Australia/Israel Review


AIR New Zealand: Anti-vaxxers get ugly

Oct 27, 2021 | Miriam Bell

Fringe activist Billy Te Kahika: Conspiracy theories and misplaced Holocaust analogies (Screenshot)
Fringe activist Billy Te Kahika: Conspiracy theories and misplaced Holocaust analogies (Screenshot)

Frustration and dissent are building around New Zealand as lockdown restrictions to varying degrees drag on indefinitely – and, alongside that, a wave of hysterical anti-vaccination rhetoric has developed. 

With the introduction of mandatory vaccination rates for certain professions, and growing numbers of employers and companies introducing “no jab, no job” or “no service” policies, complaints of oppression and denial of freedom have increased.

And, as seen in other countries, that has been quickly followed by objectionable comparisons to the Holocaust by elements of the anti-vaccination movement.

Holocaust Centre of NZ chair Deborah Hart said they have been dealing with this issue and, unfortunately, there are lots of examples. These include posters that were put up around Wellington, which featured a Star of David with “unvaccinated” in the middle.

Another example involved a person who was organising an anti-vaccination protest group who contacted the Jewish community for advice. He said that to him “there is little or no difference between forced vaccinations and lining Jewish people up at ‘the showers’ in the death camps.”

Hart said the person did not like the response they received and replied to it by insisting: “The language describing un-vaxed people is along almost identical lines as what was used against Jews in the 1930’s when they isolated them for destruction. 

“Combine this with the suppression of information on vax side effects and the vulnerabilities of vaxed people to mutations of covid [sic] and there is a danger to humanity as a whole that is going to make the Holocast [sic] look like a garden picnic.”

This type of Holocaust misuse and relativism has not just been the province of the anonymous. At least one public figure, Billy Te Kahika, a prominent musician who recently founded his own political party, the New Zealand Public Party, has also been guilty of using such ugly analogies.

Te Kahika had publicly espoused antisemitic theories in the past. And on his Facebook page, he recently posted a link to a documentary on “Surviving the Holocaust” and encouraged his followers to watch it. 

The message said: “Look at how the Nazis used the yellow Star of David to slowly but surely identify and segregate ‘Jews’ or ‘enemies of society’. My issue is with the developments in New Zealand that will see people divided and marked – and if you are marked you are not able to have access to freedom and certain community facilities. Watch this sad tale, please share it and ask fellow Kiwis is this something we will stand for in our beloved country?”

Hart said anti-vaccination protests using the yellow Star of David and the Holocaust are making a false equivalence that diminishes the enormity of what the Nazis did in the Holocaust. “In essence, no one is trying to systematically exterminate people who choose not to be vaccinated.” 

To compare the Holocaust and a government requiring vaccination if you want to do certain things, but leaving individuals the choice to decide, is grotesque, wrong and deeply hurtful to Holocaust survivors and their families, she said.

“Not every wrong in the world can be sheeted back to the Holocaust. Anti-vaccination protesters are free to protest, but their protests should not be based on the lie that what is being done in New Zealand is anything remotely resembling the Holocaust in which six million Jews were murdered.”

Jewish community leaders agreed with Hart, and were uniformly scathing about the inappropriate Holocaust analogies made by some anti-vaccination campaigners.

NZ Jewish Council spokeswoman Juliet Moses said if people want to criticise the Government or claim they are being persecuted or denied basic freedoms, they should do so without invoking the industrialised genocide of six million Jewish people, survivors of which were among us today. 

“Such ‘comparisons’ are historically illiterate and trivialise the Holocaust, which constitutes soft core Holocaust denial, as labelled by renowned Holocaust scholar Professor Deborah Lipstadt. Those who engage in this are not showing any sympathy for or respect to the victims of the Holocaust – quite the contrary,” she said.

“It is extremely disappointing that we have people in Aotearoa indulging this kind of behaviour, but it reflects what we have seen overseas,” she added.

Zionist Federation president Rob Berg said it is wrong and offensive in every way to use imagery of the Holocaust, where six million people were systematically murdered by the Nazis for the crime of having at least one Jewish grandparent, to bolster any political or social cause. 

If people resort to this imagery, including wearing adaptations of the yellow Star of David which the Nazis forced Jews to wear as part of their policy to dehumanise them, they either know little of what happened in the Holocaust or have weak arguments that need to be supplemented by this grotesque analogy, he said.

“Trying to equate the intentional murder and annihilation of an ethnic group with the government’s response to try to save lives, is morally corrupt,” Berg added.

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