Protesters against COVID measures stoke anti-Semitism: Israel

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JERUSALEM, Jan. 27 — Protesters against COVID-19 measures, comparing themselves to Jews under Nazi persecution, are fueling global anti-Semitism, the Israeli government said in a report marking International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

Such Holocaust tropes are “widespread” and, along with violent demonstrations linked to Israel’s May War in Gaza, were the main reasons for physical or online attacks on Jews in Europe and North America over the past year, the 152-page report said by Diaspora Affairs Ministry.

Several US and UK politicians have issued apologies in recent months after suggesting vaccination or lockdown measures were a reminder of Hitler’s regime.

Some protesters against pandemic restrictions have worn yellow stars like those the Nazis forced on European Jews.

Such depictions showed that the factual knowledge of the genocide is eroding, the report said, adding that some COVID-19 agitators “have consumed and propagated anti-Semitic conspiracy theories that Jews are responsible for the crisis and they for oppression, global domination , economic gain, etc.”.

A protester demonstrating against the Green Pass plan wears a World War II emblem showing the Star of David with the German word “Jude”.
Remo Casilli/REUTERS

Expanding on the findings, Diaspora Affairs Minister Nachman Shai said distorting or trivializing the Holocaust is itself anti-Semitic and can sometimes lead to actual endangerment of Jews.

“There are people who are so hateful that they can take action in the face of such images,” he told Reuters.

The Combat Antisemitism Movement (CAM), a US-based nonprofit, said it found 63.7 million engagements — participating, sharing, or “liking” — in online discussions affecting the pandemic in 2020 and 2021 associate with the Holocaust.

A person holds a dog while a counter-protester holds a sign that reads "Mask on, Nazis out" during a demonstration against government measures to curb the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Dresden, Germany, Jan.
A person holds a dog while a counter-protester holds a sign reading ‘Masks on, Nazis out’ during a demonstration against government measures to curb the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) January 13 in Dresden, Germany , 2022.
Matthias Rietschel/REUTERS

Yad Vashem, Israel’s main Holocaust memorial site, has urged world leaders to resist such discourse – a call apparently heeded by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who said on Monday the protests are linked to the yellow star are “reprehensible”.

“COVID has brought the Holocaust belittlement to a peak,” said Yad Vashem Chairman Dani Dayan. “Such things, sometimes committed by politicians or public figures, are despicable and Yad Vashem is very clearly urging these individuals to withdraw.”

Former Israeli Chief Rabbi Israel Meir Lau, whose parents and brother were among the six million Jews killed by the Nazis and who himself survived a concentration camp as a child, had a more personal appeal in an interview with Reuters.

“Please let the word ‘Holocaust’ stand for the Holocaust and nothing else,” he said.



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