COVID-19 and Jews: A reply to Robert F. Kennedy Jr.

It is easy to laugh at alternative explanations of the origin of COVID-19. It is easy to brand them as conspiracy theories, and some of them may be. It is more demanding to respond to them properly, with facts. COVID-19 has been described by Robert F. Kennedy, a candidate for the Democratic Party nomination in 2024 presidential election in the USA, as a bioweapon. It has been, Kennedy suggested, a product of bioengineering, a part of the Chinese armoury of biological weapons specifically targeted against certain races, such as Caucasians and Blacks. And not only that: Ashkenazi Jews and Chinese, Kennedy goes on, may be more immune to COVID-19, this bioweapon is designed to spare Ashkenazi Jews and Chinese. Following the dissemination of the video clip featuring Kennedy’s remarks, the war of words already broke out.

What are the facts, then? They are plain and simple, and have been made public in research papers ‘Covid-19 mortality among Jews in 2020: A global overview’ authored by yours truly. Having scanned the situation throughout Jewish populations accounting for about 95% of world Jewry, the research concluded that, when it comes to mortality, the spectrum of the impact of coronavirus on Jews was very wide. No single ‘Jewish experience’ existed. Some Jewish communities were severely affected: the Hungarian, British, Belgian and Mexican Jewish communities are examples of that; in 2020, the mortality of these communities was 25%-50% higher than the levels of mortality observed pre-pandemic, i.e. during normal times. All mentioned communities, incidentally, are numerically dominated by Ashkenazi Jews. On the opposite side of the spectrum were the Jewish communities of Canada, Germany, Netherlands and Denmark; they were the least affected from the global perspective, with an elevation in mortality up to 10% relative to the pre-pandemic levels. The only Jewish community that did not bear a significant mark of being affected by coronavirus was the Jewish community of Australia.

That, however, is not the end of the story. The research also compared Jews to non-Jews globally. Alas! There was no single ‘Jewish experience’ or pattern in that respect either. In total, 19 locations with Jewish communities were investigated globally. In about half of all locations, Jews suffered from coronavirus more than non-Jews. Hungary, Great Britain and Belgium especially stand out in this respect. In 2020, Jewish mortality in these locations was 30%-50% higher than in normal times, whereas among non-Jews, it was only 5%-20% higher. In all other locations, Jews suffered less or equally to the general local population. In particular, in Australia, where the impact of coronavirus on Jewish mortality was minimal, coronavirus had a very light impact on the population in general.

With the kind of outcomes observed across the world, genetics, and Jewish genetics, are not the natural and most logical explanation to reach for in order to explain Jewish mortality from coronavirus. To be crystal-clear: this is neither a suggestion that genetics does not matter when it comes to mortality, nor it is an assertion that Jewish genetics in particular is inconsequential. It may be, and it is for future research in genetics to clarify this point. So far, Jewish genetics has been consequential in a clinical setting with respect to breast and ovarian cancer, to give just one example. Equally, this is not to suggest that bioengineering never took place. Demographers and epidemiologists are not qualified to make assertions of this kind. The only assertion that has the merit of intellectual integrity on its side is this. A wide range of situations with coronavirus mortality among Jews and also the very severe impact of COVID-19 on some Jewish communities can only suggest that whatever ethnically-targeted bioengineering was attempted (if indeed it was) , it either (1) failed to meet its objectives, assuming it meant to keep Jews protected, or (2) other factors overwhelmed its impact.

Now that the data is presented, it is easy to see Kennedy’s claims for what they are. Poorly informed at the very least.

Before publishing my latest report on this issue, a critical friend of mine reviewed the draft manuscript of the paper and said to me, ‘you are saying here that Jews are like everyone else, that their global Covid experience in the pandemic is no different from the humanity as a whole… What an underwhelming message, no curiosities whatsoever – it will not make you famous. ‘Wait for it’, I said, ‘with the US election on the horizon, my prophetic soul foretells that it will come in handy.’

‘Covid is more or less over now anyhow’, she said, ‘and will be completely gone by then’.

‘Covid will be gone’, I replied, ‘but not speculations about Jews’.

About the Author
The author is a demographer and a statistician, born in the USSR - a world that no longer exists - and educated in Israel and Britain. The author holds a PhD in Social Statistics and Demography. To date he has served in senior analytical roles in the Central Bureau of Statistics (Israel) and RAND Europe (Cambridge, UK). He is currently a Senior Research Fellow at the Institute for Jewish Policy Research (London, UK). He has published widely on Jewish , Israeli and European demography and social statistics. The author's favourite topics are demographic and social puzzles involving Jews and people that surround them-why do Jews live so long? why do Muslim Arabs in Israel have so many children? why do women-globally- live longer than men? Is there a link between the classic old-fashioned antisemitism and today's antizionism? These are just a few examples of questions that motivated some of his work and on which he has written extensively. Dr Daniel Staetsky is an owner of the website 'Jewish World in Data' which is a unique depository of data and factual commentary in Jewish demography and statistics.
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