In the Southwest Region’s Part Two of its series on the dangers of disinformation, two Jewish doctors spoke about how antisemitic anti-vaxxers have targeted them with vicious emails, posts and messages threatening violence and even death.
Dr. Peter Hotez, Dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine and Professor of Pediatrics and Molecular Virology and Microbiology at Baylor College of Medicine and Dr. Gavin Yamey, Professor of Global Health and Public Policy at Duke University, gave chilling accounts of negative reactions to their statements that more people should get vaccinated against COVID-19.
During the discussion, which was moderated by ADL Southwest Regional Director Mark B. Toubin and which also included the latest information about ADL’s Center on Extremism has seen on COVID-related antisemitism from Investigative Researcher Morgan Moon, both Hotez and Yamey said they had been accused of being Nazis.
Dr. Hotez said he had been criticized for promoting vaccines before, but when COVID-19 vaccines became available, the hate directed at him from anti-vaxxers “took on a new dimension,” and included links with Nazi imagery or Nuremberg hangings, with the subtext that “Jews are doing this.” Both Hotez and Yamey are related to Holocaust survivors and victims, and Dr. Yamey said, “The first time that as a Jewish physician you’re called a Nazi, it’s a real shock. It’s a punch to the gut.”
What concerned the doctors more than the threats to themselves was all the disinformation surrounding the vaccines, and the effect that was having on the country. The physicians said it was more than antisemitism, it was anti-science, and Dr. Hotez remarked, “anti-science is now a leading killer of Americans.”
Moon told participants in the webinar that since December of 2019, ADL’s Center on Extremism (COE) has been tracking the repackaging of old antisemitic tropes to blame Jews for COVID-19. She said many of the comments and memes the COE either suggest COVID is a hoax perpetrated by Jews to hurt others or to create a vaccine and treatments Jews can profit from.
You can watch the entire webinar here.