A Republican lawmaker in Washington state is under fire after he wore a yellow Star of David during a speech to protest vaccine mandates.
Video of the speech circulated afterward shows Washington state Rep. Jim Walsh (R) speaking at the event organized by “Washingtonians for Change” in the basketball gym of a church Saturday.
Wearing a pink button-up shirt with a Star of David placed over his heart, Walsh is seen pacing in front of the group, where he assails politicians who practice bipartisanship, extols the virtues of individual liberty, and criticizes COVID-19 lockdowns.
Not once does he acknowledge the symbol pinned to his chest or attempt to explain how declining to get a potentially lifesaving vaccine is in any way similar to being a Jewish Holocaust victim.
Asked to defend it in the comments under the video, Walsh wrote, “It’s an echo from history. In the current context, we’re all Jews.”
Walsh elaborated in a second comment, likening himself to a hypothetical Danish gentile who wore the Star of David to prevent the Nazis from accurately identifying his Jewish compatriots.
“During WWII, when the Nazis told the Danes that Danish Jews had to wear yellow stars, the Danes ALL wore yellow stars,” he wrote. “So the Nazis couldn’t ID the Danish Jews. It worked. The Nazis focused their evil efforts elsewhere.”
According to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, the story Walsh is referring to is false, though a majority of Danish people did, in fact, stand by the country’s Jewish population and save many lives.
Walsh did not immediately respond to questions sent to his Facebook account.
Not surprisingly, advocates like Miri Cypers, the Pacific Northwest regional director of the Anti-Defamation League, found Walsh’s comments offensive.
In an emailed statement, Cypers called on Walsh to issue a public apology and invited him to engage in an educational dialogue.
“During these challenging times of rising antisemitism, elected officials continue to deepen the pain through ignorant Holocaust analogies to COVID-19 health guidelines,” Cypers said. “Rep. Walsh’s comparisons are a gross misappropriation of history to advance an ignorant political point of ‘freedom.’”
Walsh told The Seattle Times on Tuesday that he was given the Star of David by someone at the event. He said most attendees wore the stars and that some of the organizers are “deeply concerned about vaccine passports and vaccine segregation.”
The Times noted that Washington state currently does not require people to be vaccinated against COVID-19, but is hoping to encourage people to get the shots via education and lotteries. Still, the state Department of Labor and Industries is requiring that employers verify employee vaccination status before lifting masking requirements in their workplaces.
Walsh seemed to dismiss concerns that wearing the Star of David in this context was offensive to many people, telling the Times, “some people are offended by having to provide vaccine documentation at their work.”
He added: “I can’t control who is offended by what.”
Walsh is just the latest politician trying to claim that encouraging people to get inoculated against COVID-19 is the same as being sent to a concentration camp because of religious persecution.