By Zuzanna Mietlińska
A modified version of the Star of David has allegedly been circulating in anti-COVID restrictions’ protests throughout Germany and the city of London. The yellow star with the now-incorporated word “ungeimpft” (german for “unvaccinated”) has started a heated debate on the Internet. Do people have a right to use/exploit such symbols? What is the context of their behaviour? What perspectives can we differentiate in such a context? The following article is meant to draw close to all of the above.
The vaccine passport is based on the idea of the benefits of “demonstrating your health condition” after the dose of vaccination. Thierry Breton, the European Commissioner for the Internal Market, has expressed his opinion on unveiling a prototype of such document the upcoming June:
We have to shift to the next gear. This will be the price for having a tourist season that I hope will be comparable to last year’s, which in the end wasn’t so bad in the context we’re in.
The idea is therefore supposed to help the shrinking tourism sector, and to help combat millions of jobs lost in this area.
With every political idea, there is an opposition. Based on a eurocentric perspective, closing borders in the Schengen Zone can be, as some have pointed out in my discussions with them, detrimental in the context of its basic idea – the right of free movement between 26 European countries that have eventually abolished both passport control and other forms of bordering. This, some protests’ proponents have said in my interviews with them, is the mechanism of something that only sprouts in people’s heads. This is the mechanism of human segregation.
Perspective 1. Those who wear Stars of David on COVID protests have a right, and a ration notion behind it
The argument behind such behaviour is simple – the old-time system of human segregation has started with small political actions – and the snowball-effect of, eventually, totalitarian regimes that affected Europe in the 1930s. Using this analogy, first, we have the mechanism of being forced to quarantine and wearing masks. Then, the international organisations (i.e. the EU) intervene and “invent” an even more prevalent strategy to oppress those who, for different reasons, do not want to be vaccinated. Hence, the modified Stars of David that allegedly were seen in protests in Germany and other european countries’, against intervening in personal freedoms.
Those “ungeimpft” (german – “unvaccinated”) minorities I have spoken to feel, that the system is a form of isolationism. The polish language has “invented” a word for a similar phenomenon. It is “sanitarism” (pol. sanitaryzm). It refers to the oppressive, repressive, and bordering country that divides the society between a “majority” and a “minority” based on medical reasons. In that sense, the minority feels endangered, as some of its freedoms are being restricted – and those freedoms are, in theory, non-negotiable. The freedom of movement is one of those freedoms and is, in the eyes of some, non negotiable.
The freedom, of which the freedom of movement is an example of, is being reduced, in the name of the fight with the common enemy – which, in this case, is a virus. Therefore, it is seen as the new totalitarianism.
This leads to both a utopian and dystopian point of view on the problem, for both opponents and proponents of the so-called vaccine passports.
The “sanitarism” regime dictates – wear a mask, get vaccinated and do not leave your home; which are meant to combat the deadly virus. But some are seeing a very dangerous, common loophole in these procedures. An example can be a person that is a convalescent with two doses of the vaccine injected. He/she has a chance to be sick (again) and to therefore infect others – and this chance, mathematically speaking, fluctuates around zero. But, it is never zero, so he/she cannot be treated in a hospital without an anti-covid test (this is valid for such countries as Poland). This is a utopia in the eyes for some, from the perspective of the regime – the country fights back the virus, even though the possibility of the elimination of the virus – is impossible (as can be seen with the flu, for example). This “utopian” mechanism could be observed in the spring of 2020. “Stay at home” – the regime says – “and together we will eliminate the deadly virus”. But they didn’t.
In the eyes of the minority, this is a dystopia – when a country restricts personal freedoms, having in mind the argument of safety. Some may not see it yet, but the others see a very dangerous mechanism that is being slowly actuated, day by day, political idea by political idea.
Perspective 2. Those who wear Stars of David on COVID protests do not have a right to do so, and they are out of their mind
The issue of wearing Stars of David in the context of Vaccine Passports is antisemitic. Ridiculing the tragedy of others – in this context – the Jews and their families that feel deeply associated with the Holocaust. The Auschwitz Museum has tweeted:
Karen Pollock, Chief Executive of the Holocaust Educational Trust, said:
The use and abuse of Holocaust language and imagery has to stop.
At the very least, the ignorance of the history these people are invoking is deeply painful, at worst it is provocatively and purposefully antisemitic. This wilful abuse of this episode of history is crass and beyond insulting to Holocaust survivors and their families.
Both statements clearly shows the other perspective on the Stars of David in protests – something which is meant to save lives (the vaccination) cannot be associated with murder – as this is how the symbol is beeing seen. Therefore, there is no rational notion behind the protestors’ way of thinking. Some point out that the Jews did not have a choice whether to wear the yellow Star of David symbol on their arms, and there is always a freedom of choice whether to vaccinate yourself or not. In the end, that is your body, and no one intervenes in it.
In this perspective, it is also painful for the Holocaust survivors and their families to see the symbol of mass murder being redestributed. Their personal tragedy should not be used in a context of fighting against an unfair system. Or, how the proponents of protests would call it – the oppressive system which mimics the totalitarian regime.
Some twitter users also point out that they were called Nazis “for wearing a mask on the streets”, as if wearing a mask indicated advocacy of dangerous pacts. This analogy is presumably beyond common sense for most.
The idea of using/instrumentalizing the Star of David is problematic. It is rather a careless move of those that feel oppressed by the system, because of the analogy that is not clear by the majority. Although it is probably meant to draw attention to the problem (especially media’s coverage), for most it only ridicules the premises behind the notion – “personal freedom is more important than personal safety”. Even if the analogy between new-covid order and oppressive regimes existed – the Star of David cancels the rationality behind this kind of thinking.
It is also an opening to a discussion, whether we have a right (or not) to “do evil” – in a sense of harming yourself and/or others with your behaviour. This could be an interesting point to tackle in a debate.
Edited by Fernando López Cantó, artwork by Chira Tudoran