jews of developing the vaccines in order to make a fortune. The vaccines’ success, and Israel’s efficient vaccination campaign specifically, only served to reinforce these false accusations. Anti-vaxxers also introduced flawed comparisons between government-required vaccination and the situation of Jews in the Holocaust, leading to trivialization of the Holocaust. In one instance, a photo of Albert Bourla, Pfizer CEO and the son of Auschwitz survivors, was published alongside that of infamous Nazi doctor Joseph Mengele, to imply that both experimented on human beings.

From a press release issued by the Spokesperson’s Office of the University of Tel Aviv.

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