As the coronavirus continues to surge globally, virus-related conspiracy theories are proliferating online. These antisemitic, xenophobic, hateful messages spread misplaced blame and misinformation, making it more difficult to access accurate information while elevating fear and anxiety. While some of these messages are new, many are simply old tropes repackaged for a modern pandemic.
The coronavirus is a tool for Jews to expand their global influence
Many antisemitic conspiracy theories posit that Jews have undue global influence and that they manipulate events to expand their power, often citing specific actors like George Soros or the Rothschild family. In recent weeks, there has been a surge in messaging that Jews and/or Israel manufactured or spread the coronavirus to advance their global control. This is trope that can be traced back to at least the 14th century, when Jews were accused of poisoning wells in order to spread the bubonic plague.
- In this image shared on Telegram on March 15, the coronavirus is presented as a trojan horse for “globalist” Jews. The image appears to be mocking accelerationists, individuals eager for the collapse of society (symbolized by the figure with the glowing eyes), and their excitement for the coronavirus.
- On March 30, a VK user shared the following image in which the coronavirus is described as a “Jew World Order Hoax,” referencing the popular right-wing conspiracy that a “New World Order” is seeking to destroy freedom in the United States.
- In this January Telegram message, white supremacist and former Congressional candidate Paul Nehlen states that China was targeted by a Jewish bioweapon designed to assert control over that country.
- On March 16, a Gab user cited several conspiracy theories and attempts to link them by implying that Jews are behind the coronavirus.
- In these messages, George Soros and the Rothschild family are invoked in connection to the virus. In the first Tweet shared on March 15, former Sheriff David Clarke states, without evidence, that George Soros is involved with the spread of the coronavirus. In the second Tweet, also from March 15, a figure representing the Rothschilds is seen weighing money as more important than people.
- Many online posts assert or imply that the coronavirus is a bioweapon manufactured by Israel, playing on the notion that Jews “control” global events. In a March 19 article published on VeteransToday.com, Ian Greenhalgh alleges that the spread of the coronavirus is an act of bioterrorism conducted by the Israelis and that the Chinese are being framed in order to hamstring China and keep them from attaining global power. On Unz.com, conspiracy theorist Kevin Barrett suggests that Israel manufactured the coronavirus and that China is being scapegoated. A different strain of this sentiment can be seen in a March 16 tweet from the Nation of Islam Research Group suggesting that Israel may have developed the coronavirus as a weapon for assassinations.
- This Twitter post promotes an antisemitic conspiracy related to martial law by claiming that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) “is controlled by the Chabad Lubavitch movement.” FEMA has long been a source of fear among those in right-wing circles who believe that the agency will use an emergency to round up Americans into detainment camps.
- On March 25, an 8chan user claimed that Jews are passing laws to stop people from attending mass in the “hope [that] people will give up expressing faith.” The poster also speculates that Jews will “ban cash in a month just to disable churches from weekly funding.” Though the poster never explicitly refers to Jews as the culprit, the use of an echo symbol around the word “they” clearly conveys their message.
- On March 24, alt-right.com posted an article in which the author asserts that the coronavirus is a globalist plot designed to install a world Jewish government.
Jews are profiting from the coronavirus
One of the most prevalent stereotypes about Jews is that they are greedy and value profit above all. From the first days of the coronavirus, antisemites have accused Jews of making money off the virus: from the vaccine, by exploiting market volatility, or through loans. These messages are often accompanied by an image of the “happy merchant,” an antisemitic drawing of a Jewish man with heavily stereotyped features.
- In this Telegram meme from January, the “happy merchant” suggests that the coronavirus is a manufactured hoax and encourages people to get vaccinated, with the implication being that Jews will profit from such practices. Variations of this meme were shared on Telegram on March 22 and on 4chan on March 23.
- These tweets from February and March suggest that Jews will not only profit from a vaccine but will also exploit desperation by overcharging for it and limiting availability.
- These March tweets state that Jews are manipulating and profiting from the stock market plummeting and are benefiting from the negative impacts of the coronavirus on the world.
- In this cartoon shared on Telegram, Uncle Sam gets sick from a stereotypical person of Asian descent and reacts by giving money to Jewish financiers.
Jews as the real virus
In addition to accusing Jews of purposely spreading the virus, antisemites have portrayed Jews themselves as a virus, simultaneously framing them as malignant and something that need to be “cured.”
- In these Telegram memes shared in March, the coronavirus is depicted as being Jewish people.
Using the coronavirus to attack the state of Israel
Many of the antisemitic coronavirus-related content being shared online depicts Israel as a malicious actor that has either manufactured or is using the coronavirus to target its enemies. Others are using the virus to criticize the state of Israel’s policies. While these critiques are not inherently antisemitic, some do perpetuate antisemitic tropes.
- In this cartoon shared on Twitter and Facebook in March, a Palestinian woman is depicted as forced to remain exposed to the coronavirus while an Israeli points a gun in her direction. The user who shared it wrote that Israel and the virus are working together against “native Palestinians,” which frames Israelis as interlopers.
- On March 18, this user shared a post in the Facebook group, “Exposing Zionist Puppets Worldwide,” in which they complain that while they don’t have money, Jews are flaunting the money they nominally used to enslave the world.
- On March 10, this Twitter user wondered whether the coronavirus was sent as a punishment from God for Zionism. Another meme shared in March on Facebooked likened Zionism to a virus.
- On March 25, Rick Wiles, the antisemitic and conspiracy theorist host of the “TruNews” program, used his platform to warn Israel that the coronavirus was spreading in Israeli synagogues because God is punishing Jews for opposing Jesus Christ.
- On March 25, a Facebook user shared the following meme, which wonders whether Zionists should be thrown into a volcano “to appease the virus.”
- On March 12, David Duke in a tweet wondered if President Trump had been infected by the coronavirus and whether Israel and the “Global Zionist elite” were behind it.
- On March 18, a Gab users shared messages likening the Israeli flag to toilet paper.
Coronavirus as a means to kill Jews
Many antisemites on 4chan and Telegram are cheering the news of coronavirus cases in Israel, while others are encouraging people to spread the virus among Jewish communities.
Casting doubt on the number of Jews that died during the Holocaust
Some extremists on Telegram have tied reports documenting the Chinese and Italy’s difficulty in safely disposing of coronavirus fatalities to cast doubt on the number of Jews who died during the Holocaust.