Ronald Lauder Warns Against Scapegoating Asian-Americans and Jews Over Coronavirus

President of the World Jewish Congress Ronald Lauder gives a speech during a solemn ordination ceremony of three rabbis and three cantors at the Bet Zion synagogue in Berlin on October 8, 2018. (Photo by Tobias SCHWARZ / AFP) (Photo credit should read TOBIAS SCHWARZ/AFP via Getty Images)
TOBIAS SCHWARZ/AFP via Getty

TEL AVIV – Scapegoating Asian-Americans and Jews for the spread of the coronavirus has a “genuine threat” that will rob America of its civility, World Jewish Congress President Ronald Lauder warned in a recent oped.

Lauder drew a parallel between the ongoing racism and bigotry faced by the Asian community over the pandemic and the hatred experienced by Jews throughout the ages.

“Holding Asian-Americans responsible for the coronavirus merely because it originated in China is deeply offensive and a genuine threat to them,” he wrote.
“Such scapegoating is terrifyingly familiar to my community, the Jewish people. And we are also being targeted now,” he wrote in Fox News piece.

Lauder noted the “malicious, ugly jokes” about Jews, in which antisemites herald the virus because it can “rid the world of its Jewish problem by letting us die.”

On the other hand, grotesque tropes of hook-nosed Jews are being disseminated to spread the lie that Jews are somehow responsible for the pandemic.

“Blaming Jews for the coronavirus has become a guiding force for antisemites worldwide,” he wrote, and continues by bringing several examples of this from far-right Christian leaders to Muslim officials in the Middle East.

The phenomenon has been around for centuries, Lauder said, dating at least back to the 14th century when political and religious leaders ascribed blame to Jews for somehow causing the bubonic plague by poisoning wells.

“In the 21st century, antisemitism wears chinos and carries Tiki torches, but like any social ill, it has always been adaptable, attaching itself to whatever its proponents found most threatening,” Lauder wrote.

He further slammed those attempting to smear Asian-Americans over the pandemic. “Whether in a meme or in real life, the effect is to demonize and dehumanize anyone who ‘looks’ Chinese. Asian-Americans of all backgrounds have reported deeply troubling encounters with Americans of other backgrounds,” he went on to say.

Israeli startup L1ght reported hate speech towards China and Chinese people had increased by a staggering 900 percent on Twitter in light of the virus.

Lauder called on Americans not to repeat the sins of the past to take an “unyielding stand” against vilifying any individual or community.

“If we’ve spent these dark days demonizing and blaming each other, it will be much harder to heal not just from the disease itself, but also from the as yet untold social and economic repercussions,” he wrote.

“This is a moment for coming together in a globally shared experience as we recognize what we have in common, not for driving wedges or parroting falsehoods that only add to the anxiety in our midst,” Lauder said.

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