Never Again? Israel’s mask mob echo the Holocaust
In January this year, a young woman went to the opera. ‘I just wanted to enjoy Tchaikovsky,’ she would comment on Telegram later that evening. That was not to be.
The woman, known only as M, has a medical mask exemption and arrived with her face uncovered. Soon after, she was violently turned upon by her fellow opera-goers.
‘There were about 400 attendees, about 100 of them were shouting at me (people physically blocking my way to my seats and not letting me through) people telling me not to stand near them and shooing me away,’ she wrote in her Telegram post. ‘A woman hit me on the head. I didn’t speak a single word to all these people, I was literally cowering in place and at no point did I speak or reply or gesture to any of them, after the initial blow up I just went straight to security.’
Thankfully, the security staff were supportive of M, moving away the more aggressive among the crowd and threatening to evict them. Some of the staff seemed shaken by what they had witnessed. They escorted M to her seat and stood guard at the end of her row throughout the performance.
This scene would be shocking enough had it taken place somewhere like Berlin, which has seen this sort of irrational out-group persecution by supposedly enlightened citizens before. It’s all the more disturbing that it actually took place in Tel Aviv, Israel.
Israel is a country awash with Holocaust memorials. Go for a hike in the Judean mountains outside Jerusalem, for example, and you will see dozens of plaques in remembrance of families lost to the Nazi atrocities. Yet when Covid struck in March 2020, Israel was among the countries that most enthusiastically embraced the harshest of public health measures.
Its citizens suffered months of lockdowns, business closures, school closures, mask mandates and the most insulting policy of all: the ‘green pass’ – a vaccine passport which segregated society into the ‘clean’ and the ‘unclean’. Deckchairs appeared on Tel Aviv beach labelled ‘reserved for vaccinated people only’.
The parallels with our history, only eight decades behind us, were striking and alarming, yet astonishingly the majority were content to sit inside warm restaurants during the winter of 2021, watching those who were unwilling or unable to be vaccinated turned away or shivering outside under inadequate patio heaters without a murmur of dissent.
It’s clear that Holocaust education has failed us. We learn that the Holocaust happened; we learn that millions perished at Auschwitz, Bergen-Belsen, Dachau; we see the images of the shoes stacked up, the treasure troves of wedding rings, the piles of emaciated bodies. We know they got there on trains. What we don’t know is how a supposedly enlightened society got to the point at which the trains were deemed acceptable.
We know that nearly 400,000 Jews died in the Warsaw Ghetto, but how many of us know why the ghetto was created? That it was a public health policy? When the Germans invaded Poland in 1939 and bombed Warsaw, the city’s sewerage system was damaged and typhus quickly spread. German propaganda already blamed Jews for spreading disease, so, although typhus was found throughout the city, it was the Jewish neighbourhoods that became ‘restricted epidemic areas’. Although by the summer of 1940 typhus cases were falling, German doctors persuaded the authorities to create a ghetto to prevent further spread. The creation of the ghetto, where overcrowding and lack of food were rife, caused a spike in cases.
Fast-forward to 2022, and not everyone was content to go along with the narrative. Some of us wondered how so many could be so blind to the history repeating in front of their eyes. What did those Tel Aviv opera-goers think they were doing when they mobbed M?
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