Pincheas Goldschmidt, the president of the Conference of the European Rabbis, claims that “Jews are feeling increasingly insecure. Corona has worsened the whole situation and the inhibitions are getting lower (…).” Is Goldschmidt’s concern reasonable? Partly, yes.
On 14 February 2022, the German news website tagesschau.de published an article on the “New danger of old myths”. In essence, it sheds light on the fact that during the Corona pandemic, conspiracy theories are more publicly circulating in Germany, theories that contain an antisemitic core. Comparisons are drawn between the Corona policies and the Nazi dictatorship, which trivialises the Holocaust and its crimes. Based on Goldschmidt’s statement, three aspects were investigated more closely: The attitude of the German population towards Jews, the registered attacks on Jews, and the feeling of safety and unsafety of Jews in Germany. In all aspects, we investigated whether there was an increase in the recorded data and whether the increase is related to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Antisemitism at crisis level?
According to a study from the foundation “Bertelsmann-Stiftung”, the German population’s opinion of Israel has worsened significantly. In 2013, 46 percent of those surveyed still had a very good or fairly good opinion of Israel. In 2014, it was only 36 percent. The number with a poor or very poor opinion of Israel has risen from 42 percent to 48 percent. The survey suspects a connection between the poor opinion and the equation of Israel’s government with politics. In 2014, Israel’s government was heavily criticised on the occasion of the policy in the Gaza conflict, as there were many Palestinian victims. The Rosa-Luxemburg Foundation also describes 2014 as a turning point for German attitudes towards Jews. Even eight years later, antisemitism is still very present in Germany, a conclusion of a recent study from 2022 by the World Jewish Congress said. One fifth of the people surveyed said that Jews had too much influence in the social spheres of finance, politics, media or in conflicts and wars compared to other population groups. One in three of the 18-29 year-olds has such an anti-Jewish attitude. In the absence of comparable recent data it is not safe to say that opinion has worsened. Nevertheless, it is visible through the referred studies that the Gaza conflict as a political event has negatively influenced German opinion towards Israel. Since antisemitism increased during the pandemic and the pandemic can also be classified as a historical event, this could be a possible indicator that the Germans’ opinion of Israel has deteriorated because of the pandemic and its conspiracy theories. However, a clear conclusion cannot be drawn.
Conspiracy theories are fuel for Antisemitism
From March 2020 to March 2021, the Federal Association of Research and Information Centres on antisemitism (Rias) prepared a study that recorded 561 anti-Semitic incidents related to the Corona-Pandemic. 58 percent involved anti-Semitic statements at demonstrations and gatherings. A result of the World Jewish Congress shows: The conspiracy theories regarding the pandemic are fuel for antisemitism. Many conspiracy theories contain a core of hostility towards Jews. About one-fifth of all respondents think that Israelians got a better vaccination and that Jewish businessmen benefited economically from the pandemic. Among 18- to 29-year-olds, it is even one in three.
Hate crimes against Jewish people
To look deeper into the statement of Pincheas Goldschmidt it is close at hand to also check the actual reported crimes against Jewish people in Germany. The Bundesministerium des Innern und für Heimat (Federal Ministry of the Interior and Homeland) publishes a report of the yearly documented hate crimes against marginalized groups. According to data from 2008 to 2021 the numbers of antisemitic hate crimes in Germany have actually risen throughout the years. A steep rise can be observed from 2017 to 2020. For example between 2018 and 2019 the numbers increased by 13 percent. From 2020 to 2021 it rose by 29 percent. This unproportional rise can be seen as an indicator for a correlation between the Covid-19-Pandamic and a general rise of antisemitic hate. Regarding the study of the Federal Ministry of the Interior and Homeland, it should be considered that the data displays only cases which have been reported to the police by those affected and the crimes that have been recorded by German police. The study does not contain unrecorded cases, like verbal abuse. For example when people of jewish origin get insulted in relation to antisemitic conspiracy theories or other. This is why it is plausible to assume that the actual cases are even higher.
People of Jewish origin feel threatened
According to the core statement of Pinchas Goldschmidt, Jews feel more and more insecure since the pandemic, the article by tagesschau speaks of a “danger from old myths”. On the basis of a five-year-survey, known as “Survey of European Jewish Community Leaders and Professionals” of the JDC International Centre for Community Development in the European area, it is clearly recognizable that Jewish people increasingly no longer feel safe in their residential country. For a reliable result, the JDC International Centre teamed up with the Zentralrat der Deutschen Juden to get a representive number of German participants. It clearly shows that the sense of threats and danger of Jewish leaders is on the rise. In direct comparison, only 7 percent of Jewish leaders felt unsafe in 2008, while it is already 25 percent in 2021 and has steadily increased over the past years. Since the survey is about Jewish leaders, they mostly work in higher positions. It can be assumed that the numbers in the general population are much higher, because the percentage of people in leading positions in Europe is below 10 percent. For the very first time since the JDC International Centre for Community Development began its annual survey, the concern about rising antisemitism ranks as the most serious threat among the Jewish respondents. This statement also underlines what Goldschmidt says. Nevertheless, it cannot be precisely verified whether the collected data is necessarily related to the Covid-19 pandemic. The long-term study only shows the tendency of growing antisemitism is increasing with each passing year. When asked if they expected change in the frequency of problems stemming from antisemitism over the few years, 28 percent expect antisemitism to increase significantly. As a matter of fact, this seems like a serious problem for the Jewish population.
Based on the studies and facts listed on the subject of “Rising antisemitism in Germany”, this fact-check cannot provide a 100 percent proof of whether Goldschmidt’s theory is correct. The data shows a visible rise in antisemitism since year 2008 and shows that jewish people feel more and more insecure. Probably the Corona-pandemic has also contributed to this, as crises in the past can often be associated with hatred against jews. It is therefore possible, but not provable, that Covid-19 is responsible for the rising numbers and has worsened the situation for Jewish people. Studies on this will probably only be available in the coming years. Until this, Goldschmidt’s statement is mostly true.
RESEARCH | ARTICLE: Karolina Justus, Vanessa Stagen and Lenya Trautmann, Hochschule der Medien, Stuttgart (Germany)
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