B’nai Brith Worried About COVID-Inspired Antisemitism

Graffiti Toronto COVID

By ELYSE TYTEL

There has been a significant display of COVID-related antisemitism in the first four months of 2020, according to B’nai Brith Canada.

The organization released a new policy paper calling on Ottawa to address COVID-inspired hate through a set of pro-active and responsive measures.

The paper, titled Covid-19 Disinformation and Antisemitism, released May 26, asks the federal government to “be prepared to publicly debunk falsehoods and antisemitic conspiracy theories and other efforts to stigmatize particular groups and inflame societal tensions.”

Since the pandemic began, B’nai Brith’s Anti-Hate Hotline has received complaints about hateful graffiti, xenophobic media attention, and discrimination in shops against those who are identifiably Jewish.

The organization said it has seen a significant increase in COVID-related antisemitic online posts,  near-daily reports of antisemitic harassment, both online and in person, and a significant uptick in antisemitic conspiracy theories, including that Israel created the virus in order to infect the world and benefit its pharmaceutical industry.

Graffiti Toronto COVID
Graffiti in downtown Toronto during COVID. Photo credit: B’nai Brith Canada

In-person hate-related incidents are also up, primarily in Quebec, where Jews have reportedly been turned away at stores, denied service or threatened, B’nai Brith reported.

The six-page policy paper also recommends developing and implementing a national action plan on antisemitism, and funding to support media and public health information resources to counter COVID disinformation.

The advocacy group noted that during periods of tension, incidents of intolerance and anti-Jewish conspiracies increase. Statistics also show a rise in antisemitic incidents in the United States, Europe and other regions.

“As the coronavirus continues to surge globally, antisemitic, xenophobic and hateful messages and conspiracy theories are proliferating rapidly online,” the BB report stated.

These messages “spread hate and disinformation, make it more difficult to access accurate information about the pandemic, and elevate fear and anxiety.”

According to B’nai Brith, “the harm created by the search for scapegoats, whether by political leaders, groups or individuals; the significant impact of power of technology and social media; and the anger among those who have experienced drastic and negative changes to their lives, is potentially toxic.”

The rise of COVID-inspired hate follows another record year of antisemitic incidents in Canada, according to B’nai Brith’s 2019 annual audit of antisemitic incidents released last month.