Radical beliefs on Right and Left contributed to rise in antisemitism in 2021

The disturbing findings in the 28th Annual Report on Antisemitism Worldwide indicate a sharp increase in the number of antisemitic incidents in many countries.

 Visitors seen standing next to a display of swastika banners at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial museum in Jerusalem on April 26, 2022, ahead of Israeli Holocaust Remembrance Day.  (photo credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI/FLASH90)
Visitors seen standing next to a display of swastika banners at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial museum in Jerusalem on April 26, 2022, ahead of Israeli Holocaust Remembrance Day.
(photo credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI/FLASH90)

There was a sharp increase in the number of antisemitic incidents in many countries, even compared to the pre-pandemic year of 2019, a Tel Aviv University report found.

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

The authors reported a dramatic rise in the number of antisemitic incidents in the US, Canada, the UK, Germany, Australia and other countries.

According to the report, the increase stemmed 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, the report said.

The report demonstrated a significant increase in various types of antisemitic incidents in most countries with large Jewish populations during 2021. In New York City, the police recorded 214 anti-Jewish hate crimes, compared with 126 in 2020. In Los Angeles, the police recorded 79 such crimes, up from 40 in 2020. Some 251 antisemitic incidents were recorded in the US in three weeks during the Israel-Hamas conflict in May.

 Antisemitic caricature of Jews and vaccines. (credit: COURTESY/ADL) Antisemitic caricature of Jews and vaccines. (credit: COURTESY/ADL)

According to the American Jewish Committee’s annual survey, 2.6% of American Jews said they had been the victims of antisemitic physical attacks in the past five years. The Anti-Defamation League said it had recorded a 27% increase from 2020 and a 113% increase from 2019 in incidents of white-supremacist antisemitic propaganda.

These data were particularly disturbing given that there was a slight decrease in the overall number of white-supremacist propaganda.

In the world’s third-largest Jewish community, France, the Service de Protection de la Communauté Juive (SPJC), or Jewish Community Protection Service, in cooperation with the Ministry of Interior, recorded 589 antisemitic incidents in 2021, a 74% increase from 2020 and a 14% decrease from 2019.

Canada, the fourth-largest Jewish community in the world, also recorded a sharp rise in antisemitism. B’nai Brith Canada reported 61 assaults against Jews in May 2021 – a 40-year record (since monitoring began in 1982) in antisemitic physical violence in one month. A total of 226 incidents were recorded during May, up 54% from the same period in 2020.

In the UK, the Community Service Trust recorded 2,255 antisemitic incidents in 2021, an increase of 34% from 2020 and 24% from 2019. A rise of 78% compared with 2020 was recorded in physical assaults against Jews.

In Germany, the federal police recorded 3,028 antisemitic incidents during 2021, an increase of 29% from 2020 and 49% from 2019. Another worrying phenomenon registered in 2021 was that German anti-vaxxers likened their situation to that of the Jews in the Holocaust. The authors of the report said this has led to the trivialization of the Holocaust.

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

According to the report, the rise in antisemitic attacks around 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.

“Something just isn’t working,” said Prof. Uriya Shavit, head of the Center for the Study of Contemporary European Jewry. “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.”

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 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 said. Some of those poisoned by such theories for such a long period emerged from the lockdowns bitter and aggressive.

Porat cited Iran’s efforts to spread antisemitic propaganda through social media and to fund specific channels and emphasized the need to make these efforts known and denounced throughout the world.