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Resist COVID-19 Scapegoating Politics – OpEd


India’s total Covid19 cases since the pandemic began swept past 25 million on May 24, 2021 as the country registered more than 300.000 coronavirus deaths. Experts warn that both the number of deaths and total reported cases are likely vast undercounts.

And the virus of scapegoating due to fear and anxiety is spreading as well. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has called for an “all-out effort” to end the “tsunami of hate and xenophobia, scapegoating and scaremongering,”. Guterres said: “Anti-foreigner sentiment has surged online and in the streets. Anti-Semitic conspiracy theories have spread and COVID-19-related anti-Muslim attacks have occurred.”

Scapegoating refers to the human tendency to blame someone else for one’s own economic, social or personal problems, a process that often comes from already existing feelings of prejudice toward the group that one is blaming.

Scapegoating serves as an opportunity to publicly vent one’s own frustrations, rage and hate, while ignoring one’s own failures or misdeeds and maintaining one’s positive self-image.

What makes otherwise rational people buy into conspiracy theories and unfounded rumors about those they consider to be outsiders?

People with certain personality traits are much more likely to believe in conspiracy theories. For example. a Yahoo News/YouGov poll, found that 44 percent of American Republicans believe Bill Gates is plotting to use the mass COVID-19 vaccination campaign as a pretext to implant microchips in billions of people and monitor their movements. This a widely debunked conspiracy theory with no basis in fact.

And in the UK according to research conducted by clinical psychologists at Oxford University; 60% of adults believe to some extent that the British government is misleading the UK public about the cause of the virus; 20% believe to some extent that the virus is a hoax; and almost 20 percent of adults in England believe that Jews created the coronavirus for financial gain.

Participants in the survey were asked to what extent they agreed with the statement: “Jews have created the virus to collapse the economy for financial gain.” According to the survey, 80.8% said they do not agree, 5.3% said they agree a little, 6.8% said they agree moderately, 4.6% said they agree a lot, while 2.4% said they agree completely.

The figures were almost identical when respondents were asked whether they agreed with the statement, “Muslims are spreading the virus as an attack on Western values.”

Even Muslims believe COVID-19 was a human caused rather than a just a natural event. According to a poll of 2556 persons released by Minasat on May 20, 2020, 59% of Moroccans believe COVID-19 was made in a lab, and 22% believe the virus was natural, while 5% think the virus is either a divine punishment or believe it was the product of pure chance.

It is important for all members of minority groups to realize for themselves, and also teach others, that the victims of hate filled scapegoaters are completely innocent of all responsibility for the actual problems that the scapegoater has.

Do not ever let children fall for the hate virus that claims the victims somehow brought this hatred upon themselves.

The idea that Jews are powerful and engaged in secret evil plots has historically emerged during times of societal stress, such as periods of pandemic or high unemployment because they allow people to consolidate blame for a complex set of societal and economic circumstances on a single scapegoat. 

The Coronavirus pandemic may be novel, but Jews have had a long and tragic history of being accused of spreading deadly viruses. During the Black Death which started in 1348, many dozens of Jewish communities in Western Europe were attacked, despite the intervention of Pope Clement VI, who pointed out that Jews were dying from the plague just like everyone else (although Jews were less likely to get the Black Death plague because their religion forbid eating any animal like rats that died of natural causes). Nothing like this happened in the Arab or Muslim world although the bubonic plague swept through it as well.

Since Jews are the religious community most accepting of Covid-19 vaccinations, they could be scapegoated again. A recent PPRI poll found that Jewish Americans (85%) are by far the most likely to be vaccine accepters, to have received a vaccine, or to say they will get vaccinated as soon as possible.

Of white Catholics (68%) are vaccine accepters, as are 64% of other Christians, 63% of white mainline Protestants, and 63% of other non-Christian religious Americans. Majorities of religiously unaffiliated Americans (60%) and Hispanic Catholics (56%), are also vaccine accepters.

Mormons (50%), Black Protestants (49%), other Protestants of color (45%), white evangelical Protestants (45%), and Hispanic Protestants (43%) say they have gotten or will get vaccinated as soon as possible.

Among the religious groups least receptive to the vaccines, white evangelical Protestants stand out as the most likely to say they will refuse to get vaccinated (26%), with an additional 28% who are hesitant. About one in five other Protestants of color (20%), Black Protestants (19%), and Mormons (17%) say they will not get vaccinated, and another one-third of each are hesitant (35%, 32%, and 33%, respectively).

Among these less receptive religious groups, Hispanic Protestants are less likely to say they will not get vaccinated (15%) but more likely than any other religious group to be vaccine hesitant (42%)

The media must expose all scapegoating where ever it occurs. As the Prophet said, “The best form of jihad is to speak a word of truth (haqq) in the face of an oppressor.”

Rabbi Allen S. Maller

Allen Maller retired in 2006 after 39 years as Rabbi of Temple Akiba in Culver City, Calif. He is the author of an introduction to Jewish mysticism. God. Sex and Kabbalah and editor of the Tikun series of High Holy Day prayerbooks.

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