Political scientist: incidence of hate speech following Hamas attacks relatively low in Czechia

Synagogue in Southmoravian Mikulov

Since the Hamas attacks on Israel on October 7 there have been reports of increasing harassment, hate speech and sometimes even physical assaults against members of both Jewish and Muslim communities in countries around the world. So what is the situation like in Czechia? I spoke to Miroslav Mareš, a political scientist at Brno’s Masaryk University whose research focuses on political extremism, terrorism and security policy in Central Europe, to find out.

“The situation here is relatively quiet in terms of open expressions of anti-Semitism. Of course, we can see increasing anti-Semitism in the Czech Republic, but not in the same way as in Western European countries.

“There have been several incidents, including one relatively serious one in Plzen, connected with a kebab enterprise whose owner wrote some anti-Semitic statements in his facility. We can also see anti-Semitic expressions on social media, connected with both traditional right-wing extremist groups as well as pro-Kremlin elements, which are also partly anti-Semitic. For example, there have been some pro-Hamas statements made by the pro-Kremlin scene in Russia as well as in central Europe.”

What was the situation like before October 7 – would you say it’s gotten worse since then?

Miroslav Mareš | Photo: ČT24

“The situation in the Czech Republic is relatively stable and is better than in Germany, France or the United Kingdom. We do have some pro-Palestinian demonstrations here in Prague and Brno; however, they are not anti-Semitic in their main message – they have a strong anti-Israeli political character but they say that they condemn the Hamas attacks.

“However, there have been some controversial banners and leaflets connected with these activities, as well as the chanting of the slogan 'From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free', which is sometimes considered anti-Semitic, but it depends on your point of view. Up until now, Czech law enforcement agencies have not been sure how to deal with some of these expressions, statements and chants at these demonstrations.”

Have security measures been stepped up around Jewish institutions?

“Generally, counter-terrorist measures are now really strong. Interior Minister Vít Rakušan talked about these measures on public television. We can see the high awareness of the security forces, despite the fact that up until now, the security forces and intelligence agencies do not have any information that there is a growing threat of terrorism in the Czech Republic.”

There’s also been an increase in anti-Muslim rhetoric in some European countries. There isn’t such a big Muslim population in Czechia, but is anybody tracking this – has there been any increase?

“Of course, we can also see this opposite kind of hate speech on social media. But the Muslim community is relatively quiet here in the Czech Republic and I think that this anti-Islamic spectrum is not so strong or active as it was several years ago during the so-called migration crisis.”