Far-right activists and white supremacists have used the coronavirus pandemic to spread anti-Semitic rhetoric and conspiracy theories, according to a report released this month by the American Jewish Congress.

“As the coronavirus crisis spreads, white supremacists and far-right activists are weaponizing the pandemic to repackage and spread racist tropes. Online and offline, we have seen antisemitic conspiracy theories thrive and run wild,” stated the organization in the report’s executive summary. “Oddly enough, those theories and allegations, extreme and bizarre as they are, though developed and mostly present on the extreme fringe, are echoed to some extent in mainstream and moderated social media channels.”

“Jews and Israel alike are the main targets of these racist outburst. White supremacists claim that Jews either spread the disease or created the virus in order to increase their control over the population growth, profit from it financially or even politically,” continued AJCongress. “Israel is being charged with developing the virus, portrayed as a country which already has a vaccine but it holds its release in order to further exploit the situation.”

The report called out a neo-Nazi and white-supremacist group on the secure messaging channel Telegram called the Sternenkrone Division, which was established on Jan. 16 and has 443 followers. The group has its own pages on other platforms including Minds, Gab and Bitchute.

One post stated, “If you have the bug give a hug. Spread the flu to every Jew.”

A slogan that Sternenkrone Division has used is “HOLOCOUGH,” a reference to the Holocaust, which killed approximately 6 million Jews, and the word “cough,” in a call to infect Jews with the virus.

In the report, AJCongress called for the U.S. government and law enforcement to monitor white-supremacist and extremist groups. It also called for a domestic terrorism law that “provides a federal statute of domestic terrorism would guarantee law enforcement agencies with better tools to respond to extremism,” and therefore “would increase information-sharing between the federal agencies with state and local officials and contribute to preventing future attacks.”

Such legislation has been introduced in Congress, including the Confronting the Threat of Domestic Terrorism Act and the Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act of 2020.

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