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February 22, 2022 12:55 pm

COVID-19 Conspiracy Theories Trigger Fresh Rise in Antisemitism in Switzerland, New Report Finds

avatar by Algemeiner Staff

(Illustrative) Supporters of the neo-Nazi PNOS Party in Switzerland. Photo: courtesy of Antifa Switzerland.

Switzerland’s Jewish community sounded an alarm bell on Tuesday regarding a marked increase in antisemitism during 2021, largely triggered by conspiracy theories related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The annual antisemitism report published by the Swiss Federation of Jewish Communities (SIG) and the Foundation Against Racism and Antisemitism (GRA) reported on more than 50 “real world” antisemitic incidents last year, and more than 800 antisemitic incidents recorded online.

“The corona pandemic acted as a trigger for almost the entire reporting year,” the report stated. “As in the previous year, antisemitic conspiracy theories related to the corona pandemic were particularly widespread.”

53 incidents involving antisemitic abuse and vandalism were recorded in 2021, compared with 47 the previous year. Three synagogues in separate cities — Geneva, Lausanne and Biel — were among the Jewish institutions targeted.

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Antisemitic incidents online meanwhile rose by a hefty 66 percent, with 806 recorded. The report identified Telegram and Twitter as the two social media platforms hosting the most antisemitic content, accounting for more than 80 percent of the offending material posted online.

The report stressed that, as in other countries, vaccine refusal advocates and conspiracy theorists have increasingly appropriated the imagery of the Holocaust to make the case that opponents of public health measures have suffered the same fate as Jewish communities under Nazi rule.

“A serious problem in the opposition to the coronavirus measures are the comparisons to the National Socialist regime and the Shoah,” the report said. “The best-known example of this is the yellow Jewish star worn at demonstrations.”

The report additionally noted that Swiss authorities convicted six antisemitic extremists in 2021 as a direct result of criminal complaints filed by the SIG and GRA.

Switzerland’s Jewish community numbers 17,500 people and is the tenth largest in Europe, according to the World Jewish Congress (WJC).

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