Antisemitism rising in anti-vaxxer movement, UK study finds

The study analyzed 27 of the leading anti-vaccination groups present on Facebook and Twitter, with 79% of them having content that was deemed antisemitic.

In this image shared on Telegram on March 15, the coronavirus is presented as a trojan horse for “globalist” Jews. (photo credit: ADL/COURTESY)
In this image shared on Telegram on March 15, the coronavirus is presented as a trojan horse for “globalist” Jews.
(photo credit: ADL/COURTESY)
Antisemitism is experiencing a resurgence among the ever-growing number of anti-vaccination advocates, prompting calls for the British government to act, the Jewish Chroniclereported Wednesday.
The study is titled "From antivaxxers to antisemitism: Conspiracy theory in the Covid-19 pandemic," and was prepared by Lord John Mann, the independent adviser on antisemitism, and molecular cell biology expert Dr. Lewis Arthurton.
It details how nationwide lockdowns due to the coronavirus pandemic have led to a climate of anxiety among the general public, creating an ideal environment for conspiracy theories about the virus to take root, many of which are antisemitic.
The study explains that, “for many with concerns about public health measures, Facebook groups promoting conspiracy theories provide easy answers to users desiring certainty.”
This, in turn, has led to conspiracy theories regarding the coronavirus vaccine, with the report predicting that “it will be essential to quickly sideline the conspiracy theories and misinformation of the anti-vaxxers,” the Chronicle reported.
The study analyzed 27 of the leading anti-vaccination groups present on Facebook and Twitter, with 79% of them having content that was deemed antisemitic. This included the network supporting one of the leading activists of the coronavirus hoax conspiracy, Piers Corbyn, brother of controversial former UK Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, the report said.
“The UK government must not be complacent about the levels of misinformation on social media and its infiltration into local communities,” the study warned, adding that: “The government needs to urgently tackle the growth of conspiracy theories during the pandemic if the public are to remain trustful and confident in public health guidelines and recommendations.”
It further added that as a result, “exposing the level of antisemitism among the anti-vaxxer movement now is therefore of the utmost importance.”

THE RISE in antisemitic conspiracy theories relating to the pandemic is far from unprecedented, with past pandemics often being linked to such conspiracies. This is indicated in the study, which details how many Jews in medieval Europe were blamed for the bubonic plague.
Among the many conspiracy theories disseminated through the Internet are the notion of Jews or Israel being behind the coronavirus pandemic and that they are clandestinely conspiring “to destabilize banks and countries through the spread of the virus.”
And while the study primarily focused on groups present on Facebook and Twitter, the issue is almost certainly more widespread, especially following Facebook's decision to ban the conspiracy theory movement QAnon. But, “as a result, several Facebook groups have asked their members to move to other platforms including VK, MeWe, Parler and Telegram, [and] some local groups have opted to also organize in-person meetings,” the report stated, according to the Jewish Chronicle.
The study is far from the first to link the coronavirus pandemic to a rise in antisemitic conspiracy theories. In fact, both the US special envoy for monitoring and combating antisemitism Elan Carr and his deputy Ellie Cohanim have both commented on it, labeling it a modern day blood libel. It was also commented on by Strategic Affairs Minister Orit Farkash-Hacohen, who linked it to the ongoing deligitimization of the State of Israel, and was the subject of Sacha Baron Cohen’s latest appearance in character as Borat on Jimmy Kimmel Live.
Though many prior studies have documented the rise of antisemitism in coronavirus conspiracy theories, Arthurton was still shocked by how prevalent it has become.
“I was truly shocked to see how often antisemitism reared its head when groups discussed vaccines,” he explained to the Chronicle.
“I expected a few examples but not so much on so many different platforms.”
Mann, however, was less surprised.
“Not surprisingly, wherever you find anti-vaxxers there is strong likelihood that you will find antisemitism,” he told the publication.
“Both left-wing and right-wing anti-vaxxers live in a world of conspiracy theories – and the danger when we have a vaccine is that their absurd messages will get a wider airing and there will be both health dangers and a concurrent rise in antisemitism.
“We will need to be extra vigilant, as some of these anti-vaxxer groups will continue to seek to find and blame scapegoats as the economic downside of the coronavirus crisis worsens.”
These sentiments were also shared by Karen Pollock, CEO of the Holocaust Educational Trust.
“We know only too well that when unsubstantiated and dangerous conspiracies are allowed to spread, antisemitism follows soon after,” she explained, according to the Chronicle.
“Social media platforms have a duty to remove conspiracy theories, antisemitism and hate from their platforms.”
Celia Jean, Jerusalem Post Staff and Gabe Friedman/JTA contributed to this report.