Rabbi Abraham Cooper and Illinois State Senator Ram Villivalam wrote this article.
We only have to look at the heroic actions of first-responders, healthcare professionals, charities, and community volunteers during the coronavirus pandemic to remind us that crises can bring out the best traits in our fellow Americans.
Sadly, they can also bring out the worst.
That's why we need to remain vigilant in the fight against hate, conspiracies and scapegoating.
Law enforcement, civil rights organizations, and media outlets are reporting on increased hate crimes against Asian-Americans, due to the completely mistaken and wrongheaded belief that they have culpability for this pandemic.
While its clear the Chinese government covered up key information about coronvirus’s initial outbreak in Wuhan, we need to remember that it's Chinese themselves who were the first victims of this policy.
Now Asian-Americans of all backgrounds are becoming the targets of harassment, insults and violence.
A Texas man faces attempted murder charges for attacking an Asian-American family of four in a supermarket and stabbing three of them, including a two-year old and a six-year-old child — claiming they were responsible for spreading coronavirus.
The website Stop AAPI Hate has fielded over 1,100 hate incident reports in the past two weeks including 11 in New York City and in Illinois. Such scapegoating is particularly galling when one considers that 17% of doctors and 10% of nurses in our countrythose putting their lives on the line to help protect the public from the virus — are Asian-American.
Jews also are all too familiar with disease-related scapegoating throughout history.
During the Black Plague in Europe in the Middle Ages, Jewish people were scapegoated and killed mercilessly by fanatics across the continent.
Over 600 entire Jewish communities were destroyed.
Many of the killers claimed that Jews had poisoned wells to spread the plague, or that the plague was a Jewish plot to decimate Christian communities.
Never mind that Jews died in horrific numbers during the plague as well.
Sadly, modern anti-Semites are right now on the internet weaving similarly insane conspiracy theories blaming Jews for spreading coronavirus.
Indeed, the Simon Wiesenthal Center just turned over a list of some 45 channels on social media platforms like Telegram and Gab to U.S. Attorney General William Barr and The Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Platforms promoting lurid conspiracy theories linking Jews to the pandemic and urging those suffering from the coronavirus to go to synagogues and mosques to spread this deadly disease.
Working together with all people of good faith we will hopefully soon be beneficiaries of a vaccine to stop the pandemic. But no one has yet come up with a cure for history’s oldest virus — hate.
We all must reject any and all efforts seeking to conflate justified anger at the Chinese communist government with anger towards Asian-Americans.
Such is the height of hypocrisy, and insulting to the many Chinese-Americans who fled to our country specifically to escape repression by the Chinese government. We should never blame immigrants from any country for the actions of a foreign government over which they have no control.
We must also reject the anti-Semites who are always lurking for times of crisis, anger, and uncertainty to spread their cancerous hatred of Jews.
What can we do to fight hate while protecting our neighbors?
The most important action you can take is to report any incidents to the proper authorities.
Additionally, please submit anti-Asian American incidents to the national Stop AAPI Hate website.
If you experience an anti-Semitic incident or see anti-Semitic remarks on social media please contact email@example.com.
Also, continue to check in on your neighbors — regardless of their background.
The pandemic has taught us that we are all in the same boat.
Let’s ensure that we don’t allow bigots to exploit this crisis.
By demonstrating that we care about each other, we can emerge from this pandemic stronger. More united than ever.
State Senator Ram Villivalam, the son of Indian immigrants, is Illinois’ first Asian-American State Senator. He represents the 8th District which includes portions of Chicago’s Northwest Side and Skokie, Park Ridge, Niles, Morton Grove, Lincolnwood and Glenview.
Rabbi Abraham Cooper is the Associate Dean, Director Global Social Action Agenda at the Simon Wiesenthal Center, a leading Jewish human rights organization. Abraham Cooper has been a longtime activist for Jewish and human rights causes. His extensive involvement in Soviet Jewry included visiting refuseniks, helping to open Moscow’s first Jewish Cultural Center, and lecturing at the Soviet Academy of Sciences and the Sakharov Foundation. In 1977, he came to L.A. to help Rabbi Marvin Hier found the Simon Wiesenthal Center, and for three decades Rabbi Cooper has overseen the Wiesenthal Center’s international social action agenda including worldwide antisemitism and extremist groups, Nazi crimes, Interfaith Relations, the struggle to thwart the anti-Israel Divestment campaign, and worldwide promotion of tolerance education. Widely recognized as an international authority on issues related to digital hate and the Internet, Rabbi Cooper was listed in 2017 by Newsweek among the top most influential Rabbis in the United States. To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.
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