Weaponising Covid-19: Far-Right Anti-Semitism in the United Kingdom and United States

By Dr Rakib Ehsan

The Government needs to step up efforts to address attempts by the far-right to blame the COVID-19 pandemic on Jews, according to a think tank report.

The conspiracies are said to have permeated every corner of the internet, including encrypted apps like Telegram and everyday digital tools like podcasts. Despite much of the recent political and media focus being on mainstream platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, the report finds the most ardent forms of hatred circulate on peripheral so-called  ‘alt-tech’ platforms.

The study — by the Henry Jackson Society — comes as it was revealed that Facebook has taken robust action in banning adverts by extremist group, which have attempted to sow the seeds of division amidst the COVID-19 crisis.

Among the online messages spread by the far-right identified within the report, are that:

  • Jews are using global lockdowns to “steal everything”.
  • “Satan in human form”, or Jewish people, are throwing dance parties to celebrate the spread of the coronavirus.
  • Jewish public leaders are using the COVID-19 crisis to “test the populations [sic] willingness to comply” with authoritarian restrictions on their civil liberties.
  • COVID-19 is being used as part of a plot to replace the ‘white’ population of Europe.
  • Those infected with the coronavirus should visit their local synagogue and mosque, and more broadly ethnically-diverse neighbourhoods, in order to spread the disease.
  • Jews spread the bubonic plague through Europe in the Middle Ages and demonstrate an inherent tendency for killing large numbers of non-Jews through efficient methods.

In response, the author recommends the introduction of stronger forms of internet regulation for alt-tech social media platforms, including a review by the Commission for Countering Extremism (CCE) and extensive training for law enforcement officers on the full scope of alt-tech platforms.  The report also recommends that the Home Office establish a new counter-disinformation unit to tackle online conspiracy theories head-on by “exposing their fundamental lack of credibility, through well-organised social media campaigns”.

This material is said to be circulating on both sides of the Atlantic with extremist messaging from the British National Socialist Movement in the UK and the National Socialist Movement in the United States.  The similarities between the content across the Atlantic is identified by the author as an area of particular concern.


“Amidst all the anxieties and insecurities where some are looking for others to blame, the far right is exploiting the COVID-19 pandemic to spread their anti-Semitic hatred.

 Permeating through all corners of the internet, the far right is peddling coronavirus conspiracies which are of an aggressively anti-Jewish nature. This includes the conspiracy theory that Jewish people manufactured the coronavirus outbreak and stand to profit from the provision of a new vaccine.

 In the most egregious cases, coronavirus-infected individuals are being encouraged to spread the disease among Jewish people and contaminate synagogues.

 National governments, security services, and police forces must do more to tackle far-right incitement to antisemitic hatred and violence – especially under these uncertain times of crisis”

Dr Rakib Ehsan


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