Photo Credit: Asher Schwartz

One in five British believe to some degree that Jews created the Coronavirus (COVID-19) to collapse the economy for financial gain, an Oxford University poll that was discussed in the Knesset’s Committee for Immigration, Absorption and Diaspora Affairs shows.

The research, titled “Oxford Coronavirus Explanations, Attitudes, and Narratives Survey,” polled a representative sample of 2,500 English adults from May 4 to May 11, 2020.

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Presented with the statement “Jews have created the virus to collapse the economy for financial gain,” 5.3% of the respondents “agreed a little,” 6.8% “agreed moderately,” 4.6% “agreed a lot,” and 2.4% “agreed completely,” while some 80.8% did not agree with it at all.

Committee Chairman Member of Knesset (MK) David Bitan said during Monday’s session that the pandemic has created a “new and unique wave of anti-Semitism around the world: the Jews, Zionists or the State of Israel are to blame for the pandemic and stand to gain from it.”

This anti-Semitism, he said, “is being disseminated by extreme rightists, ultra-conservative Christians and Islamists, mainly in media outlets in various languages – social networks, television channels, radio and the written press.”

Bitan noted that Islamists describe the State of Israel as COVID-1948, the year of the state’s establishment, “and this is the most dangerous pandemic to humankind.”

According to the “Report on Worldwide Anti-Semitism” published by the Kantor Center for the Study of Contemporary European Jewry, 2019 witnessed a rise of 18% in major violent cases compared to 2018, 456 cases in 2019 compared to 387 in 2018. Seven people were killed during anti-Semitic attacks.

In Germany, police recorded 1,839 anti-Semitic incidents nationwide compared to 1,799 incidents in 2018, an average of five incidents a day.

The 1,805 recorded cases in the UK in 2019 constitute an increase of 7% compared to 2018. In the US there were 111 violent anti-Semitic incidents in 2019, and in Australia – 33.

At least 53 synagogues and 28 community centers and schools were attacked. 2019 also saw a 47% increase in life-endangering threats and a 24% increase in attacks on private properties.

According to a study published by the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA), 41% of Jews aged 16-34 have considered emigrating from Europe because of anti-Semitism over the last five years.

Bitan said Israel is not investing enough funds in the fight against anti-Semitism and called for the establishment of a ministerial committee to deal with the issue.

Yaakov Haguel, acting director of the World Zionist Organization, said the Corona pandemic broke out at a time when anti-Semitism is at its highest level since the Holocaust, when Jews fear wearing Jewish symbols in public.

“The social networks are flooded with anti-Jewish messages, and a 70% increase in anti-Jewish discourse online has been recorded,” he said, adding that obvious and blatant anti-Jewish rhetoric has surfaced during the George Floyd demonstrations in the US. Once the pandemic subsides, anti-Semitism will intensify, Haguel warned.

Yogev Karasenty, Director for Combatting Anti-Semitism at the Ministry of Diaspora Affairs, said some 700,000 anti-Semitic messages have been posted on Twitter since the outbreak of the pandemic.

He discussed anti-Israel activity by extreme leftists in the US, and the attempt to connect the civil unrest to Israel.

Karasenty also said there was a sharp rise in conspiracy theory channels on Telegram in Germany, adding that the pandemic was being used to spread old anti-Semitic conspiracy theories, including blood libels, on social media.

Yigal Palmor, head of International Relations at The Jewish Agency, mentioned the British Labour Party’s crackdown on anti-Semitism within the party, but Prof. Dina Porat, Head of the Kantor Center for the Study of Contemporary European Jewry, said the canard that Jews spread the Coronavirus has seeped into liberal and educated segments of the population.

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