Likud MK Gadi Yevarkan was kicked out of a Sunday Knesset committee hearing after making comments comparing COVID-19 measures to the Holocaust, including by falsely claiming that Austria sends unvaccinated individuals to concentration camps.
“The majority of Israelis don’t have a Green Pass,” Yevarkan lamented to Constitution, Law and Justice Committee members, over the widespread requirement of the document, which is available only to Israelis who have received a coronavirus vaccine booster dose or been vaccinated or recovered in the past six months.
“Millions of Israelis are without one; you’re leaving out millions of citizens,” he said, before being asked to be quiet by the committee chair since his time to speak was over.
But he refused. “Do like they’re doing in Austria, that’s what you want to do. All that’s missing is concentration camps,” Yevarkan shouted.
Yevarkan was ordered to leave the meeting by the committee chairman, Labor MK Gilad Kariv, and was then forcibly removed from the room by a Knesset security guard.
“Disgraceful words,” Kariv said at the meeting, and later tweeted that “one can argue, one can disagree, [but] one cannot use this despicable comparison.” He called Yervakan’s comments a “low point.”
ח"כ יברקן טוען שבישראל מקימים מחנות ריכוז עבור 5 מיליון אזרחי המדינה שלא מחזיקים בתו ירוק: "כמו באוסטריה". בעקבות דבריו, הוצא מהדיון בוועדה בהוראת היו"ר @KarivGilad: "השימוש שלך בצמד המילים הזה הוא דבר בזוי ונאלח"@IsraelMOH @NitzanHorowitz @gidonsaar @netanyahu @GYevarkan pic.twitter.com/TXjxG5Bpzl
— ערוץ כנסת (@KnessetT) December 26, 2021
Yevarkan, speaking shortly afterward to the Knesset Channel, doubled down on his claims. “In Austria today there are concentration camps for those who have not been vaccinated — the whole world knows. Go do your homework,” he said.
“Whoever doesn’t get vaccinated, they take them from their homes,” Yevarkan claimed, echoing anti-vaccine activist conspiracy theories.
Austria has imposed a lockdown on those who are not vaccinated, but there is no evidence of authorities rounding up anyone who has not been inoculated against the coronavirus.
Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz slammed Yevarkan’s remarks, calling them “nauseating.”
“This is borderline Holocaust denial, and it debases the victims and survivors. This is a particularly disgraceful and disgusting statement toward medical staff who gave their all for everyone’s health,” Horowitz tweeted.
According to the US Holocaust Memorial Museum’s Holocaust Encyclopedia, “The term concentration camp refers to a camp in which people are detained or confined, usually under harsh conditions and without regard to legal norms of arrest and imprisonment that are acceptable in a constitutional democracy.”
Yad Vashem chairman Dani Dayan shared a photo on Twitter of an actual concentration camp in Austria during the Holocaust, with the caption: “Holocaust contempt is as serious as Holocaust denial.”
זילות השואה חמורה כמו הכחשת השואה. בתמונה: מחנה ריכוז באוסטריה ביום שיחרורו. pic.twitter.com/h2S4uQqJ3g
— דני דיין (@dandayan) December 26, 2021
Yevarkan previously made headlines when he threatened not to get a second vaccine dose, over what he claimed was unfair treatment toward those who are not vaccinated. “Those who have not been vaccinated should be allowed to live as human beings,” he said in October in the Knesset plenum.
“I am close to rebelling against your rules, and not taking the second and third vaccine dose, in solidarity with them,” he said at the time.
Yevarkan is a popular figure among anti-vaccine activists in Israel, and his statements are widely shared in their social media groups.
Hours before a midnight deadline to file party slates ahead of a March 2020 election, Yevarkan jumped ship from Benny Gantz’s Blue and White to the then-prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party. At the time it was reported that he was frustrated that despite his value to Blue and White as a popular member of the Ethiopian Israeli community, he was not promoted to a spot that would ensure he remained a Knesset member.