Anti-vaccine demonstration

“Drawing parallels with the Shoah is unacceptable”

Laurent Moyse does not want to confuse the two: not all anti-vaccine demonstrators are obviously anti-Semites. (Photo: Nader Ghavami/Archives)

Laurent Moyse does not want to confuse the two: not all anti-vaccine demonstrators are obviously anti-Semites. (Photo: Nader Ghavami/Archives)

Laurent Moyse, who has just taken over the presidency of the Luxembourg Foundation for the Memory of the Shoah, reacts to the comparison that some opponents of the government's anti-vaccine measures make between their situation and that of the Jews during the Second World War.

On social networks and during demonstrations, opponents of the government's anti-vaccine measures can be seen comparing the situation of non-vaccinated people to that of Jews during the Second World War, even going so far as to evoke the wearing of the yellow star. What is your reaction?

Laurent Moyse. - Everyone has the right to demonstrate against the decision of a state according to their opinion. We are in a democracy and freedom of expression is a fundamental right. But it is totally unacceptable to draw parallels, as some do, with the Shoah. This trivialisation is absolutely condemnable, it amounts to a distortion of history, and it goes much too far. The fact that you feel bullied because you believe that the State wants to control your own life is one thing, but to put yourself in the same bag as someone who has been deported or exterminated, that has nothing to do with it, it's totally inappropriate.

I think we need to act in a more general way, with education as the first step.

Laurent MoysepresidentLuxembourg Foundation for the Memory of the Shoah

Why is the Shoah being mentioned and not another historical event?

For those who are steeped in conspiracy theories--and fortunately not all opponents of the anti-Covid measures are--there is a background of anti-Semitism. You can find people with extreme opinions with revolting thoughts in demonstrations or on social networks. Sometimes it is pure ignorance and these people have not thought about the consequences of what they say. But sometimes there is a motivation to use this kind of vile comparison to deliberately provoke. There are not enough words to condemn this attitude.

What can you do about it?

Unfortunately, it is very complicated to bring these attitudes and statements to court. I think we need to act in a more general way, with education as the first step. We need to explain from an early age what happened in history and the dangers that can happen again. I believe that schools also have a major responsibility in teaching young people to be informed, to cross-check their sources and to have a critical mind. People have been spreading information since the beginning of the pandemic that has, in some cases, never been verified, and this is a global problem that does not only concern covid-19.

Politicians also have their share of responsibility?

Yes, a reaction from the public authorities is essential. The Luxembourg government is preparing an action plan against antisemitism, we are waiting for it to be submitted to us. It is an obligation that comes from the European Union, several international bodies have pushed the Member States to act, to define a strategy to fight against anti-Semitism. The Council of Europe has issued a whole series of recommendations.

I would say that antisemitism has surged on social networks and in demonstrations.

Laurent MoysePresidentFondation luxembourgeoise pour la Mémoire de la Shoah

Do you feel that antisemitism has increased since the beginning of the pandemic?

I would say that antisemitism has jumped on social networks and in demonstrations. It never disappeared, after the Second World War it was rather latent, but then it came back, and nowadays it is extremely present in many countries. It is extremely worrying, and the fight against anti-Semitism will become a priority for democracies, because we are unfortunately seeing a repetition of history.

What does that mean?

As soon as there is a major crisis, whether it is economic, social or pandemic, as it is now, people look for an explanation and it is not always rational. It's about finding a reason for what's happening, and when they can't explain it, they go after the classic culprit, who is the one who is other or different. Anti-Semitism has always been steeped in clichés, in conspiracy theories that see the Jew as the one who dominates the world, the one who brings disease.

Are you worried about future generations?

I have a mixed feeling. I am worried about the current development of things. Hate and prejudice prevail again as soon as a crisis occurs, and that is worrying. And I think that the next generations will not escape this. But we also see in societies salutary reactions from organisations and individuals who go against these tendencies and who do their best to enlighten people. So I am not deeply pessimistic, but I am not blissfully optimistic either. There is still a lot of work to be done. We should not be under any illusions, there will always be individuals who will provoke, but we must circumscribe these phenomena, because with social networks, this is taking on enormous proportions. Today, people shut themselves up in bubbles, dialogue is no longer possible, the tone escalates quickly and we immediately move on to insults.

This story was first published in French on Paperjam. It has been translated and edited for Delano.