Steven Windmueller
Is it Good for the Jews?

Hate in the coronavirus age

In this era of the Coronavirus, we are observing a sharp uptake in anti-Semitic activities.  Reports released by various governmental and Jewish organizations report an increase in anti-Semitic activity on the world stage. Over half (54%) of Jews in America have either experienced or witnessed some form of incident that they believed was motivated by antisemitism over the past five years.[1]

What is Happening Now and Why?  In this report, we are examining seven manifestations of anti-Semitic practice.

  • People are seeking to place blame: The virus is being employed as a bio-weapon in their continuous attacks on Jews, Israel and Judaism. Out of desperation and fear in trying to understand what is happening, individuals and groups employ attacks against an array of groups including Asians, Jews and immigrants!

A placard at an anti-lockdown protest held Saturday in Columbus, Ohio, in front of the state capitol bore the image of the body of a rat standing on its hind legs with a Star of David on its back, with the head of a Jewish man but a long-pointed nose, rubbing his hands together. The sign reads “‘The Real Plague.’”[2] 

  • Jews are described as employing the virus as another political tool against their enemies. This situation affords anti-Semitic and anti-Israel activists an opportunity to continue their war against the Jews. Traditional haters are employing the virus as part of their battle plan against Jews, Judaism and Israel.

Jordanian TV featured an Islamic cleric informing the public that Jews are “more dangerous than coronavirus, AIDS and cholera.” An Iraqi political analyst informed the public on TV that coronavirus was an Israeli “plot to reduce the world’s population.” In Turkey, both the public, the press and politicians have been quoted blaming Israel for corona, including one politician stating, “this virus serves Zionism’s goals of decreasing the number of people and preventing it from increasing, and important research expresses this…Zionism is a five-thousand-year-old bacteria that has caused the suffering of people.”[3]

  • Jews are seen as the beneficiaries of this virus, anti-Semitic attacks focusing on how Jews are “profiting from COVID-19”.

One of the most prevalent stereotypes about Jews is that they are greedy and value profit above all. From the first days of the coronavirus, antisemites have accused Jews of making money off the virus: from the vaccine, by exploiting market volatility, or through loans…[4]

  • Drawing upon traditional conspiracy theories, Jews are being blamed for this current pandemic.

Many antisemitic conspiracy theories posit that Jews have undue global influence and that they manipulate events to expand their power, often citing specific actors like George Soros or the Rothschild family. In recent weeks, there has been a surge in messaging that Jews and/or Israel manufactured or spread the coronavirus to advance their global control. This is trope that can be traced back to at least the 14th century, when Jews were accused of poisoning wells in order to spread the bubonic plague.[5]

  • The current tactics employ an array of anti-Jewish symbols and Nazi comparisons.

Signs invoking both anti-Semitism and Nazi comparisons flared up during protests against stay-at-home orders in several states beginning last week. Two protesters in Ohio held signs with a rat wearing a yarmulke and Star of David that read: “The Real Plague.” In Michigan, far-right extremists compared the governor’s stay-at-home order to policies carried out by Adolph Hitler.[6]

  • The virus provides another vehicle to employ traditional anti-Judaism messages.

Rick Wiles, an American far-right conspiracy theorist, radio host, and non-denominational pastor at Flowing Streams Church in Vero Beach, Florida, has declared through his anti-Semitic TruNews website this about the Jewish people and the Coronavirus Pandemic: “The people who are going into the synagogue are coming out of the synagogue with the virus. It’s spreading in Israel through the synagogues. God is spreading it in your synagogues! You are under judgment because you oppose his son, Jesus Christ.[7]

  • Equating Zionism with the pandemic. Such accusations are not an academic exercise in anti-Semitism, but rather part and parcel of an elaborate campaign to delegitimize Israel.”[8]

Zionist elements developed a deadlier strain of coronavirus.” (Iranian press)

“This virus serves Zionism’s goals of decreasing the number of people and preventing it from increasing, and important research expresses this…Zionism is a five-thousand-year-old bacteria that has caused the suffering of people.” (Turkish press)

The Delivery Mechanisms of Hate:

If the messaging has been problematic, the mechanisms for the delivery of hate have been particularly troubling. Facebook, Twitter, Email and “Zoomboming” have contributed to a wide assortment of threats, charges and conspiratorial statements. The haters have effectively accommodated to the pandemic by focusing their messaging on the various platform technologies now available as part of their ongoing war.

What We May Anticipate Ahead:

Many experts believe that as we move into the “recovery stage” we are likely to see even more messages and acts of social and political hatred. There is growing concern in some quarters of violent reactions to the economic and social conditions developing on the ground in response to the loss of jobs and the limited access to food and shelter. The deep global economic undoing that has resulted from this pandemic will lead to a major uptake in anti-Semitic behavior. Beyond targeting Jews and others, some analysts are expressing concern over the possibility of food riots, looting, and sporadic incidents of social unrest. Scarcity produces anxiety and anger.

[1] https://www.adl.org/resources/reports/survey-on-jewish-americans-experiences-with-antisemitism

[2] https://www.jta.org/quick-reads/anti-lockdown-protests-spawn-more-anti-semitic-conspiracy-theories-and-holocaust-imagery

[3] https://worldisraelnews.com/wzo-report-18-spike-in-global-anti-semitism/

[4] http://www.wiesenthal.com/assets/pdf/deadly-new-virus-intersects.pdf\

[5] http://www.wiesenthal.com/assets/pdf/deadly-new-virus-intersects.pdf

[6] https://www.jta.org/quick-reads/anti-lockdown-protests-spawn-more-anti-semitic-conspiracy-theories-and-holocaust-imagery

[7] Ibid.

[8] How the Coronavirus Pandemic Has Sparked Anti-Semitic Conspiracy Theories by Fiamma Nirenstein, Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, April 21, 2020

 

About the Author
Steven Windmueller, Ph.D. is the Rabbi Alfred Gottschalk Emeritus Professor of Jewish Communal Service at the Jack H. Skirball Campus of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Los Angeles. Prior to coming to HUC, Dr.Windmueller served for ten years as the JCRC Director of the LA Jewish Federation. Between 1973-1985, he was the director of the Greater Albany Jewish Federation (now the Federation of Northeastern New York). He began his career on the staff of the American Jewish Committtee. The author of four books and numerous articles, Steven Windmueller focuses his research and writings on Jewish political behavior, communal trends, and contemporary anti-Semitism.
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