The virus spreading faster than coronavirus: Antisemitism

Social media seems to have exploded with antisemitic comments, ranging from “The Jews created coronavirus” to absurd false accusations that Israel has separate medical treatment for non-Jews.

In this image shared on Telegram on March 15, the coronavirus is presented as a trojan horse for “globalist” Jews. (photo credit: ADL/COURTESY)
In this image shared on Telegram on March 15, the coronavirus is presented as a trojan horse for “globalist” Jews.
(photo credit: ADL/COURTESY)
For almost as long as there have been Jews, they have been blamed for all manner of ills, social or biological. Yet with all our technology and scientific advancements, we haven’t yet been able to find a vaccine, or cure, for the nasty virus of antisemitism.
In fact, with the speed of communication and ability to digitally cross borders, antisemitism is rising and with greater virulence. As the coronavirus pandemic continues globally, so too has Jew hatred. In “ordinary” times, research shows there’s antisemitic content uploaded about every minute and a half on social media. With the advent of this coronavirus scare, and based on the comments I’ve seen popping up, I’d venture to guess it’s significantly more now.
Social media seems to have exploded with antisemitic comments, ranging from “The Jews created coronavirus” to absurd false accusations that Israel has separate medical treatment for non-Jewish citizens (that one from an American professor). Known alt-right platforms like Gab have had an outbreak of conspiracy theories related to Jews and coronavirus, and of course known antisemites like David Duke are out in full force suggesting “Israel and the global zionist elite are up to their old tricks” regarding COVID–19.
Nonsensical conspiracy theories have erupted with Iran publicly insinuating “American Jews” are behind coronavirus and that “Zionist elements developed a deadlier strain of coronavirus.” Of course this is a tactic of the Iranian regime to divert attention away from its own abysmal failure to combat coronavirus.
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.”
In the Palestinian territories, things haven’t fared much better notwithstanding that Israel is operating joint situation rooms to combat the virus in Israel and the Palestinian territories, and ihe country is doing everything in its power to assist the PA with fighting the deadly virus. Palestinian social media, including official accounts, featured antisemtic cartoons that compared Israel to coronavirus itself, and accused Israel of spreading coronavrius across Palestinian communities, notwithstanding that the virus was brought to the West Bank by reek pilgrims, and entered the Gaza Strip with two Gazans returning from an Islamic conference in Pakestan. One cartoon depicting a blue and white Jewish star read, "For over 70 years we have been fighting corona, and we will destroy it with the help of God."
Hollywood too, is clearly not immune to the antisemitism virus surrounding coronavirus, with actress Rosanna Arquette baselessly claiming that Israel has had a vaccine for a year and that a Jewish-run business is withholding information for profit.
As for the BDS movement, they have been relatively quiet on the question of whether or not they would use a (hypothetical) Israeli vaccine, but at least one pro-BDS Press TV journalist, Roshan Salih, tweeted he would rather be infected by coronavirus than use an Israeli product. Apparently, hating Israel is more important than living to some of these BDS activists. When Salih was mocked on social media, he reverted to another conspiracy claiming “Israel’s troll army” attacked him online.
No less hateful than the conspiracy theories and hate speech, there has also been a litany of outrageous comments exploiting the coronavirus pandemic to smear the state of Israel. From journalists, to organizations like Human Rights Watch (HRW), to Jewish extremist groups like IfNotNow, to Palestinian NGOs, comments which pre-emptively assume that Israel is failing to assist the Palestinians are spreading faster than the coronavirus itself.
Another popular talking point in these crowds has been using the pandemic to talk about occupation. “Students for Justice in Palestine” held a campus event on the topic in the US - before American universities were ordered shuttered. Regardless of one’s position on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, if your response to a global pandemic is to bash Israel you can’t be surprised when your motives are questioned. After all, the line between condemning policy and outright antisemitism has been repeatedly crossed in such statements. Last week a former HRW employee, Sarah Whitson, tweeted that Israel is only “missing a tablespoon of blood” in its oppression of Palestinians, a classic antisemitic trope about bloodthirsty Jews. Whitson later deleted the tweet saying it was being “misunderstood” but carried on bashing Israel. It’s no coincidence that statements like this “accidentally” come out when those who hold deeply ignorant and antisemitic views use words like “Israel” or “Zionism” as socially acceptable replacements for the words “Jews” and “Judaism.”
The plague of antisemitism is an ongoing problem on social media, as social media provides uncensored and sometimes anonymous platform to broadcast to the entire world. But this global pandemic has shown, in just a matter of days, that antisemitism today flourishes not just from the usual neo-Nazi or radical Islam fringes, but from the general public – world leaders, journalists, human rights activists, and more. Once again,  irrational obsession with Jews demonstrates that antisemitism is not a marginal problem but all-too-mainstream.
Emily Schrader is the CEO of Social Lite Creative and a research fellow at the Tel Aviv Institute