Jewish philanthropist and World Jewish Congress president Ronald Lauder called on the National Guard to protect Jewish New Yorkers on Tuesday after the FBI reported that neo-Nazis and white nationalists who are looking to infect Jews and policemen with the novel coronavirus.
“We’ve learned from the FBI that neo-Nazis and white nationalists are roaming the streets of New York and surrounding communities looking to infect Jews and policemen with the potentially lethal coronavirus by spitting on their faces. This grotesque tactic is a stark reminder that though this pandemic is new, antisemitism — history’s oldest disease — is not," said Lauder. "When the National Guard is activated in New York to address the pandemic, some servicemembers should be placed in Jewish neighborhoods to prevent the purposeful infection of Jewish New Yorkers. Immediate action is needed to protect the vulnerable from antisemitic violence.”
ABC News recently obtained a FBI report stating that white supremacist groups across the United States are promoting their members to spread the coronavirus to members of the Jewish community as well as police officers. "Members of extremist groups are encouraging one another to spread the virus, if contracted, through bodily fluids and personal interactions," according to the FBI.ABC News reported that messages disseminated between the groups encourage their members to use "spray bottles" filled with infectious body fluids in order to attack police - with regards to the Jewish community, they instrcuted their members to travel to "any place they may be congregated, to include markets, political offices, businesses and places of worship.""From pushing the idea that Jews created the coronavirus virus to sell vaccines to encouraging infected followers to try to spread the illness to the Jewish community and law enforcement, as the coronavirus has spread, we have observed how white-supremacists, neo-Nazis and others have used this to drive their own conspiracy theories, spread disinformation and incite violence on their online platforms," said Michael Masters, head of Secure Communities Network, told ABC News.A report by the Strategic Affairs Ministry has highlighted the outbreak of antisemitism that has arisen alongside the coronavirus pandemic, in which classical antisemitic allegations have been made by anti-Israel organizations and individuals.The report cited several examples of antisemitic allegations on social and news media based around the coronavirus pandemic and said that the global crisis was providing “fertile ground” for antisemitism. Among the examples cited in the Strategic Affairs Ministry report was an opinion article by Kevin Barrett on Press TV, an Iranian-funded international propaganda outlet, in which he accuses Israel of having “engineered” the deadly virus and of trying to “amplify” the severe outbreak of the disease in Iran.The report also noted a statement by the head of the Refah Party in Turkey, Fatih Erbakan, who said on March 6 the pandemic “serves Zionism's goals of decreasing the number of people and preventing it from increasing.”In January, white supremacist and former congressional candidate Paul Nehlen said Israel had “unleashed a bio weapon,” against China “meant to teach you that they control your destiny as well,” and asking “You gonna let those jealous, vindictive Jews get away with it?”Former Milwaukee County sheriff David Clarke, Jr. accused Jewish investor and billionaire George Soros of being behind the outbreak, while far-right and white supremacist groups and individuals have shared messages and images accusing Jews of responsibility for the pandemic.In the same vein, such elements have accused Jews of seeking to profit from the coronavirus by selling vaccines for the disease, overcharging for it and limiting its availability. At the beginning of February, the Anti-Defamation League exposed that the coronavirus outbreak was used by extremists to spread conspiracy and antisemitic theories, especially using platforms such us Telegram and 4chan.“Finally! Science has discovered a cure for the most insidious disease of our time… Jewishness,” wrote one extremist on the encrypted instant-messaging service Telegram, according to the ADL. The same person also referred to a news report that three Israelis were quarantined as possible coronavirus carriers with the message “3 down, 5,999,997 to go!”A month later, as a cluster of cases of COVID-19 (COronaVIrus Disease 2019) emerged in the New York-area Jewish community, as well among participants at the AIPAC conference in Washington, many are concerned that the epidemic might become yet another excuse for a spike in antisemitic rhetoric and episodes. The US already has experienced an unprecedented increase in anti-Jewish attacks and hate crimes in the past two years.“There is always concern that people will be scapegoated in the face of a health crisis,” Alexander Rosemberg, ADL deputy regional director for the New York/New Jersey region, told The Jerusalem Post. “It happens every time there is a major pandemic. It happened with Africans around Ebola. It happened recently with the Orthodox community in New York City around the measles scare that we had.”In the case of the coronavirus, the problems began with people blaming Asian Americans since the virus originated in China, he said.“We started seeing them getting assaulted in the subway,” Rosemberg said. “But then it has moved into other communities, including the Jewish community. We are always concerned that this does not go beyond where it should. The public should be focusing more on how to prevent the disease and the virus from spreading rather than blaming a group.”The ADL is constantly monitoring the situation, and unfortunately, the organization is seeing problematic contents on social media, he said.
Rossella Tercatin and Jeremy Sharon contributed to this report.