Anti-vaccination protesters have likened the so-called green passes for those who have been inoculated against the coronavirus to the yellow stars that Nazi Germany forced on Jews during the Holocaust.
At a demonstration Thursday in Tel Aviv, several hundred people gathered to protest against the government plan, which will give green pass identification papers to those who have been vaccinated or recovered from COVID-19, granting them more access to public venues than those who refuse the shots.
Alongside banners deploring the green pass system as a form of apartheid, there was also a banner equating the pass to the yellow stars of the Holocaust and the numbers Nazis tattooed onto the arms of concentration camp inmates.
Some people reportedly also wore yellow stars.
Yad Vashem, while declining to comment specifically on the protesters’ actions, on Monday referred The Times of Israel to a past statement it had given in which it warned against “the demagogic abuse of Holocaust imagery and language which distorts the past as well as the current reality for political purposes.”
“Exploiting these terms from the Holocaust, in order to incite and inflame hatred, desecrates the memory of the Holocaust,” the museum said in the statement.
In addition to the green pass system, last week the Knesset gave final approval to controversial legislation allowing the Health Ministry to give local authorities personal details of residents who have not been vaccinated against the coronavirus.
Younger people have shown more reluctance to get the vaccination and the Health Ministry hopes the legislation will enable local authorities to advocate immunization among residents who don’t want the shots.
Images from the Tel Aviv demonstration were posted on the Facebook page of Rappeh – Only Health, a political party run by Israeli doctor Arieh Avni, who recently lost his license for spreading anti-vaccination conspiracy theories via social media.
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.
A previous Tel Aviv rally a week earlier 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.
Vaccine hesitancy and skepticism have become a growing concern in recent weeks as Israel’s world-leading inoculation campaign has shifted to younger segments of society. Israel has so far given the first of the two-shot Pfizer-BioNTech vaccination to 4,723,966 people, over half the country’s population, according to Health Ministry figures released Monday. Of those, 3,368,759 have also had the second dose.
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 antivaxxers bragging about their exploits. The social media giant has pledged to keep antivaxxers and those spreading fake vaccination information off its platform.
Last June the city of Munich in Germany banned the display of yellow stars at demonstrations.