Anti-vaccination activists are coming under fire for promoting their cause by using the yellow Star of David that Nazis forced Jews to wear during the Holocaust.
The anti-vaxxers are using the symbol of Judaism with the words “No Vax” in Hebrew-stylized letters on social media, while others are wearing yellow stars at public events.
Del Bigtree, head of the anti-vaccination group ICAN, last week wore a yellow star at a rally in Austin, Texas, to identify with parents who refuse to vaccinate their children.
A spokesman for Bigtree told The Washington Post that he took the action “to let the Jewish community of Rockland County know he stands with them,” referring to a Hasidic community north of the Big Apple where many parents have refused to vaccinate their kids amid a measles outbreak.
Activists in Rockland have likened a ban on unvaccinated children in public spaces to combat the outbreak to Nazi treatment of Jews, the newspaper reported.
The Anti-Defamation League criticized the anti-vaxxers for using the Star of David as a symbol of their “persecution.”
The ADL said in a statement that the strategy “is a hugely inappropriate use of this enduring symbol of the persecution of Jews by the Nazis during World War II and minimizes and trivializes the experiences of the survivors and victims of the Holocaust.”
The group’s CEO, Jonathan Greenblatt, told the Washington Post that Jews in Europe were forced to wear the yellow symbols “as a kind of scarlet letter, a form of persecution and forced exclusion from society.”
“It is simply wrong to compare the plight of Jews during the Holocaust to that of anti-vaxxers. Groups advancing a political or social agenda should be able to assert their ideas without trivializing the memory of the six million Jews slaughtered in the Holocaust,” he said.
The anti-vax movement has been cited by public officials as being a major contributor to a number of disease breakouts, including measles.
Poland’s Auschwitz Memorial and Museum criticized Bigtree’s adoption of the yellow star.
“Instrumentalizing the fate of Jews who were persecuted by hateful anti-Semitic ideology and murdered in extermination camps like #Auschwitz with poisonous gas in order to argue against vaccination that saves human lives is a symptom of intellectual and moral degeneration,” it said in a tweet.