Israeli Representative’s Wearing of Yellow Star Causes Stir in Public Opinion, What Special Significance Does the Yellow Star Hold?

Local time, October 30, 2023, New York, USA, the United Nations Security Council held a temporary open meeting concerning the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip. Image by The Paper.

On October 30th, local time, Israeli Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Gilad Erdan, made a statement at the United Nations again. During the Security Council meeting that day, he publicly put on the yellow Star of David, symbolizing the persecution of Jews by the Nazis, and provocatively declared that as long as the Security Council does not condemn Hamas, he will continue to wear it.

According to the United Nations, the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip is precarious as more Israeli ground forces enter the area. At the request of China and the UAE, the UN Security Council held another emergency meeting on the Israel-Palestine conflict on the afternoon of October 30th. According to Agence France-Presse reports, during the meeting, Erdan repeatedly called Hamas “neo-Nazis” and criticized the Security Council for remaining “silent” about the attacks launched by Hamas on October 7th, stating, “Some of you have forgotten why this organization (the United Nations) was founded.”

While speaking, Erdan and the members of his delegation stood up, put on the yellow Star of David badges, and announced: “We will wear this yellow star until you condemn the atrocities of Hamas and demand the immediate release of our hostages.”

Public Opinion Outraged

Erdan’s actions immediately caused an uproar in public opinion and even sparked considerable controversy within Israel. Dani Dayan, the head of the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in Israel, stated on social media that Erdan wearing the yellow star “shamed the Holocaust victims and the State of Israel,” noting, “The yellow star symbolizes the helplessness and subjugation of Jews in history. Today we have an independent state and a strong military, we are masters of our own destiny. Now we wear the blue and white (Israeli) flag on our collars, not the yellow star.”

Dayan also emphasized in a written statement that before thoroughly studying the fundamental reasons, one should not hastily compare Hamas to the Nazis or equate this conflict with the genocide of six million Jews by Nazi Germany during World War II, to avoid belittling or marginalizing the tragic history of the Jewish people.

“It is no longer the 1930s before World War II. Now we have a strong State of Israel and a strong and ethical military committed to protecting Israelis and Jews around the world,” Dayan said in the statement. “If everything is the Holocaust, then what is the Holocaust?”

Local time, October 30, 2023, at the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip, Israeli soldiers patrol in an armored personnel carrier. Image by The Paper.

The Historical Origin of the Yellow Star

The reason why the Israeli representative wearing the yellow star at the United Nations has stirred up such controversy is related to the history behind the yellow star.

As early as the beginning of the 8th century, Caliph Umar II of the Arab Empire’s Umayyad Dynasty introduced regulations requiring Jews and other non-Muslims to wear distinctive clothing or marks to differentiate themselves from Muslims. For instance, non-Muslims were required to wear yellow turbans, yellow belts, and other identifiers. Caliph Mutawakkil of the Abbasid Dynasty later reinforced this requirement, and the clothing mandate continued for several centuries.

In 1215, Pope Innocent III introduced the practice of distinguishing Jews and Muslims through clothing to Europe during the Fourth Lateran Council. Since Innocent III did not specify the exact form of this identification, there were many different signs for identifying Jews in medieval European towns: the yellow wheel in France, blue stripes in Sicily, yellow pointed hats in Germany, red cloaks in Hungary, and white badges in England resembling the Ten Commandments. As there were no large Muslim communities in Europe at the time, the regulation was almost exclusively applied to Jews in practice.

Gradually, wearing a yellow identifier became a “mandatory rule” that Jews in various medieval regions had to comply with.

Painful Memories

In 1933, when the Nazis gained full control in Germany, persecution of Jews reached a new peak. Germany and some European countries occupied by Germany during World War II enacted laws requiring Jews over a certain age to wear a yellow “Jewish star” on their clothing. Those who did not wear the yellow star were sent to concentration camps.

Jews wearing the yellow star lived carefully under the surveillance of Nazi Germany, but the emblem was not a “get-out-of-jail-free card.” Identified Jews still had to endure insults and bullying from Nazi officials and the German public.

In addition to this, the yellow star also brought many inconveniences to the daily lives of Jews. According to Nazi regulations at the time, Jews were forbidden from using any public transportation outside peak commuting hours and were not allowed to enter any entertainment venues. Shops and other service facilities were also closed to Jews, who could only purchase “limited” life necessities at specific locations and times.

In early 1942, Nazi Germany’s high-ranking officials secretly convened the Wannsee Conference, where the “Final Solution” to the Jewish question was discussed. Thereafter, Jews in the German-occupied territories could be captured and taken to concentration camps at any time, regardless of whether they wore the yellow star, and faced certain death. In the end, six million Jews were killed.