A top U.S. State Department official said on Monday he was “deeply concerned” by a sharp rise in online antisemitism during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
“What we’ve seen in the past two months is really a wave — a tsunami, I might say — of antisemitism on the internet focused on the coronavirus,” U.S. Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Antisemitism Elan Carr said in a telephone briefing marking Jewish American Heritage Month. “And this is really nothing more than the recycled blood libel of the Middle Ages. Jews were blamed for spreading the Bubonic Plague and the Black Plague in the Middle Ages. And so this is really a hallmark of antisemitism that it morphs to adopt whatever current events has and focuses its venom using the vehicle of the day.”
“Yes, it’s concerning, and we’ve got to fight it,” he stated.
“I want to also say, though, that the virus eventually — God willing soon — will be over and done with, but what might be longer lived is the economic dislocation that results from this pandemic,” Carr added. “And when one looks at world history, whenever there have been periods of deep economic downturn and economic suffering, Jews have been targeted.”
“This rise in antisemitism, which we’re seeing on the far right, the ethnic supremacist far right, the radical anti-Zionist left, militant Islam…this is not a German problem or a European problem or a Latin American problem or a US problem,” he said. “This is a global problem that requires a global coordinated, focused response.”
“We have been dealing, literally in the last three weeks specifically, with internet hate speech,” Carr recalled. “We’ve actually brought together various authorities that work in this area, in governments, ours and others, and in the private sector or for-profit, but also NGOs that specifically address internet hate speech. And we’re bringing together these authorities specifically for the purpose of producing a framework to address this.”
“The moment that hate speech on the internet leaves the ambit of the First Amendment — for example, by venturing into the area of incitement to violence, which is not protected speech — the moment hate speech does that, we’ve got to be very, very aggressive in coming down on all instances of unprotected hate speech on the internet,” he declared.
“Then with regard to protected speech, the answer there isn’t censorship, but the answer to protected hate speech is strong, unequivocal condemnation,” Carr went on to say. “And to have strong, unequivocal condemnation, there has to be coordination. It can’t be piecemeal. And so a lot of our efforts are to focus on how we can coordinate condemnation so that people espousing despicable, vile, hateful speech that is protected face the kind of wave of condemnation that they deserve to face.”