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Polish protestors chant ‘Jews are behind the pandemic’ during anti-vaccine demonstration

Anti-Semitic tropes, attacks have crept into anti-pandemic, anti-vax ideology

An anti-vaccine protest in Poland, in which they called out anti-Semitic chants, blaming Jews for starting the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo: screenshot Twitter)

During an anti-vaccine protest in the Polish city of Glogow, demonstrators chanted, “Every Pole can see today that behind the ‘pandemic’ are the Jews,” according to the website Notes from Poland. 

Expressing the sentiment that the pandemic is a Jewish-led conspiracy directed against Poland and the rest of the world, the protesters embraced classic anti-Semitic trope that Jews “rule the world.”

Polish police arrested three protesters for reportedly aggressive behavior. 

The American Jewish Committee office in Central Europe, based in Warsaw, condemned the protest. 

The extreme right party Polish Confederation (Konfederacja) has strongly protested corona restrictions and has accused Jews of being behind the pandemic. During the latest protest, one of the party’s followers shared a video in which she says she “doesn’t want Jewry in Poland.” 

Prior to World War II and the Holocaust, some 3 million Jews lived in Poland, representing approximately 10% of the population. By contrast, today Poland has a small Jewish population – approximately 10,000 – out of a total population of 38 million. 

Grzegorz Braun, one of the leaders of the far-right Konfederacja party, has a history of promoting anti-Semitic conspiracy theories. More recently, Braun compared the requirement of wearing masks to how the Nazis in the past forced their Jewish victims to wear armbands. In 2019, during a heated political debate, one of the party’s leaders placed a kippah over another politician’s head and claimed that Poland’s government was “kneeling to Jews.”

Despite the tiny number of Jews currently living in Poland, anti-Semites in Poland tend to vastly exaggerate the numbers and influence of Jews in the country. Consequently, discrediting a political opponent by accusing him or her of having real or imaginary Jewish ancestry is quite common in Polish politics. 

The number of physical attacks on Jews worldwide have decreased as a result of pandemic-related lockdowns. At the same time, online anti-Semitism has increased dramatically, according to an annual report on anti-Semitism published by researchers at Tel Aviv University. 

Many times, radical anti-vax ideology and conspiracy theories embrace anti-Jewish memes in their opposition to pandemic policies as well. These extremists have renewed popular anti-Semitic conspiracy theories about Jewish world domination. 

In May, U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia compared vaccine and mask mandates to the Nazi treatment of Jews during the Holocaust. Her remarks were widely condemned. In June, Greene officially apologized for comparing the Holocaust to the pandemic. 

However, many radicals in America and Europe still manage to infuse anti-Semitic conspiracy theories into their own issues. In addition, a widespread distrust for mainstream media outlets has resulted in an increased demand for alternative media, some of which promote false anti-Jewish conspiracy theories.

The Community Security Trust (CST), a British organization established to protect the Jewish community from anti-Semitism, reported in March that anti-Jewish sentiments are on the rise in Britain and are increasingly intertwined with pandemic-related conspiracy theories. 

During 2020, 1,668 anti-Semitic incidents were recorded in Britain including 634 attacks online. This was reportedly the second-highest level of online anti-Semitic attacks ever recorded.

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