OPINION | Both the far-right and the far-left are blaming Jews for the coronavirus pandemic

Due to coronavirus originating in China, there has been an uptick in anti-Asian hate crimes. Rightfully, people have been condemning this vile, xenophobic phenomenon. While it seems pretty obvious that attacking any or all Asian people for the irresponsible actions of the Chinese government is racist, we must address another form of bias arising from this pandemic: the antisemitism. From blaming Jews for the virus to perpetuating conspiracy theories that Israel is somehow behind it, to celebrating the corona-related death of a Holocaust survivor, this type of antisemitism has been seen before throughout history and must be combated.

Conspiracies of Jews spreading disease has had a death toll in the past.

On Valentine’s Day in 1349, during the height of the Black Plague, Jews across Europe were killed because the Christians in Spain, Italy, France, and Germany believed Jews were deliberately infecting their wells with the plague. In Cologne, for example, Jews were locked inside their synagogue and burned alive. Thousands of Jewish people were estimated to be killed during this massacre.

Sadly, we are seeing a rise of a similar form of antisemitism in the wake of coronavirus panic.

Last week, a small sect of Hasidic Jews in Brooklyn ignored calls for social distancing and still held a large wedding celebration. Though not too dissimilar from the Florida Spring Breakers refusing to social distance, people are using this news as an excuse to blame the Jewish community at large.

However, like any other group of people, Hasidic Jews and Jews in general are not a monolith.

Unfortunately, this news is not the only time people have used the coronavirus panic to perpetuate antisemitism. When the first case of coronavirus in New York happened to be someone from the Jewish community, similar blame was placed on Jews in general, despite Jewish schools and synagogues being among the first places to shut down due to the pandemic. The same thing occurred when it came out that people who attended AIPAC tested positive for the virus. Take, for instance, what happened to George Washington University student Blake Flayton, a visible Jew, when he was walking on campus one day.

The above twitter thread continues with the group of students calling Flayton “Yahood,” which is an Arabic term that means “Jew,” followed by taunts of “you started it!”

“What’s most upsetting about this experience was how blatant it was,” Flayton tells me. “It wasn’t antisemitism that was coded with ambiguous language or divisive political ideology. It was Middle Ages-era antisemitism. And it happened on a college campus in 2020. This proves that anti-Jewish sentiments, regardless of how small or nuanced they may appear, can never be downplayed or overlooked.”

Flayton is not alone in his experience. Antisemitic tweets alleging Jews and/or Israel “started” coronavirus have been circulating.

Even public figures like Rosanna Arquette have jumped on board, claiming Israel is the evil-doer behind the scenes of the coronavirus. In a since-deleted tweet, the actress stated that Israel knew about coronavirus beforehand and “puts lives at risk for profit.” In her statement, she evokes numerous antisemitic tropes including blood libel (accusing Jews of purposely harming non-Jews) and the idea that Jews value money above all else.

Guess who else believes Israel is behind coronavirus: David Duke, the notorious Grand Wizard of the KKK.

On March 12th, Duke tweeted, “Does President Donald Trump have coronavirus? Are Israel and the Zionist Global elite up to their old tricks?”

Other examples of antisemitism being perpetuated due to coronavirus can be seen on these lists compiled by the ADL and Camera. Some allege, as Arquette did, that Israel (read: Jews) are profiting off this pandemic. Aside from Twitter, these conspiracies have been spread on forums like Telegram, Gab, Facebook, 4chan, and Reddit.

There’s also another antisemitic attack happening due to coronavirus: the news that white supremacists plan to deliberately infect Jews with the disease. The FBI was alerted to this plan, which called for extremists to “go to any place [Jews] might be congregated” including “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 of Secure Communities Network, a group that coordinates security for Jewish communities across the country.

On the other side of the aisle, anti-Israel leftists have been celebrating the coronavirus-related death of a Holocaust survivor. 88-year-old Arie Even was the first confirmed corona-related death in Israel. But, due to his nationality as an Israeli, his death was celebrated online.

“Finally good news,” someone tweeted. “First good thing Covid-19 has done,” tweeted another.

From both the far-left and the far-right, Jews are being scapegoated, blamed, and targeted in the wake of this pandemic. Our deaths are literally being wanted, celebrated. Just as it is pertinent we call out the anti-Asian racism occurring because of the illness, we must simultaneously be prepared to combat the antisemitism rearing its ugly head during these trying times. After all, viruses don’t discriminate based on race or ethnicity. We should all be in this together.

Rafaella Gunz

Rafaella is a graduate of The New School in NYC, where she majored in Journalism and minored in Gender Studies. She writes for publications including DeadState, Gay Star News, Alma, BUST Magazine, and more.