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COVID conspiracies fuel anti-Semitic incidents in UK - report

·2 min read

By Michael Holden

LONDON, Feb 11 (Reuters) - The number of anti-Semiticincidents recorded in Britain has fallen from record levels butstill remains high, with conspiracy theories about the COVID-19pandemic playing a role, a Jewish advisory body said onThursday.

The Community Security Trust (CST), which advises Britain’sestimated 280,000 Jews on security matters, said there had been1,668 incidents in 2020, a fall of 8% from the previous yearwhich had been the highest on record.

Despite the decrease, the CST said it was still thethird-highest number they had reported since the data was firstcollected in 1984.

"The COVID-19 outbreak has not merely given rise to a newmedium through which offenders express anti-Semitic sentiment;it has provided them with new strands of anti-Semitic discourseas well," the report said.

The CST said there had been 41 incidents connected to thepandemic, from conspiracy theories of Jewish involvement inspreading the disease for malevolent and financial purposes, toexpressions of hope that Jews would catch the virus and die.

Although there were fewer incidents at schools or synagoguesbecause of strict pandemic lockdowns, there was a rise in casesat people’s homes, the report said.

Of the total incidents, 100 were rated as violent, a 39%fall from the year before, although three were classified as"Extreme Violence", meaning they involved potential grievousbodily harm or a threat to life.

"It is shameful that in the 21st century, the Jewishcommunity still faces racist abuse and the desecration of theirsynagogues and other religious and community sites," HomeSecretary (interior minister) Priti Patel said.

The record incidents of 2019 were fuelled in part byaccusations of anti-Semitism in the opposition Labour Party.

In October, the Equality and Human Rights Commission (ECHR)said Labour was responsible for unlawful harassment anddiscrimination in its handling of allegations of anti-Semitism,leading to the party suspending its former leader Jeremy Corbyn.

The CST said there had been 175 incidents in 2020 connectedto Labour, a decline from previous years, although there was aspike at the time of the ECHR report and after the decision tokeep Corbyn out of the parliamentary party.(Reporting by Michael Holden; editing by Guy Faulconbridge)