The lawmaker also compared vaccine mandates to the segregation of African Americans during the Civil Rights movement
A congressman in Washington state expressed his criticism of the coronavirus vaccine and surrounding vaccine mandates by wearing a yellow Star of David during a speech over the weekend, invoking the symbol Nazis used to identify Jews during the Holocaust.
The Seattle Times reported that Jim Walsh, a state representative in Washington, wore the symbol on his shirt while giving a speech to conservative activists at a church’s gym on Saturday.
He called coronavirus vaccine mandates an “echo from history,” in a Facebook post.
“In the current context, we’re all Jews,” he said.
A local educator at the Holocaust Centre for Humanity in Seattle took exception to the congressman’s comparison.
“Out government is making an effort to protect their own citizens, not kill them,” Dee Simon, the executive director of the organisation, told The Settle Times. “It not only trivializes it, it distorts history.”
Mr Walsh said he received the star from someone at the event, and said most of the other attendees were wearing the star as well. He said they were “deeply concerned about vaccine passports and vaccine segregation”.
It is unclear what mandates Mr Walsh is concerned with, as Washington state has not enacted any requirements for people to be vaccinated outside of a mandate from the state’s Department of Labor and Industries requiring employers to verify their employees have been vaccinated before lifting mask mandates at the businesses.
Mr Walsh said he would not reveal publicly if he was vaccinated, comparing his refusal to comment to the film Spartacus, in which a group of slaves refuse to identify a Roman general despite being threatened with crucifixion.
The congressman continued to make spurious comparisons between unvaccinated people and racial minorities by citing Plessy v Ferguson, an 1896 Supreme Court case that upheld the “separate but equal” racial segregation laws that oppressed African Americans.
Mr Walsh is not the first lawmaker to draw a comparison between vaccine efforts and the Holocaust; Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene made a similar comparison and was later forced to apologise after visiting the Holocaust Museum in Washington DC.
“There are words that I have said, remarks that I’ve made that I know are offensive, and for that I’d like to apologize,” she said. “So I should own it. I made a mistake.”
Despite her mea culpa, other conservative activists have run with the comparison, drawing concern from Jewish advocacy groups like the American Defamation League.
The ADL warned that in the US and in Europe that “anti-Covid measures and anti-vaccination demonstrations have become the hotbeds of Holocaust trivialization and antisemitic conspiracy theories and tropes”.