The Times of Israel published my new article “COVID-19 and Anti-Semitism: An Unseen Connection”
The Coronavirus Disease 2019, or COVID-19, like any crisis in history since the inception of the Jewish people, will ignite a wave of anti-Semitism. We can already see it budding on social media, traditional media outlets, in graffiti, and in aggression on the streets. People don’t know why they hate Jews, so they cling to every pretext to vent their innate odium toward this enigmatic nation that seems to them as though its people collaborate to control the world, while in truth, many Jews haven’t the slightest empathy toward their own people or their own nation-state.
There is no point reasoning with antisemites; their hatred is irrational. Whatever reason they provide, its opposite has already been used as a pretext for hating Jews just as bitterly. When two opposite reasons explain the same phenomenon, it means that neither is correct. When it comes to anti-Semitism, there is a three-stage process of revealing it: First there is a dormant, subconscious hatred, then there is a trigger in the form of some crisis, and finally the Jews are accused of causing it.
Jews don’t know why people hate them. They didn’t commit any of the contradictory accusations that antisemites throw at them. And because antisemites hate them for a different reason than the one they articulate, refuting it does not mitigate the loathing.
The real reason for Jew-hatred is rooted deep in the past, in ancient Babylon, the cradle of civilization. Back then, Abraham, from whom emerged Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, was deeply troubled by growing social tensions he had observed among his people, the Babylonians. After deep scrutiny, he had realized that they were becoming increasingly self-centered and called on them to rise above that trend and restore their union.
Not many people listened to Abraham. He was driven out of Babylon and wandered toward the land of Canaan. Along the way, he explained his findings and invited people to join his group. The only condition he had required was agreement with the principle of unity above all differences.
Abraham’s entourage grew and prospered. At the foot of Mt. Sinai, they pledged to be “as one man with one heart” and were officially declared a nation: “the nation of Israel.” At that event they were also tasked with sharing that unity with the rest of the world, as Abraham had intended to do in the first place. That was the meaning of Israel’s mission to be “a light unto nations.”
In the meantime, the people who remained in Babylon and did not follow Abraham wallowed in unbridled egoism and developed resentment toward those who followed that “other” idea—of unity above all differences. That ancient “score” is the root of the hatred we now call anti-Semitism.
Within any non-Jew who hates Jews, or a Jew who dislikes his or her own people, there is an unconscious struggle between those two approaches: The Babylonian “me first,” or the Jewish “we first.” The struggle that unfolds within them is the reason why Jews are so often accused of selfishness and partiality toward their own folk, since the world judges them by a much higher moral standard than it judges any other nation.
But even perfect Jewish morality and absolute selflessness will not dissolve Jew-hatred. The Jews became a nation only after they pledged wholeheartedly to be “as one man with one heart.” Upon their declaration of nationhood, the Jews were tasked with being “a light unto nations,” namely to share with the nations of the world the way to achieve unity. That task coincided with Abraham’s initial aspiration to share his idea of unity with all his fellow Babylonians.
Especially today, if the Jews carry out their task, it will end the resentment that the descendants of the Babylonians who did not follow Abraham feel toward his descendants. It would disband anti-Semitism.
Now, in the days of COVID-19, the world feels more than ever that we are all in one boat, that there is a hole in the boat and no one knows what’s causing it or how to cork it. They blame the Jews for it, as always, and make up countless conspiracy theories to justify it. But in truth, the Jews’ only fault is that they aren’t setting an example of unity above differences. This is all that the world needs in order to overcome the coronavirus or any other plight that’s lurking in the darkness of the future.
If the human race were united, it would be no problem to overcome any crisis. Mutual responsibility is the most required commodity these days, and no one will be able to pump out that resource until the Jews show the way by setting an example.
Therefore, the only thing that Jews must do today is unite among themselves in order to set an example of unity to the rest of the world. And when the world unites, the troubles will be all gone.