An old libel – coronavirus & anti-Semitism

Published date
Anti-Semitic tropes, dating back to the Middle Ages, are being used by the far-right in the coronavirus age.

Old prejudices, new technologies

The Community Security Trust have identified 5 different categories of anti-Semitic propaganda

  1. Coronavirus isn’t real, it’s a Jewish conspiracy to mislead the public
  2. Coronavirus is real, but it’s still a Jewish conspiracy
  3. Jews are the primary spreaders of the virus – ‘the Jew flu’ as some on the far-right have named it
  4. Propaganda celebrating news that Jewish people are dying in higher numbers than others
  5. Propaganda encouraging the infection of Jewish people – the ‘Holocough’

Far-right activists have also tapped into the conspiracy theories around coronavirus being spread via 5G. On social media they have claimed that the telecoms industry is owned by Jews:

One UK user posted to Facebook: ’Quick update there are no 5G Towers in Jewish areas I wonder why (sic)’.

Virtual synagogue services held on Zoom have also been invaded by far-right activists to abuse worshippers.

As trade unionists, it’s our responsibility to tackle anti-Semitism.

Our ‘Tackling the far right eNote’ supports trade unionists (and others) to combat the lies and half-truths of anti-Semites. Our eNote is available in both Welsh and English and:

  • Explains who the far-right are and why we oppose them
  • Provides practical tips on how to campaign against them
  • Helps you practise answering difficult questions from friends and colleagues

Paying the price for anti-Semitism

The Office of National Statistics has researched the impact of ethnicity, disability and religion on coronavirus death statistics.

They found that Muslims were between 2.5 (males) and 1.9 (females) times at greater risk of dying from coronavirus than Christians. Other non-Christian communities were also shown to be at a higher risk.

When they adjusted these findings for other factors (like ethnicity), however, then religion did not appear to be a factor in increased risk. The only exception to this was for members of UK’s Jewish community.

The ONS’ findings show that people who identified as Jewish in the 2011 census are at a higher risk of dying from coronavirus compared to the baseline Christian population. Jewish men show twice the risk, and women were at 1.2 times the greater risk. The ONS couldn’t explain why the Jewish population are at such a high risk of death.

We call on the EHRC's inquiry into the impact of coronavirus on ethnic minorities to pay special attention to the UK’s Jewish community. If anti-Semitism is found to be responsible, then we must take direct action to protect our Jewish friends, neighbours, colleagues and family members.