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August 3, 2021 2:00 pm
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‘Qui?’ Antisemitic Propaganda Floods Anti-Vaccination Movement in France as Jewish Doctors Report Harassment by Activists

avatar by Ben Cohen

Anti-vaccination protestors confront French riot police at a protest in Paris on July 31. Photo: Reuters/Sadak Souici.

The burgeoning political movement in France opposed to the COVID-19 vaccine is being flooded with antisemitic propaganda that is, according to one analyst, reminiscent of the campaign to drive Jews out of the medical profession during the Nazi era.

As more than 100,000 people took part in nationwide protests last Saturday denouncing the vaccine as an “act of violence,” several media outlets highlighted the presence of multiple signs displaying the word “Qui?” (“Who?”). The same word is used as the title of a far-right channel on YouTube that carried interviews with demonstrators in Paris last Saturday.

According to the newspaper Libération, the content on the channel is “overflowing with antisemitic cliches,” among them the medieval fabrication that Jews are “poisoning wells,” which dates back to the Black Death of the fourteenth century. The channel has racked up over 10,000 views since being uploaded on Sunday.

The rapid spread of the “Qui?” meme among anti-vaccination activists over the last six weeks followed a June 22 television interview with a retired French army general who embarked on an antisemitic rant that avoided using the word “Jew.”

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Gen. Dominique Delawarde is now facing criminal charges for his comments in an exchange with the journalist Claude Posternak, in which he said, “You know who controls the media pack in the world and in France. Who controls the Washington Post, the New York Times, BFMTV and all the newspapers.”

Delawarde then added sarcastically: “Who are these people?”

Pressed by Posternak as to whom he was referring, Delawarde answered, “This is a community that you know very well.”

The adoption of Delawarde’s “Qui?” remarks about Jews as a campaigning theme by elements of the anti-vaccination movement has overlapped with an increasingly venomous and explicit antisemitism.

On the “Qui?” YouTube channel, a presenter and an anti-vaccination demonstrator discussed the desirability of a genocide targeting Jews. After agreeing with the presenter’s assertion that “they should pack their bags and leave,” the demonstrator expressed her concern that even if Jews were expelled from France, “they would keep us in line from the outside.” She then added that “they have a lot of resentment towards whites, they consider us as beasts … That’s written in the Talmud.” Other antisemitic myths spreading through the movement include the claim that the word “Covid” is Hebrew for “demonic possession.”

Jewish doctors and public health officials have found themselves in the firing line as a result. An investigation by journalist Saïd Mahrane for the magazine Le Point recounted the shocking experiences of several Jewish medical professionals since Delawarde’s TV interview. Repeated antisemitic barbs have been launched against Jérôme Salomon, an infectious diseases specialist who serves as the French director-general for public health, Alain Fischer, a prominent expert on immunology, and Mathias Wargon, an emergency services doctor who is married to government minister Emanuelle Wargon.

The attacks on these and other figures who are Jewish, or perceived to be so, followed a pattern established during the Nazi occupation of France, Mahrane explained.

“If it is absurd to compare the fate of the Jews under the occupation to those who refuse the vaccination against Covid, it is possible to see a continuum in the antisemitic remarks targeting Jewish doctors of the 1940s and those made against certain [persons] today,” Mahrane wrote. “The same mechanisms are set in motion (the identification of supposedly Jewish health professionals by the consonance of their name or by their appearance, the highlighting of the title of ‘professor’ or ‘head of department’ to underline a high status, their married life to demonstrate endogamy), and the same suspicions (disloyalty, communitarianism, relationship to money, conflicts of interest, plots).”

Further anti-vaccination demonstrations are expected this weekend in advance of Monday’s introduction of a vaccine requirement to enter most public places in France.

The leaders of the anti-vaccination movement in France include the songwriter Francis Lalanne and Florian Philippot, a former vice president of the far-right party then known as the National Front who now sits in the European Parliament.

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