Holding Antisemites Accountable.

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Wiesenthal Center Releases Top 10 Worst Antisemitic Incidents of 2020

The Simon Wiesenthal Center unveiled its list of top 10 worst antisemitic incidents in 2020 on a December 29th Zoom call.

Director of Global Social Action Agenda at the Wiesenthal Center Rabbi Abraham Cooper said that while it was tough to limit the list to only 10 incidents this year, the COVID-19 pandemic was the number one antisemitic incident in 2020.

Cooper said that the pandemic has been “weaponized” against minority groups, particularly Jews and Asians. As an example, he pointed to antisemites’ calls to infect Jews with COVID-19 in what became known as the “Holocough.”

Because the pandemic has been politicized, there have been countless conspiracy theories surrounding COVID-19 that have paved the way for antisemitism, Cooper said. He also noted that there have been “elements” of antisemitism in the anti-vaccine protests.

“In places like Germany, where they had demonstrations against a vaccine before it was even available… among the protesters were antisemites and those who were misusing Holocaust symbols,” Cooper said. He acknowledged that the anti-vaccine movement is not by-and-large antisemitic, but there was antisemitism in the “pernicious nature of individuals and groups who want to take advantage of the virus.”

Second on the list was Telegram, an encrypted messenger app. Cooper said that Telegram is “becoming the weapon of choice, the platform of choice, for extremist groups.”

Rick Eaton, the Director of Research at the Wiesenthal Center, pointed out that neo-Nazi groups like the Atomwaffen Division — a group that has been reportedly linked to five killings in the United States — are among the extremist groups on Telegram. Other groups include the anti-government “boogaloo” movement and the Nordic Resistance Movement, a group that has targeted a synagogue and other Jewish institutions on Yom Kippur.

“Telegram is a feed from a particular group so they can continually post articles and outside links as long as you subscribe to the feed that they’re promoting,” Eaton said.

Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan is third on the list; Cooper explained that while Farrakhan’s names invokes memories of his long list of anti-Semitic tropes, some in the Black community view Farrakhan as synonymous with Black empowerment.

“Louis Farrakhan’s tropes were repeated by sports stars and other cultural elites,” Cooper said, adding that “one of the few voices who spoke out in real time against this trend was Kareem Abdul-Jabbar… who challenged the bigotry he was seeing in his own community.” Abdul-Jabbar wrote an op-ed in The Hollywood Reporter about the matter in July.

“There’s a lot of healing that needs to go on, but also an understanding… that Louis Farrakhan is not a source of hope but a source of hate,” Cooper said.

Number four on the list focused on how Jewish houses of worship have been desecrated in 2020. Among the examples highlighted in the list included how a Jewish man was attacked outside of a Kentucky Chabad house during a menorah lighting and how a Los Angeles synagogue was vandalized with “Free Palestine” and “F— Israel” graffiti during riots on May 30.

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei made the list at number five, as Khamenei tweeted out a poster in May invoking “the Nazi final solution,” Cooper said. Cooper lamented that there “was no major outcry from the European nation[s]… no real price to pay for that regime’s profound Jew hatred and Holocaust denial, and that silence goes right to the top of most of the countries.”

The European Court of Justice’s December 17 ruling that upheld a Belgium regulation that essentially banned kosher slaughter of meat was sixth on the list. The regulation requires animals to be stunned before being slaughtered, which violates kosher standards. Kosher and Halal slaughter is a “core religious value… going back thousands of years” for both Jews and Muslims, Cooper said.

Cooper added that the allegation that stunning animals eases their suffering is “especially galling,” since it was the Torah that first stated that animals can’t be put through “unnecessary pain.” He said that some scientists say that stunning actually makes the suffering worse for animals. “This is a terrible blow to European Jewry,” Cooper said.

Number seven on the list was how some German elites have been attempting to undo a resolution from the German Bundestag (parliament) denouncing the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement as antisemitic. Cooper said that this is “particularly outrageous” given the history of Germany. He added that most Germans understand that swastikas and support for Hezbollah are anti-Semitic, but they don’t seem to understand how antisemitism from the left consists of “an effort to delegitimize the very notion of a Jewish nation.”

Number eight discussed anti-Semitism on college campuses. Among the examples discussed included recent tweets from UC Merced Professor Abbas Ghassemi depicting “The Zionist Brain” and alleging that “the Zionists and IsraHell interest have embedded themselves in every component of the American system.” The list also highlighted how USC student Rose Ritch resigned from her position as student vice president over the summer after being harassed on social media for being a Zionist.

Cooper criticized USC’s response to the Ritch incident as “tepid.” “USC going back to the years of the 1930s has a very… checkered past when it comes to standing up for Jews and speaking out against Nazis,” he said. Cooper added that any other minority group “would have full backing of the university as they should,” but there is a “deeply disturbing double standard when it comes to Jewish and Zionist students.”

At number nine, the Wiesenthal Center noted that the New York City Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) chapter had a questionnaire for candidates running for city council asking if they would “pledge not to travel to Israel if elected to City Council out of solidarity with Palestinians living under occupation.” The chapter later clarified that they were referring to how city council members are taken on an annual trip to Israel, and they affirmed that they are not opposed to candidates taking a personal trip to the Jewish state.

Cooper called the question “a declaration against the Jewish community in New York” and that voters “need to reject this kind of bigotry.”

The final incident on the list is the rise of a Chilean politician named Oscar Daniel Jadue. Jadue, the current mayor of Recoleta, is a member of the Communist Party and is supportive of the BDS movement. According to Cooper, Jadue has called Jews a “subversive force” that will stab the country in the back. There is a chance that Jadue could lead Chile, which Cooper said is “shocking.”

“We hope today’s release of the list will spurn international concern and content [about Jadue],” Cooper said.