Coronavirus pandemic driving increased racism against Indian Jews in Israel

A 28-year-old Indian Jew in Israel is in hospital after being assaulted by Israelis who called him 'corona.'

Bnei Menashe arriving in Israel after emigrating from India, Ben-Gurion Airport, June 25, 2015

Saudamini Jain reports in +972:

Last Saturday [14 March] , Am Shalem Singson, a 28-year-old yeshiva student, was walking toward downtown Tiberias with some friends when two Israeli men scrunched up their nose and called them “corona, corona.” Singson told them that he wasn’t even from China, but India — he and his friends are Bnei Menashe, a community of Indian Jews, several thousand of whom live in Israel. But the men, angry at being questioned, first shoved, then repeatedly kicked him. Singson had to undergo surgery for severe injuries to his chest and lungs.

Singson, who is still recovering in the hospital, believes that the novel coronavirus pandemic has become a catalyst for racists to escalate their bigotry. “They don’t want to live with us, they just want to fight,” he says. “They take advantage [of the situation] using coronavirus…and it’s not just me, many people face this.”

There have been significant reports of racist attacks against Asians around the world by people blaming them for the outbreak and spread of the coronavirus. U.S. President Donald Trump, who continues to call it “Chinese virus,” has been criticized for endangering Asians by encouraging racist scapegoating while people’s anger and fear at the spread of the virus escalate.

The Bnei Menashe have been facing the brunt of this kind of racism — mostly, they believe, because the vast majority of Israelis don’t know much about them. Numbering 5,000 thousand in Israel, the Bnei Menashe emigrated from two northeast Indian states — Manipur and Mizoram, bordered by Myanmar — and believe they are descendants of a 2,700-year-old “lost tribe” of Israel. They do not qualify to emigrate under the Israeli Law of Return, but are able to arrive sporadically in groups of a few hundred through Shavei Israel, an Israeli nonprofit which works to locate “lost” Jewish communities around the world and bring them to Israel. Singson immigrated with his mother, grandmother and brother from Manipur in 2017.

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