This fact sheet is current as at May 2020.
During the coronavirus pandemic, conspiracy theories involving Jewish people, including Israelis, have proliferated online.
The origin of these coronavirus conspiracy theories includes Iranian disinformation, Arabic-language agitators, the far-right and Israel haters.
Iranian sources have been responsible for spreading anti-Israel and anti-American disinformation and conspiracy theories on coronavirus.
While thousands of Iranians have died after contracting the virus, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has refused US offers of assistance to combat the disease. In fact, he blamed the United States for creating the virus, with Jews somehow also involved, albeit in a mystical way. The Ayatollah’s official website quoted a cleric who said: “There is no doubt that the Jews and especially the Zionists have a long history of supernatural affairs and matters such as a relationship with the devil and genies.”
Referring to conspiracy theories that Iran has helped promulgate claiming that the virus is an American creation, Khamenei said, “I do not know how real this accusation is but when it exists, who in their right mind would trust you [the US] to bring them medication? Possibly your medicine is a way to spread the virus more.”
Making the ludicrous claim that the virus “is specifically built for Iran using the genetic data of Iranians which they have obtained through different means,” he added, “You might send people as doctors and therapists, maybe they would want to come here and see the effect of the poison they have produced in person.”
Iranian state-owned Press TV is spreading these baseless attacks on Jews and Americans around the world, with one Press TV report noting, “Don’t be surprised if the recent coronavirus phenomenon has a New World Order fingerprint,” that resembles the so-called “ Zionist/Neocon false flag events of 9/11/2001” to help a “self-serving psychopathic elite to achieve a one-world government.”
On a vaccine, the pragmatic conservative Iranian Hamdeli daily asked whether it would be permissible for Iran to purchase a COVID-19 vaccine from Israel if it succeeded in developing one.
Grand Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi’s published response was that it was forbidden to do so “if we know for certain that the profit made by the companies [manufacturing it] will go to the Zionists and Israel, unless this is the only medicine [available] and there is no other alternative. In the latter case, it is not forbidden [to buy and use the vaccine].”
That same day his office issued a denial of the report, calling it “a complete lie. No question on this matter was submitted [to us] and no answer was issued. We repeat our announcement that rumours of this sort are the work of people with ill intentions.”
Coronavirus conspiracy theories have also emanated in the Arab world – from Saudi Arabia to Egypt. Hatred has even made its ways into Australian-based Arabic-language media.
Saudi columnist Sa’ud Al-Shehry wrote for Al-Watan in early February that “A ‘wonder’ virus was discovered yesterday in China; tomorrow it will be discovered in Egypt, but it will not be discovered either today, tomorrow or the day after tomorrow in the U.S. or Israel…” Unfortunately, the latter prediction has turned out to be very wide of the mark.
Egyptian journalist Ahmad Rif’at wrote, “American factories are the first to manufacture every kind of virus and bacteria, from the virulent smallpox virus and the bubonic plague virus to all the viruses we saw in the recent years, such as mad cow disease and swine flu.” Introducing COVID-19 to Wuhan “is not only intended to worry China, trouble it and cause it to spend billions of dollars on emergency measures and medicines – which, by the way, will be manufactured by an Israeli company… The U.S. wants to inform the world, and especially China itself, as part of a propaganda war targeting [China’s] prestige and status, that [China] is still a backward country whose citizens eat bat soup and which exports diseases and epidemics to the rest of the world!”
In Yemen, a bizarre sermon was aired saying Allah brought COVID-19 on the West and China so that people would have to wear face masks so they could see their mistake in punishing Muslim women for wearing hijabs.
Pierre Sema’an a respected member of the Lebanese Maronite community in Australia and a senior editor at El-Telegraph newspaper, has tried to persuade readers that the coronavirus epidemic is a US-made biological weapon used in the trade war with China. Furthermore, he alleges that the virus was created by a mysterious and secretive global government, “the Illuminati, a fascist, Nazi-oriented organisation.”
Sema’an wrote this secret government is using COVID-19 to implement its evil Agenda 21 plan to dramatically reduce Earth’s human population to only 5% of current numbers. In reality, Agenda 21 was a 1992 non-binding UN plan to preserve the global environment.
Sema’an also argues science and social distancing measure are not needed to eradicate coronavirus. Instead he champions traditional Lebanese myths about the alleged healing powers associated with the tomb of Saint Charbel Makhlouf, a 19th century Maronite monk.
The extreme right has also been a rich source of coronavirus conspiracy theories. Notorious white supremacist David Duke, a former Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, wondered on Twitter, “Are Israel and the Global Zionist elite up to their old tricks?”
Virulent antisemite Rick Wiles, who is behind the banned TruNews digital TV network, told his viewers coronavirus is spreading through synagogues. “God is spreading it in your synagogues! You are under judgement because you oppose his son Jesus Christ. That is why you have a plague in your synagogues.”
Social media sites Twitter, Facebook, Telegram and others have all allowed false, misleading conspiracy theories to circulate from those on the far-right. The ADL has listed a number of these, including accusations Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu created coronavirus, that an eventual Israeli vaccine will actually be an assassination tool, urging people to use the Israeli flag as toilet paper during the toilet paper shortage, and accusing Jews of somehow profiting from coronavirus.
Another popular source of coronavirus conspiracy has come from Israel haters, who accuse Israel of spreading coronavirus into the Palestinian Territories, or of not helping Palestinians to deal with the virus.
In mid-March, a joint operations room was set up by Israelis and Palestinians to address the coronavirus challenge. Since then, Israel has offered the Palestinians in both the West Bank and Gaza medical expertise and access to medical supplies, as required, and thousands of testing kits have been transferred by Israel into Gaza. The UN itself has praised the excellent coordination between Israelis and Palestinians during the pandemic. However, this has not stopped from blaming Israel for not doing enough to help Palestinians.Israel haters from accusing Israel of not doing enough to help Palestinians.
The Palestinians themselves have also been asked to stop spreading falsehoods about Israel’s misconduct and lack of activity in this area. From Israeli soldiers spreading the virus on car door handles, to claims Israel is deliberately keeping Palestinian prisoners in conditions where they will get infected, to claims Israel is deliberately smuggling infected Palestinian workers back into Palestinian cities, to accusations Israel is trying to interfere with efforts to contain coronavirus, senior figures in the Palestinian Authority have been responsible for all kinds of wild theories.
Kamil Abu-Rukun, the head of the Israeli department that coordinates transfers to Palestinian areas, warned Palestinian leadership their hatred and slander had to stop.
“Such shameful remarks, baseless and indefensible, completely contradict the plain fact that Israel has prepared and engaged itself to give all possible assistance in the regional effort to halt the spread of the epidemic, both in Israel and in the Palestinian territories,” Rukun said.