JERUSALEM, Israel – As the world battles the coronavirus pandemic, disinformation about COVID-19 thrives on the internet. It includes a dangerous blame game and some are pointing the finger at history’s main scapegoat, the Jewish people.
“Of course the usual suspects. The Iranian regime, which has been so horrific vis a vis its own people, they still have their ongoing flights with Beijing. They’ve exported corona throughout the Gulf. A disaster. Who do you blame? You blame the Jews. You blame the United States of America,” said Rabbi Abraham Cooper of the Simon Weisenthal Center.
The finger-pointing included Turkey as Fatih Erbakan, head of Refah Party and the son of former prime minister Necmettin Erbakan said on March 6: “Though we do not have certain evidence, this virus serves Zionism's goals of decreasing the number of people and preventing it from increasing … Zionism is a 5,000-year-old bacteria that has caused the suffering of people.'”
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Rabbi Cooper says this is nothing really new although now it’s the world’s newest virus meeting the world’s oldest hatred.
“Historically going back to the medieval times actually a 1000 years ago when Jews were first falsely accused about killing Christian children around Passover and baking matza, a horrible screed that led to death and destruction. Then the black plague. The bottom line is that throughout the millennia,” Rabbi Cooper said. “Whenever there is a virus-like this or a pandemic scapegoating is right at the top of the list especially before modern times came about and the Jewish people have always suffered
In the 21st century, social media carries the Anti-Semitic message.
One Twitter user tweeted: “… a lot of people are waking up to the fact that the coronavirus is a Jew organize crime created hoax intended to coverup Jew organize crime being carried out.”
Rabbi Cooper calls those conspiracy theories “ludicrous.”
The Simon Wiesenthal center fights back by trying to degrade the ability of anti-Semitic groups to spread their messages and working with the FBI and the State Department.
“I give terrific support for our State Department for Secretary Pompeo for turning the screws even more on the Iranian regime. This is not about hurting the Iranian people. The State Department said just yesterday that they found a billion dollars from aid from the European Union countries has gone into the pockets of the people running the country so I think we need to squeeze our enemies,” said Rabbi Cooper.
The rabbi also believes it’s important to face the coronavirus crisis through a redemptive lens.
"Be decent caring people, take care of your families and always think of the less fortunate that are around us and who would have thought a month ago that we would all be thinking about not based on how much income you have but what kind of situation you’re in medically and also spiritually. so the challenge for all of us is that this could be a time to bring people closer together even though we’re physically separated from one another.“
With Passover just weeks away, Rabbi Cooper says the biblical feast holds a universal message.
“That we can all exit from it being a little bit more human, a little bit more spiritual and a little bit more concerned about our fellow human beings. If that happens then we know that God will be pleased and believe me in this season we all want very much that God will be pleased with us.”
Passover commemorates the time when God saved the Jewish people from not just one but ten plagues. It’s the prayer of Jews, Christians, and others around the world that this 21st-century plague will pass over too.