CORONAVIRUS

Jewish Groups Launch Website To Track GOP Anti-Semitism

There's been a rise in right-wing, anti-Semitic conspiracy theories tied to the coronavirus pandemic.
Mourners visit the memorial outside the Tree of Life Synagogue on Oct. 31, 2018, in Pittsburgh. Eleven people were killed in
Mourners visit the memorial outside the Tree of Life Synagogue on Oct. 31, 2018, in Pittsburgh. Eleven people were killed in a shooting there on Oct. 27.

Two progressive Jewish organizations have joined forces to launch a new website that tracks anti-Semitism in the Republican Party

HowToFightAntiSemitism.com, a project of Bend the Arc: Jewish Action and Jews Against White Nationalism, went live on Tuesday afternoon. It features an up-to-date timeline of stories about GOP figures promoting anti-Semitic tropes, collaborating with fascist groups or condoning hate directed at Jews. 

“As COVID-19 continues to spread, so do dangerous conspiracy theories targeting Jews, immigrants, and Asian Americans,” says a statement on the site. “These conspiracies are amplified by right-wing politicians and pundits seeking to redirect blame for the scale of this pandemic away from Donald Trump — and onto minority groups.” 

Recent stories shown on the website’s timeline include Department of Health and Human Services official Michael Caputo, an April hire, promoting conspiracy theories about Jewish billionaire George Soros just a month earlier; a GOP congressional candidate meeting with a white supremacist organization in Georgia; and the continued use of anti-Semitic signs at right-wing anti-lockdown protests

Bend the Arc and Jews Against White Nationalism say they launched the site due to an uptick in hate crimes and violence directed at Jews and other minority groups during the Trump administration, including the massacre of 11 worshippers at a Pittsburgh synagogue in 2018, the deadliest anti-Semitic attack in U.S. history. 

“No political party has a monopoly on antisemitism,” the site says, “but deadly antisemitism is almost entirely coming from white nationalists inspired and emboldened by the far-right extremists who have taken over the GOP.”

The site is also meant as a way to correct the record, a spokesperson for the two Jewish groups explained to HuffPost. In 2018 and 2019, news coverage referenced alleged anti-Semitic rhetoric on the left almost twice as much as anti-Semitic rhetoric on the right, according to a study from Media Matters, a liberal media watchdog group. 

This, the progressive groups say, was not an accurate reflection of what was going on but the result of a deliberate strategy by the GOP to deflect accusations of bigotry by painting Democrats as the party of anti-Semitism. The groups point to statements by Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney, the third highest-ranking Republican in the House, who said that her party’s 2020 election strategy was to demonize Democrats as “infanticiders, socialists and anti-Semites.” 

HowToFightAntiSemitism.com does point to some anti-Semitic incidents on the left, including a recent tweet by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) singling out Jews for violating social distancing guidelines during the pandemic. 

The site is also careful to explain the ways the right has tried to exploit and weaponize accusations of anti-Semitism against the left. After de Blasio’s tweet, for example, the site noted how the president’s son and campaign adviser, Donald Trump Jr., promoted the Islamophobic conspiracy theory that Jews and Christians are being unfairly targeted by law enforcement during the pandemic, while Muslims are given special treatment. 

“Donald Trump, Jr. tries to capitalize on a widely-condemned tweet from New York City’s Mayor de Blasio, using the opportunity to pit Jews and Muslims against each other by suggesting that Mayor de Blasio favors Muslim New Yorkers over their Jewish counterparts,” reads the description of the incident on HowToFightAntiSemitism.com. “Not only does this downplay the Islamophobic surveillance and police violence Muslim New Yorkers have been subjected to for decades, it is also part of the Republican Party’s antisemitic effort to use Jews as a political tool against progressives.” 

The site’s name, HowToFightAntiSemitism.com, is a cheeky reference to a book by the same name written by New York Times columnist Bari Weiss, whose interpretation of anti-Semitism has been the subject of intense scrutiny by those on the left. (“Yes, you may notice that we took the URL from the title of right-wing columnist Bari Weiss’s new book since she neglected to lock it down,” a Bend the Arc spokesperson noted in a press release.) 

Bend the Arc and Jews Against White Nationalism say they plan on updating their new site until at least November 2020 ― and depending on how things go in the presidential election, potentially for a long time after that. 


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