Antisemitism and the Covid-19 Conspiracy Theories

Example narrative (What do they say or do?)

The centuries-old stereotype that Jews spread the disease was reactivated during the coronavirus pandemic.

Dr. Predrag Kon is head of the Health-crisis Team of the Republic of Serbia in charge of efforts against the Kovid-19 pandemics. Dr. Predrag Kon is Jewish. In November 2020, a graffiti “Dr. Kon on a stake!” with the crossed-out Star of David appeared in Novi Sad. The abbreviation “Dr” was under quotation marks to indicate sarcasm, alluding that Dr. Kon is not a “real doctor.”

In a separate incident, antisemitic posters appeared on the streets of Belgrade, claiming that the pandemic was just a cover for establishing a “world Jewish government.”

Antisemitic context explained (What does this actually mean?)

Since the Middle Ages, Jews have been accused of tainting sacred objects or communal property. European Christians repeatedly accused Jews of poisoning communal wells during medieval and early modern periods. During the Black Death epidemic throughout the late Middle Ages, Jews were accused of poisoning wells to spread the plague. This myth led to massacres and persecution of Jews across Europe. Jews were banned from German swimming pools and quarantined during cholera and typhus epidemics of 1892. In Nazi Germany, Jewishness was often compared to cancer.

The global outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020 was accompanied by conspiracy theories, disinformation, and hate speech, often targeting already marginalized groups. As many times in history, Jewish communities have been accused of spreading or inventing the virus or even orchestrating the whole pandemic to create a new social and economic order.

Consequences (Why is this harmful?)

Conspiracy theories that accuse Jews of creating, spreading, falsifying, or lying about the “true nature of the Covid-19 virus” or even planning and managing the whole pandemic are based on centuries-old stereotypes, myths, and lies about Jews. These conspiracy theories are just a step forward further antisemitic myths about “Jewish power” and “world domination.”

Personalize (How does it impact a Jewish person or a community)

Consequences of such conspiracy theories are concern, fear, and anxiety among Jewish individuals, families, and the entire Jewish community. As a result, many might feel reluctant to disclose or express their Jewish identity, tradition, or culture in fear of being identified as Jews and bullied or exposed to violence.

Social impact (Why is this harmful for the society?)

Scapegoating is blaming someone else for one’s problems, often resulting in added prejudices toward the persons or groups that one is accusing. It jeopardizes the safety and security of marginalized communities, in this case the Jewish community, and their human and civil rights, ultimately weakening the state of democracy of the entire society.

Debunking response (What to do? How to react? Options)

  • Rapport the incident to the relevant authorities,
  • React, counter the narrative, stand against it,
  • Engage in discussion and explain why this is wrong,
  • Education about antisemitism