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Anti-Semitism is fuelled by Holocaust motifs in COVID protests: Israel

FILE PHOTO: Protesters attend a left wing May Day demonstration, as the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues in Leipzig, Germany, May 1, 2021. The placard reads "Nazis out!". REUTERS/Matthias Rietschel/File Photo

Protesters against COVID-19 measures who liken themselves to Jews under Nazi persecution are stoking global anti-Semitism, the Israeli government said in a report marking International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

The news: According to the 152-page report by the Diaspora Affairs Ministry, Holocaust tropes have become “widespread” and, along with violent demonstrations tied to Israel’s May battle in Gaza, were major causes in physical and online attacks on Jews in Europe and North America last year.

  • Several American and British politicians have apologised in recent months after saying that vaccine or lockout programmes were reminiscent of Hitler’s dictatorship.
  • Some anti-pandemic protesters wore yellow stars similar to those put on European Jews by the Nazis.
FILE PHOTO: A protester demonstrating against the Green Pass plan (health pass), a certificate that shows if someone has received at least the first dose of the vaccine, has tested negative or has recently recovered from COVID-19, wears a Second World War emblem depicting the star of David badge with a German word “Jude” (Jew), as a health pass certificate has become mandatory to access an array of services and leisure activities, in Rome, Italy, August 14, 2021. REUTERS/Remo Casilli/File Photo

What’s being said: According to the report, such displays demonstrated that factual knowledge of the genocide was eroding, and that some COVID-19 activists have been “consuming and disseminating anti-Semitic conspiracy theories that Jews are responsible for the crisis and are using it for oppression, global domination, economic gain, and other purposes.”

  • In response to the findings, Diaspora Affairs Minister Nachman Shai stated that Holocaust denial or trivialization is anti-Semitic and can sometimes result in actual Jewish endangerment.
  • “There are people so fraught with hate who can, when faced with such imagery, be tipped over into action,” he said.
  • The Combat Anti-semitism Movement (CAM), a non-profit based in the United States, reported that during internet debates comparing the pandemic to the Holocaust, it identified 63.7 million engagements (participation, sharing, or “liking”).
  • Yad Vashem, Israel’s major Holocaust monument, has asked world leaders to condemn such rhetoric, a demand that appears to have been heeded by United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who called the yellow star protests “reprehensible” on Monday.
  • “COVID brought Holocaust trivialisation to a summit,” said Yad Vashem chairman Dani Dayan. “Things like that, sometimes done by politicians, by public figures, are despicable and Yad Vashem is very clear in demanding those persons retract.”
  • During an interview, former Israeli Chief Rabbi Israel Meir Lau, whose parents and brother were among the six million Jews massacred by the Nazis and who himself grew up in a concentration camp, made a more personal pitch.
  • “Please leave the word ‘Holocaust’ for the Holocaust – and nothing but it,” he said.
FILE PHOTO: A person holds a dog, as a counter-protester holds a sign that reads “Masks on, Nazis out” during a demonstration against government measures to curb the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Dresden, Germany, January 13, 2022. REUTERS/Matthias Rietschel/File Photo
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