On Monday Donna Rachel Edmunds, with a number of signatories including TCW writer Karen Harradine, launched The Isaiah 62 Declaration as a warning to the world from concerned Jews that the events leading up to the Holocaust are being repeated in our time under the guise of Covid policies. Donna explains here why she felt compelled to do this.
IN January this year, a young woman went to the opera. ‘I just wanted to enjoy Tchaikovsky,’ she would comment on Telegram later that evening. That was not to be.
The woman, known only as M, has a medical mask exemption and arrived with her face uncovered. Soon after, she was violently turned upon by her fellow opera-goers.
‘There were about 400 attendees, about 100 of them were shouting at me (people physically blocking my way to my seats and not letting me through) people telling me not to stand near them and shooing me away,’ she wrote in her Telegram post. ‘A woman hit me on the head. I didn’t speak a single word to all these people, I was literally cowering in place and at no point did I speak or reply or gesture to any of them, after the initial blow up I just went straight to security.’
Thankfully, the security staff were supportive of M, moving away the more aggressive among the crowd and threatening to evict them. Some of the staff seemed shaken by what they had witnessed. They escorted M to her seat and stood guard at the end of her row throughout the performance.
This scene would be shocking enough had it taken place somewhere like Berlin, which has seen this sort of irrational out-group persecution by supposedly enlightened citizens before. It’s all the more disturbing that it actually took place in Tel Aviv, Israel.
Israel is a country awash with Holocaust memorials. Go for a hike in the Judean mountains outside Jerusalem, for example, and you will see dozens of plaques in remembrance of families lost to the Nazi atrocities. Yet when Covid struck in March 2020, Israel was among the countries that most enthusiastically embraced the harshest of public health measures.
Its citizens suffered months of lockdowns, business closures, school closures, mask mandates and the most insulting policy of all: the ‘green pass’ – a vaccine passport which segregated society into the ‘clean’ and the ‘unclean’. Deckchairs appeared on Tel Aviv beach labelled ‘reserved for vaccinated people only’.
The parallels with our history, only eight decades behind us, were striking and alarming, yet astonishingly the majority were content to sit inside warm restaurants during the winter of 2021, watching those who were unwilling or unable to be vaccinated turned away or shivering outside under inadequate patio heaters without a murmur of dissent.
It’s clear that Holocaust education has failed us. We learn that the Holocaust happened; we learn that millions perished at Auschwitz, Bergen-Belsen, Dachau; we see the images of the shoes stacked up, the treasure troves of wedding rings, the piles of emaciated bodies. We know they got there on trains. What we don’t know is how a supposedly enlightened society got to the point at which the trains were deemed acceptable.
We know that nearly 400,000 Jews died in the Warsaw Ghetto, but how many of us know why the ghetto was created? That it was a public health policy? When the Germans invaded Poland in 1939 and bombed Warsaw, the city’s sewerage system was damaged and typhus quickly spread. German propaganda already blamed Jews for spreading disease, so, although typhus was found throughout the city, it was the Jewish neighbourhoods that became ‘restricted epidemic areas’. Although by the summer of 1940 typhus cases were falling, German doctors persuaded the authorities to create a ghetto to prevent further spread. The creation of the ghetto, where overcrowding and lack of food were rife, caused a spike in cases.
Fast-forward to 2022, and not everyone was content to go along with the narrative. Some of us wondered how so many could be so blind to the history repeating in front of their eyes. What did those Tel Aviv opera-goers think they were doing when they mobbed M?
A Belgian psychologist and academic gives us the answer. Mattias Desmet has spent the last few years studying the rise of totalitarian regimes and was already uncomfortable with the direction Western societies were headed in when Covid hit. As millions embraced superstition, believing that a thin piece of cloth and maintaining a 6ft distance from other humans could save them from a deadly airborne pathogen, Desmet knew what he was seeing: his theory of Mass Formation playing out in real life.
In his book The Psychology of Totalitarianism, Desmet explains that societies in which a large number of people have anxious, lonely lives lacking in meaning are ripe for totalitarianism to set in. In those conditions, people are looking for a narrative that creates purpose and a sense of shared endeavour. Many people found exactly that in the Covid era. If left unchecked, the false narrative of mass formation descends into violence and persecution. It descends into the Holocaust.
Desmet explained what is required to avert this dismal fate.
‘It’s really crucial that the people who are not in the process of mass formation continue to speak out, because if they don’t, the mass hypnosis becomes deeper and deeper, and typically reaches the point where the masses become so fanatically convinced of the narrative they believe in, that they believe it is necessary to eliminate the people who don’t go along with it,’ he said.
‘This is because once someone is in mass formation he feels an overwhelming solidarity, and he’s convinced that people who don’t share the solidarity, who don’t go along with the masses, lack solidarity, lack citizenship. Consequently they are not human any more and have to be destroyed.’
He added: ‘If dissident voices stop speaking out, then the process that happened in the Soviet Union around 1930 and in Germany around 1935 will typically start to happen [again]. Once the dissident voices, the opposition, stop speaking out within the public space, within a period of six months to one year, the cruelty starts.’
When I heard about M’s experience, I knew I had to speak out. And I wasn’t the only one. Along with my partner and a few others, most notably historian Andrew Barr, we set about writing a declaration – a warning – from the Jews to the world. We have been here before. We know where division, demonisation and mass psychosis lead. We cannot let it happen again.
Some have said that we are insulting those who died in the Holocaust by highlighting the clear parallels between Covid policies and the events leading to the Holocaust. We say the opposite: that only by learning from history and ensuring that nothing of the sort ever happens again can the memories of those who died truly be honoured. Or put it this way: If we learn nothing from what happened to them, what did they die for?
Others have said that our declaration has been made redundant by the apparent rollback of Covid policies. Flights are taking off again, people are unmasked, the world is returning to a semblance of normality. To those people I say two things: first, in May, Joe Biden stated frankly: ‘Covid isn’t over.’ Second, our governments have had a taste of absolute power. They now know they can lock us up at the drop of a hat. If they’ve done it once, they will do it again, unless we make it abundantly clear that we won’t be so meek the next time.
When memorialising the Holocaust, Jews often say with conviction: ‘Never Again’. Over the last two years, the vapidity of that statement has been proven. ‘Never Again’ is Now. It is up to every one of us to say so, loudly and clearly, that the threat of mass formation psychosis may be dissipated, that the world may wake up from this dark nightmare.
Whether Jew or ally. I invite you to sign the Isaiah 62 Declaration here. https://isaiah62declaration.com/
For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent
For Jerusalem’s sake I will not be still