Holocaust symbol demo appals Israel

January 5, 2012
Yellow stars and camp stripes, but in the centre of Jerusalem

Yellow stars and camp stripes, but in the centre of Jerusalem

Fury swept Israel this week, after members of an extremist Charedi group donned yellow stars and mock outfits from Nazi death camps for a rally.

On Saturday night, when Charedim gathered in Jerusalem to protest against what they termed "incitement" against them, a small group of anti-Zionist extremists known as the Sikrikim - loosely related to Neturei Karta - invoked Holocaust symbolism.

They claimed that the public backlash against gender segregation in the public sphere was akin to the kind of repression against Jews and Judaism seen in Nazi Germany. One protester, speaking to Israeli television, said that a "spiritual holocaust" was under way.

Such sentiments prompted outrage. "It was like someone physically hit survivors," said Elazar Stern, chairman of the Foundation for the Benefit of Holocaust Victims in Israel.

Mr Stern, the son of survivors, said that the use of the imagery was a publicity stunt of the "lowest moral level." He elaborated: "The Holocaust was a unique phenomenon and when you use it again and again you cheapen it."

Protest at gender issue rejected as 'spiritual holocaust'

Yad Vashem chairman Avner Shalev said that the use of the stars and uniforms "violates Holocaust survivors and degrades the memory of the Holocaust."

There has been condemnation throughout the Knesset of the Holocaust theme. Likud minister, Yossi Peled, claimed that it represented a "loss of sanity." Kadima leader, Tsipi Livni said: "There is no protest that can justify this." And Defence Minister Ehud Barak, leader of the Independence faction, released a statement calling it "shocking and appalling". He said that it "crosses a red line which the ultra-Orthodox leadership, who are largely responsible people, must not accept."

Some Charedi leaders have joined the criticism. Yehuda Meshi-Zahav, head of the Zaka rescue organisation and a well-known, Charedi public figure, told Israel Radio that the Sikrikim had "started a fire in their home and now it is burning out of control."

One politician has begun drafting legislation to prevent the use of Holocaust imagery in future. Yoel Hasson, a Knesset member from Kadima, is working on a bill that will impose a fine of almost £20,000 on anybody who uses yellow stars or Holocaust outfits for protest or political purposes.

Last updated: 12:45pm, January 5 2012