The Health Ministry announced Tuesday that an outspoken doctor who denies the coronavirus, opposes vaccination and has reportedly forged virus immunization certificates has permanently lost his medical license.
Arieh Avni owns a website popular among the Israeli antivaxxer community where he has published a multitude of articles spreading conspiracy theories about COVID-19 and Israel’s vaccination drive, as well as repeatedly slandering Israeli health officials. He also runs the Facebook page “Correct Medicine: Dr. Arieh Avni,” where he writes widely shared posts spreading his theories.
Avni recently said that “anyone who administers a vaccine is, to me, like Mengele,” referring to the notorious Nazi death camp doctor.
According to Channel 13, Avni had recently opened a clinic in Bnei Brak where he continued to spread misinformation on the virus and offered forged immunization certificates and exemptions from wearing masks for pay.
According to the ruling of retired judge Amnon Strashnov, who was appointed by Health Minister Yuli Edelstein to oversee the case, Avni poses a danger to the public.
“There is no doubt that the harsh and blatant statements of [Avni] in articles he published on his website, on Facebook and recently also on YouTube, against the vaccination against the coronavirus, constitue a real danger to public safety and health,” Strashnov wrote.
“Add to this his unbridled, blatant and baseless remarks toward the medical community and the heads of the Health Ministry — which go far beyond what is reasonable and permissible in the context of freedom of expression, which is an important and protected value in any democratic society — and you have a clear prescription for total anarchy, all while he boasts the title of ‘doctor,'” the ruling said.
Vaccine hesitancy and skepticism have become a growing concern in recent weeks as Israel’s world-leading inoculation campaign has slowed.
Dozens attended a protest in Tel Aviv last week against “coercion,” a label widely used by antivaxxers.
The protest featured a number of people not wearing masks, as well as comparisons between Israel’s vaccination campaign and Nazi laws, with some wearing yellow Stars of David saying “not vaccinated” meant to resemble the ones that Nazis forced Jews to wear during the Holocaust.
Earlier this month, Facebook announced that it had removed a major Israeli group promoting conspiracy theories about the vaccines that had urged its thousands of members to schedule appointments to inoculate and then to cancel them at the last minute, forcing HMOs to throw out unused doses.
Facebook said that the group violated its community standards regarding fake news.
The removal of the group from the social media platform came after the Health Ministry reportedly asked Facebook to take down the posts of anti-vaxxers bragging about their exploits. The social media giant has pledged to keep anti-vaxxers and those spreading fake vaccination information off its platform.
The group, which had over 12,000 members, featured false information about the virus and the vaccines’ efficacy and safety, alongside conspiracy videos and efforts to thwart the country’s vaccination drive.
Days later, the social media giant deleted another group associated with popular Israeli rabbi Amnon Yitzhak that peddled fake news about the pandemic and the immunizations.