‘Antisemitism prevalent’ through anti-vax protests

Dec 16, 2022 | Canadian News, News

Protesters of public health mandates have been continuing to rally at the equestrian statue of King Edward VII on the north lawn of Queen’s Park weekly, and at times their message is more antisemite than anti-vaccine.

“Here’s pictures of what happened at Auschwitz, taken by the Red Cross,” said Yve, a speaker at the rally on a bright and unseasonably warm Nov. 5 who didn’t give his full name.

“Ok, Auschwitz. Ok – supposedly how terrible it was – they had swimming pools, they had theatres,” he told the crowd of about 25 people.

For many of these demonstrators, the main target of their ire is now globalists, Klaus Schwab, the World Economic Forum [WEF], and a “new world order” – each an antisemitic code term.

“Comparisons to the Holocaust and Nazi persecution of Jews in the anti-vax movement have been prevalent pretty much from the beginning,” said Dan Panneton, director of allyship and community engagement at the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies.

The comparison by protesters in Canada and the U.S. of their experiences to the historical experience of Jews in the Holocaust is obviously antisemitic, Panneton said.

But that may be more a product of the fact that the Holocaust is the dominant moral metaphor in our society, he said.

An anti-vaccine demonstrator gestures toward his protest sign filled with conspiracy theories during a demonstration at Toronto's Queen's Park on Nov 19, 2022.
An anti-vaccine demonstrator gestures toward his protest sign filled with conspiracy theories during a demonstration at Toronto’s Queen’s Park on Nov 19, 2022. Photo credit: James Westman

Panneton said he views such comparisons, as “a combination of either ignorance, people who literally don’t understand how bad what happened was and are comparing their own experiences to it,” or protesters “deliberately being provocative to draw attention to themselves.”

There is a distinction between this kind of antisemitism and the “hard antisemitism” of many of the figures in the anti-vaccine movement, he said.

“There’s a lot of figures we know who are using the anti-vax movement as kind of a fig leaf. They’re actually far-right activists who are looking to spread other kinds of ideological standpoints,” Panneton said.

These activists are using the self-proclaimed “Freedom convoy” and protests at Queen’s Park as a bridge-building opportunity, pretending to be there for vaccine freedoms, he said.

“But in reality, what they’re trying to do is add antisemitism to the stew,” Panneton said.

John Davies, a protester attending the Queen’s Park rally on a frigid Saturday two weeks later, said mask mandates were a training exercise to instill fear in society.

The WEF, the globalists, and “the cabal” are the ones putting out this fear, he said.

Behind the WEF, Davies said, are “Rothschilds, Rockefellers, Bilderberg Group, there’s all kinds of them. They’re rich guys, right?”

Dan Collen, a hate speech researcher at the Neuberger Holocaust Education Centre, said these types of conspiracy theories are deeply intertwined.

Anti-vaccine demonstrators march north from Queen's Park toward Bloor Avenue on Nov. 19, 2022.
Anti-vaccine demonstrators march north from Queen’s Park toward Bloor Avenue on Nov. 19, 2022. Photo credit: James Westman

The WEF conspiracy theories are “one giant web, similar to QAnon, similar to conspiracies about George Soros, similar to conspiracies about the Rothschilds or Rockefellers,” he said.

In what Collen terms the COVID-conspiracy movement, antisemitic conspiracy theories are often the first ones to be proposed. But there are all kinds of hatreds that can overlap, depending on the specific narratives, he said.

Conspiracy theories, such as those about the WEF, which “spread like wildfire” throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, became more prominent once anti-vaccine messages started to lose their effectiveness, Collen said.

The first reason for this decline is simple: most of the mandates got lifted. The second reason is that a lot of the predictions about health complications and deaths that the vaccines would cause did not come to fruition, he said.

“So, they need ways to rebrand it,” Collen said. Fortunately for the COVID-conspiracy movement, as anti-vaccine messaging lost its momentum, the movement had been “positioning a lot of conspiracy theories before that allowed a vast variety of narratives to go through them.”

An Abacus survey of 1,500 Canadians conducted in May found that 20 per cent of respondents believe it is definitely or probably true that “the World Economic Forum is a group of global elites with a secretive strategy to impose their ideas on the world.”

A further 37 per cent thought it was possibly true or were not sure either way.

Avery, a regular speaker at the rally, did not want to give his surname. He carried a sign with phrases including, among others, “Abortion Holocaust,” “Shadow Pandemic” and “New World Order” with bolded arrows connecting them.

The alleged imminent new world order is “going to be like a one world government that basically follows Klaus Schwab’s and the WEF’s agenda 2030, which is government control,” Avery said.

In recent years, many people have come to understand George Soros is an antisemitic dog whistle, referring to Jewish billionaires. Klaus Schwab has since become a stand-in for that, Panneton said.

Furthermore, the “new world order” language is alarming, he said.

“If you just scratch the surface,” of new world order conspiracy theories, “it’s antisemitism all the way down,” he said. “We’re basically dealing with a refurbished version of the protocols of the elders of Zion.”

Collen said many neo-Nazi and white power groups would say that “anything can be chalked up to a Jewish plot if you kind of try hard enough.”

Elon Musk recently reinstated Andrew Anglin’s Twitter account, editor of the neo-Nazi site the Daily Stormer.

“I think even in the Daily Stormer guide, Andrew Anglin wrote [something] like no matter what, if you can blame something on the Jews, do it,” Collen said.

Here in Canada, anti-vaccine and convoy leaders such as Pat King, Chris Sky, and Christopher James Pritchard have engaged in Holocaust revisionism and denial, he said.

According to the Toronto Police Hate Crime Service Unit, which tracks hate crimes on a calendar year basis, antisemitism has been the most reported hate crime in Toronto five years in a row.

“We had two years of Covid, we had plenty of people exercising their dictatorship – their little Hitler – inside them,” said DJ Omari, the emcee of the sunny Nov. 5 rally, apparently devoid of self-awareness and apparently lacking awareness of the irony in his charge.

In the plain light of day, Yve, standing at the bottom of the statue of an English king, shot his right arm up and forward, palm down, fingers straight, not to salute the monarch, but a man who murdered six million Jewish people.