Unbelievable claims still inflict harm.
Billy Martin, the acerbic, former New York Yankees shortstop and manger, once said of Reggie Jackson and George Steinbrenner: “One’s a born liar and the other’s convicted.” Something like this linked two news briefs in our mind this week. One read:
“Anti-vaccine activists are using a Holocaust era yellow star of David to promote their cause.”
The other read:
“Iranian news site spreads article throughout Latin America claiming Israel performs ‘new medical tests’ on Palestinian prisoners.”
The anti-vaxxers in question remind us of the convicted liar, whose status is a consequence of decision — such as the decision of Del Bigtree, CEO of the anti-vaccination group ICAN. She reportedly wore a yellow star last month at a rally in Austin.
And such as the decision of activists in New York’s Rockland County, who reportedly compared a ban on unvaccinated children from public spaces to combat a measles outbreak to Nazi treatment of Jews.
Yellow star? The Nazis? Nothing is comparable to what the Nazis did, save genocide, and even that becomes a definitional challenge (the Holocaust was unique). But needless to say, there is no genocide in mass inoculation; in fact, there is the opposite. There is the saving of human life. The exploitation of the Holocaust to advance a contemporary political agenda in a democracy is a gross misreading of history and an act of gross disrespect to the victims of the Holocaust.
As if that were not obvious, a court reversed the public ban to which the activists objected. Hardly a Nazi move!
The far more pertinent discussion is the actual position of the anti-vaxers. An exception to free speech is to cry fire in a dark, crowded theater. The refusal to vaccinate, which compromises “herd immunity,” is an act of public endangerment. It is outrageous that some 18 years after measles was eradicated in the US there is now an outbreak of the measles in a few Orthodox Jewish communities in the US.
These communities may not have originated the outbreak — that dubious distinction, according to most recent reports, belongs to Ukraine — but these communities are not doing all they could to stop it. Despite all evidence, somehow the myth that the vaccine causes autism persists, (A recent study of 6000,000 [!] children over 14 years disproved this). Measles, remember, may be a painful nuisance in some cases, but is deadly in others. To vaccinate is to adhere to that most significant halachic stricture of piku’ach nefesh, “saving a human life.”
And the born liar? That’s the Iranian regime since its Islamic revolution of 1979. Case in point:
An Iranian news portal in Latin America, “HispanTV,” is operated by the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting. It reportedly broadcast that Israel uses Palestinian prisoners for “new medical trials.” The Simon Wiesenthal Center commented: “The charge of blood libel was used against Jews since the Middle Ages. Its use by Tehran is the crudest form of anti-Semitism.”
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