By David R. Parsons, ICEJ Vice President and Senior Spokesman
During the last week of January the world marked International Holocaust Remembrance Day, established by the United Nations on the anniversary of the Red Army’s liberation of the Auschwitz death camp on January 27, 1945. One year ago, Yad Vashem – the world’s premiere Holocaust memorial and museum – hosted an august gathering of international leaders from 55 nations who pledged to fight the global resurgence of anti-Semitism. As these potentates, princes, presidents and prime ministers returned home from Jerusalem, the world was just starting to wake up to the threat of the new coronavirus.
Sadly, the spread of coronavirus over the past year also has brought with it a renewed wave of the virus of antisemitism. So often, this oldest form of human hatred latches on to a real or perceived threat and becomes a fellow traveller with it. It scapegoats the Jews, falsely blaming them for every problem and peril that comes along. Christians used to be the chief purveyors of such lies, but today we can clearly see that this is no longer the case.
Late January, the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem hosted (online) some 750 Christian pastors and ministry from 55 nations as well for our annual Envision conference, scheduled each year around the January 27 Holocaust observances. We have no doubt that they represent multitudes of Christians worldwide who are deeply committed to combating all forms of antisemitism – including the corona-related version now making the rounds.
Ever since the corona outbreak started one year ago, the twisted interests on the far-Left and far-Right have converged in targeting Jews for either creating or taking advantage of this pandemic to further their purported goals of self-enrichment and global dominance.
It is nothing new for people to blame infectious diseases on Jews. When the Black Death swept across Europe in the 14th Century, the Jewish people were widely blamed (and even tortured and executed) because there were so few Jewish victims – which mainly resulted from their communal ritual of simply washing their hands before meals. Hitler and the Nazis also routinely described the Jews as parasites and disease-bearing vermin who needed extermination.
In the case of Covid-19, some have claimed the virus is a hoax conjured up by Jews to provide a global emergency which allows them to take over governments or exploit the accompanying economic crisis. Others have insisted corona is a real viral threat created by Jews for the very same dubious aims.
Early on, when Israel largely escaped the worst of the first wave of the coronavirus through an effective governmental-societal response, some used Israel’s good fortune to accuse Israeli leaders and “Zionists” of being behind a viral plot.
Such outrageous conspiracy theories have been widely promoted on the Internet and social media. Even tech giants like Facebook and Twitter have faced criticism for letting such racist hate-speech appear on their platforms, including from such sources as Iranian leaders.
In the UK, for instance, there were numerous social media posts which linked the spread of the virus to new 5G towers and networks, and suggested Jews either owned the networks or were building towers in non-Jewish neighbourhoods. An Oxford survey in the UK also found that 20% of all Britons believed that Jews were somehow behind corona, and indeed many social media posts referred to it as the “Jew flu”.
Conspiracy theories also are now cropping up around the Internet regarding the vaccines being rapidly developed to fight Covid-19. There are many variants of this canard as well, but a common one follows the familiar line that Jews created this global health crisis in order to ‘depopulate’ certain non-Jewish people groups or force them to take vaccines that will render them sterile.
While the lack of proper long-term testing of the new vaccines is a genuine concern, this has nothing to do with the Jewish people. Further, it is ironic that Israel has become the country with the most ambitious plan for mass vaccinations using these new, largely untested vaccines.
In the face of this wave of corona-related scapegoating of Jews, some of the prominent monitors of antisemitism, such as the ADL, have concentrated on Right-wing and ultra-nationalist culprits, such as white supremacists, Q-Anon conspiracy theorists, and the Nation of Islam. But one study concluded the recent spate of corona-related antisemitic outbursts can be attributed to a small but very active network of a few dozen far-Right extremists.
Further, when we look at some of the other widespread expressions of anti-Semitism over recent months, it is clear the extreme Left and extreme Right each have their own share of militantly anti-Jewish elements.
For instance, both far-Left and far-Right agitators carried out vandalism, arson and other violent attacks on several synagogues across America in the wake of last summer’s spate of George Floyd protests.
Radical leftists, especially students on American university campuses, also remained very active in pushing the anti-Semitic BDS campaign, which continues to gain traction in Europe as well. For example, three German MPs, a leading German diplomat, the socialist youth organization, and several German cultural NGOs were all singled out by the Simon Wiesenthal Centre in 2020 for promoting the Boycott-Divest-Sanction agenda against the Jewish state.
One important angle to note in all of this is the paucity of Christians openly involved in these anti-Semitic outrages. Christians may have been among the main spreaders of anti-Semitic tropes against Jews in the past, but ever since the Auschwitz death camp was liberated 76 years ago, Christian attitudes towards the Jewish people have undergone a sea change.
Evangelical Christians in particular – today the fastest growing stream of Christianity at some 700 million adherents worldwide – are some of the most ardent, vocal supporters and admirers of the Jewish people and the nation of Israel. We are defending Jews from these canards, not spreading them. The atrocities of the Nazi Holocaust were a wake-up call to the Christian world, and it has essentially ‘vaccinated’ several generations of Christians now from being susceptible to the new strains of the same old repackaged anti-Semitic lies and slanders.
But the need to inoculate others – including future Christian generations – from the virus of anti-Semitism demands that we continue to undertake serious efforts at Holocaust remembrance and education. That is why the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem holds our annual Envision conference for pastors and ministry leaders to coincide with the January 27 anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. It took place this year online, due to corona, but we now have hundreds more Christian leaders from dozens of countries who just took part in the week’s events and are fully equipped to vaccinate others against baseless Jew-hatred.
So amid all the bad news about corona-related anti-Semitism, there is good news about the Jewish people’s steadfast friends in the Christian world.
The ICEJ has a mandate to comfort and support Israel and our Jewish family. We live this out in a very practical way by praying, teaching and advocating for Israel as well as blessing her with our material blessings as instructed to by Paul…These material blessings sponsor 7 Holocaust survivor homes in Haifa, have brought over 150 000 Jewish people home, build bomb shelters and support various programmes for the vulnerable, the need for which has increased throughout the Covid challenge.
For if the Gentiles have come to share in their spiritual blessings, they ought also to be of service to them in material blessings. — Romans 15:27
PS: To learn more about the ICEJ’s work with Yad Vashem, please check out our page on Christian Friends of Yad Vashem at: icej.org/yadvashem
PS II: Our friends at the Jerusalem Centre for Public Affairs recently produced a new video on the subject of corona-related anti-Semitism, entitled: Conspiracies, Jews, and the Jewish State. Watch it here: jcpa.org/video/conspiracies
David Parsons is Vice President & Senior Spokesman for the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem; www.icej.org/