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Israel’s ambassador to the UN sparks controversy for wearing a Star of David to denounce Hamas

The head of the Yad Vashem Remembrance Center disavows the use of the symbol as ‘dishonoring the victims of the Holocaust and the state of Israel’

Gilad Erdan
Israel’s ambassador to the UN, Gilad Erdan, addresses the Security Council in New York on Monday.Evan Schneider (EFE/ONU)

Israel’s ambassador to the UN, Gilad Erdan, made a splash on Monday by wearing a Star of David on his lapel. But far from achieving the result he expected, the diplomat’s gesture provoked angry reactions at the organization and especially in Israel. Erdan and the members of Israel’s permanent delegation to the United Nations wore a yellow Star of David, a symbol of Nazi persecution of Jews, at a Security Council meeting on Monday afternoon (which, like all previous meetings, ended without results). On Tuesday, the head of the Yad Vashem Holocaust Remembrance Center in Israel sharply criticized the country’s diplomatic delegation for wearing the symbols.

Erdan vowed not to remove the yellow stars until the UN condemns Hamas’s “atrocities.” He added that “some of you have not learned anything in the last 80 years. Some of you have forgotten why this body was created.” Erdan decried the Security Council for “remaining silent” in the face of the heinous attacks perpetrated by Hamas militants against Israel on October 7, which killed 1,400 people, mostly civilians. Except for a morally and politically weighty but non-binding resolution adopted by the General Assembly last Friday — which the Israeli ambassador described as an “infamy” — the Security Council has rejected four proposed resolutions and remains deadlocked on the matter.

“So, I will remind you. From today, every time you look at me, you will remember what it means to remain silent in the face of evil,” Erdan continued. “Just like my grandparents, and the grandparents of millions of Jews, my team and I will wear yellow stars from now on,” he said, standing up to pin a star on the lapel of his suit.

The Nazis forced Jews in Germany and the other European countries they occupied during World War II to wear yellow stars on their clothing to identify themselves as Jewish. Six million Jews were murdered in the Holocaust.

Although Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other Israeli leaders have compared the Hamas attack that triggered the war to the Nazi persecution of Jews, the use of the symbol is tantamount to violating a national and existential taboo, while highlighting how sensitive comparisons with — and flippant references to — the Holocaust remain for many Jews. October 7 marked the highest number of Jewish deaths in a single day since the Nazi genocide.

Dani Dayan, the director of Yad Vashem, has condemned the Israeli ambassador for his decision. In a post on X (formerly Twitter), Dayan wrote: “We regret to see members of the Israeli delegation wearing a yellow star. Such an act is degrading to both the victims of the Holocaust and the State of Israel. The yellow star is a symbol of the helplessness of the Jewish people and of being at the mercy of others. Today we have an independent state and a strong army, and we are masters of our destiny. Today we wear a blue and white flag on our lapel, not a yellow star,” Dayan wrote.

‘Never again’

Erdan and the other Israeli delegates donned Stars of David with the slogan “Never again” prominently displayed. The ambassador said they are “a symbol of pride, a reminder that we vowed to fight back to defend ourselves.” He added that antisemites have been empowered and that antisemitism has been growing in many countries. For his part, Dayan, who was consul general in New York, is recognized worldwide as an authority on Holocaust studies and remembrance, argues that the gesture dishonors the victims of the genocide as well as the state of Israel.

Those who are most critical of Erdan’s gesture see it as a “trivialization of the Holocaust,” which Israeli Haaretz columnist Gideon Levy spoke of in his latest article. Levy argued that wearing the symbol of history’s most horrific crime trivializes both its history and remembrance. Senior Israeli Foreign Ministry officials have also criticized the ambassador for resorting to “a cheap political trick.”

Shemuel Meir, a researcher and former IDF (Israel Defense Forces) analyst, also lamented Erdan’s staging. “How stupid Erdan’s yellow star presentation [at the Security Council meeting] was. Ever since he came to the UN, Erdan has been inventing cheap tricks to recruit the Likud base [Prime Minister Netanyahu’s party],” Meir wrote on X.

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