• Seth Eislund

The Jews, Coronavirus, and Antisemitic Conspiracy Theories

Updated: Aug 12, 2020

By Seth Eislund

An anonymous antisemitic cartoon accusing the Jews of spreading COVID-19, 2020

On February 26, 2020, Iraqi political analyst Muhammad Sadeq al-Hashemi appeared on Al-Ayam TV to discuss his theories behind the rapid spread of coronavirus around the world. Al-Hashemi claimed that the coronavirus was an American bioweapon designed to decimate the world’s population and linked this supposed plot to a broader Jewish conspiracy to commit mass murder on a global scale. The analyst argued that coronavirus was simply the latest in a long history of Jewish genocidal machinations. He accused the Jews of planning “to cleanse the two Americas [with anthrax], so that [the Americas] would become the real Jewish homeland before Israel [was established].”

In addition to the United States, al-Hashemi baselessly asserted that the Jews used biological warfare against Scotland, “killing one third” of the country’s population, and that it was the Rothschilds who decided to drop the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Al-Hashemi’s theories paint the Jews as a cabal of schemers who use coronavirus and biological weapons to achieve world domination and transform the globe into a “Jewish homeland.” They portray the Jews as inhabiting the highest echelons of global power, wielding influence over the West, warfare, and disease itself.

While al-Hashemi’s antisemitic conspiracy theories about biological warfare sound outrageous, they have an unfortunately long history. Jews have been scapegoated for causing pandemics, diseases, and catastrophes for thousands of years. During the Middle Ages, Christians accused Jews of poisoning wells to spread the Bubonic Plague. Thousands of Jews were massacred throughout Europe, with many being burned to death. The Black Death popularized the notion that Jews caused diseases, with historian Walter Laqueur arguing that this antisemitic trope became a worldwide phenomenon after the 1340s and 1350s. One of the most important modern instances of this trope was the supposed “Doctor’s Plot” in Stalinist Russia during the early 1950s. The Soviets accused nine doctors, six of them Jewish, of attempting to poison Joseph Stalin. This resulted in the doctors being tortured to obtain false confessions. Such conspiracies continued into the 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s in the Middle East, where Jews were accused of spreading AIDS throughout the region, and now, in 2020, antisemitic conspiracy theories about the coronavirus are extremely popular.

Ultimately, al-Hashemi’s theories about the coronavirus are part of a broader strand of antisemitic thought. Jews have been persecuted as the creators and carriers of diseases for thousands of years, and it is unlikely that such conspiracy theories will disappear soon. Sadly, it is safe to assume that whenever a new disease emerges, someone will claim that the Jews are behind it.

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