'Deeply offensive' | 

Leading member of Belfast Jewish community slams anti-vaxxers over Holocaust comparison

At recent protests, including yesterday at Belfast City Hall, protesters, including children, wore yellow stars and waved swastikas

A Nazi sign at the protest in Belfast yesterday

Steven Moore

A leading member of Belfast's Jewish community has slammed anti-vaxxers for comparing their situation to the Holocaust.

Michael Black, chairman of the Belfast Hebrew Community, says it's "disgusting and deeply offensive" to see people at anti-vax protests in Northern Ireland sporting yellow stars with the number 19 on them.

During the pandemic some conspiracy theorists have been denounced for making extreme comparisons between Covid-19 measures and the fascist policies of Nazi Germany.

"It's a ridiculous comparison," says Mr Black, below. "What these protesters are protesting about doesn't bear any comparison to what the Jewish people endured during the Holocaust.

"I would like to give them the benefit of the doubt and hope they are doing this because they are ignorant of history.

"But given they know enough to be aware of the yellow star, it makes me wonder if it's something worse than ignorance.

Chairman of the Belfast Jewish Community Michael Black

"It's disgusting and deeply offensive, it's something I just can't get my head around not least because nobody is forcing them to get vaccinated.

"There's no compulsion to get it and if they want to go to bars and restaurants all they need to do is take a test.

"The Jews in Nazi Germany were not so lucky - they didn't have a choice, they were just packed on trains, sent to concentration camps and millions of them were gassed to death. It's not the same thing is it?"

At recent protests, including yesterday at Belfast City Hall, protesters, including children, wore yellow stars and waved swastikas.

Others held yellow star placards with the slogan "Show Me Your Papers" - another outrage forced upon Jews in Hitler's Germany 80 years ago.

Mr Black says he's not sure if the hijacking of the sensitive symbols used during the Holocaust amounts to anti-Semitism.

"There is anti-Semitism everywhere in the world, from left and right," he explained. "I'm not sure what groups make up the anti-vax protests so I'm not sure if this amounts to anti-Semitism but I suppose it could be anti-Semitism indirectly, unless they are blaming the Jews for the vaccine, which I assume they aren't.

"It's crass and tasteless, that's for certain, and I'd appeal to anyone thinking of going down that road to think again.

"I think it should be pretty obvious why it is hurtful and unnecessary. They can protest legitimately but why draw comparisons which are so offensive to the Jewish community?"

At the Belfast anti-vax passport protest two weeks ago and yesterday we witnessed some people, who were wearing yellow star badges, being openly challenged by members of the public.

They pointed out how just offensive the use of the symbolism was to the Jewish community but their protests fell on deaf ears.

Marie van der Zyl, President of the Board of Deputies of British Jews,said yesterday: "We are appalled at anti-vax protesters who choose to don yellow stars, seeking to compare government policies on Covid to the treatment of Jews by the Nazis.

"This comparison is highly offensive and has no basis in reality. All such people demonstrate is their lack of basic knowledge with regards to history as well as science."

Earlier this year when yellow stars were worn by protesters in England Karen Pollock, Chief Executive of the Holocaust Educational Trust condemned the scenes, saying: "The use and abuse of Holocaust language and imagery has to stop."

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