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April 8, 2021 5:45 pm

Rise of Online ‘Communities of Hate’ Presents New Challenges for World Jewry, Says Algemeiner Editor-in-Chief

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Algemeiner Editor-in-Chief Dovid Efune appears on i24 News. Photo: Screenshot.

The rise in digital manifestations of antisemitism during 2020 — detailed in a new report from Tel Aviv University, which also showed a dip in acts of physical and verbal aggression towards Jews — underlined the evolving challenges faced by Jewish communities during the COVID-19 pandemic, argued Algemeiner editor-in-chief Dovid Efune during a Wednesday interview with i24 News.

“We’re seeing what I would call a significant decline in violent incidents, but basically a rise in any other form of antisemitism that doesn’t involve physical contact. And in that sense these are hardly consoling figures,” said Efune.

The annual antisemitism report published by Tel Aviv University’s Kantor Center, in cooperation with the European Jewish Congress (EJC), also found that that while “the total worldwide number of violent antisemitic events decreased from 456 (2019) to 371 (2020) … a 20 percent increase was observed in desecrations of synagogues, graveyards and Holocaust memorials (which were closed or unguarded due to the lockdown and therefore easy prey for antisemitic vandalism).”

“Since, obviously, the world has been on lockdown, the fact that you can still have 371 violent incidents while every society across the planet is closed is really startling,” Efune said in the interview.

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“Seeing the rise in basically all forms of antisemitism, all expressions of antisemitism that are available to people during the lockdown climate really reinforces that this is a challenge that hasn’t gone anywhere this year,” he continued. “And certainly there are greater and more serious threats that we’ve got to look in the eye and face strongly.”

The report also analyzed content circulating on the dark web — online spaces that hide the identity of the user — and found that “while in the open networks about 70 percent of the antisemitic messages deal with new antisemitism, and about a quarter express classic antisemitism, this ratio is reversed in the darknet: about 70 percent manifest classic antisemitism and only about 20 percent display new antisemitism.”

Efune commented that the rise of digital spaces where antisemitic individuals could gather has changed how online hatred spreads.

“Now you have an environment where there’s all kinds of platforms that are available that allow antisemites to meet with other antisemites and to form strange, twisted communities and to reinforce each other,” he said. “And in a number of the most egregious antisemitic attacks that we’ve seen in recent years, the perpetrators have been having a dialogue with these communities of hate.”

“That sort of mutual reinforcement, that coalescing of hateful like-minded individuals — it certainly builds upon itself and creates an environment where these hateful ideologies can spread further,” Efune continued. “It’s a new and unique challenge that we face in this information age that we live in today, and it’s one that we need new and unique strategies and opportunities to combat and respond to.”

Watch the i24 News appearance below:

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