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September 4, 2020 1:52 pm

Coronavirus Bolstering Extremists on Both Left and Right, as Well as Islamist Antisemites, EU Counter-Terrorism Coordinator Warns

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EU Counter-Terrorism coordinator Gilles de Kerchove attends a news conference, during an international meeting of anti-terror magistrates, in Paris, France, April 27, 2015. Photo: Reuters / Philippe Wojazer.

The European Union’s top counter-terrorism official has voiced concern regarding an increase in antisemitic rhetoric and actions during the global coronavirus crisis.

“Violence against minorities ‐‐ particularly Jews ‐‐ has increased during the pandemic,” Gilles de Kerchove — the EU’s counter-terrorism coordinator — observed in an extensive interview with the Combating Terrorism Center of the United States Military Academy at West Point.

“We need to tackle these problems and counter antisemitic hate speech and violence,” de Kerchove said.

A former law professor from Belgium who has been in his position since 2007, de Kerchove was candid in his analysis of how Islamism, the far left and the far right dovetail around certain subjects — particularly hostile attitudes to Jews.

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“It is a lot about a rejection of globalization,” he said. “It is often about projecting a black-and-white vision of the world, hatred of Jews and antisemitism.”

De Kerchove emphasized that antisemitism was “not just linked to the right-wing, by the way; Islamist extremism is a case in point, but there is a strong strain of antisemitism on the far left as well.”

He argued that leftist antisemitism was “linked to anti-Zionism and an anti-[Israeli PM Benjamin] Netanyahu feeling rather than the exact same strands of ideology linked to the far right.”

He went on to note, “There are some survivalists amongst those on the far right, and I acknowledge there is a wide diversity of elements in the right-wing violent ideology, but what is interesting is that there are some key ideas that tie them together ‐‐ hatred toward Arabs and Jews, misogyny, anti-globalization, for example.”

The coronavirus pandemic had “also sparked conspiracy theories that have no direct link to existing extremist ideologies,” de Kerchove pointed out, for example the unsubstantiated linkage of coronavirus with 5G technology.

“As a result of such theories, telecommunications masts have been set on fire in several EU member states,” de Kerchove said. “The motivation behind this is linked to a movement of technophobes with indirect links to right-wing and left-wing violent extremists, which is gaining in strength.”

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