Passover falls this week, but we find ourselves distracted by the coronavirus that has left almost no community unharmed. As you pull up this newsletter in your locked-down home, the standard "why is this night different from all other nights?" has been replaced by "why is this year different from all other years?"
In this pre-Passover newsletter, we laser-focus on the nexus between COVID-19 and racism/anti-Semitism. It is a unique - and uniquely challenging - Passover this year. Let's get through this together.
We wish you all a very Happy Passover from the DARA team.
Jews targeted by "coronasemitism"; Asian- Americans also attacked
Perhaps we should not be surprised that COVID-19 has mutated a new form of anti-Semitism. In many ways, it is not new at all, just the return of a time-stained strain that blames Jews for calamitous disease.
The current narrative evolves a template made famous during the Black Death in 14th century Europe. Back then, Jews were persecuted and even massacred, supported by claims that Jews poisoned public wells to unleash the bubonic plague.
Jews and Israel are the "main target" of coronavirus hate speech, said Klein, who identified social media as the primary conduit for these anti-Semitic lies. He wants online users to pressure social media platforms to police hateful conversation.
This "coronasemitism" - as Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center's Avi Benlolo calls it - has at times made explicit the link between age-old anti-Semitism and today's nasty outbreak. In France, former health minister Agnès Buzyn was accused of “poisoning water wells with the coronavirus.” In one case, she appears alongside the Nazi-era yellow star marked “Jude."
The Jewish community is not alone in facing racism during the COVID-19 crisis. Reports of harassment and even violence against Asian-Americans prompted one academic to start tracking incidents. The virus was first detected in Wuhan, China, and some have blamed individuals of Asian ethnicity for its spread.
"[M]icroaggressions are the most common," said the site's founder, Russell Jeung. "It moves up to people having bottles and cans thrown at them, their homes being vandalized, and then ... maybe three times a day, we have people actually being physically attacked, assaulted, being hit or punched, pushed on subways."
The site, Stop AAPI Hate, received 659 reported of discrimination in its first eight days.
Extremists urged to spread coronavirus to Jews
Neo-Nazis and white supremacists are telling people infected with coronavirus to spread the disease to Jews, the FBI reported.
“Members of extremist groups are encouraging one another to spread the virus, if contracted, through bodily fluids and personal interactions,” the FBI wrote in an alert.
The alert, which advised members to spread the virus to Jews by visiting "any place they may be congregated, to include markets, political offices, businesses and places of worship,” also urged associates to target police officers.
New book analyzes anti-Semitism, psychiatry
We are very pleased to announce the recent publication of a new book analyzing anti-Semitism and psychiatry. Published by Springer, "Anti-Semitism and Psychiatry: Recognition, Prevention, and Interventions" is co-edited by DARA honorary member Mary Seeman. She also contributed a chapter discussing anti-Semitism, the Holocaust, and inter-generational transmission of trauma.
They say COVID-19 divides us. And it does: the "physical distancing" we all practise has too often turned into the "social distancing" that was initially recommended. Trips to the supermarket now require a whole new etiquette that somehow looks down on personal greetings - even for people observing the six-feet protocol.
This reflective piece reminds us that our distancing is shared by all. More than that: its efficacy depends on being shared by all. It's the great leveler, this coronavirus. It certainly doesn't discriminate between Jew and non-Jew, between one race and another, between Israeli and non-Israeli. Then why should we?