A prominent Israeli vaccine skeptic, who earlier accused the Jerusalem police of trying to poison him, telling his followers that “if anything happens” to him they should assume he was “assassinated,” has died of Covid-19.
Hai Shaulian, an anti-vaxxer with a significant social media following and an organizer of protests against facemasks and vaccination, died at the age of 57 on Monday morning from complications linked to Covid-19, according to the Jerusalem Post and other local outlets.
In a video he published on social media from his hospital bed several days before his passing, Shaulian claimed he had been mistreated by the police after his arrest in early September. The activist was detained at a protest against the Green Pass system – which limits access to venues and events for unvaccinated Israelis – in Jerusalem and brought before the judge the next day. Shortly after that, he started feeling unwell and was placed in Edith Wolfson Medical Center in Holon where his tests returned positive for Covid-19. Shaulian was, obviously, not vaccinated against the virus.
In the clip, he said that after his arrest, an officer put his leg on his neck and went as far as suggesting that “the Jerusalem police tried to poison” him because of his campaigning.
“I have never felt this way in my life,” he told his followers. “I fought this for the entire week as if nothing had happened, but today I could no longer breathe and went to my healthcare provider and from there I was taken to Wolfson Hospital.”
If anything happens to me — you know it’s an attempt to assassinate me.
Shaulian’s condition kept deteriorating in the following days. His last post on Saturday was text only as he was already “unable to talk and respond to people.”
The activist held his ground until the end, writing that “the Green Pass will not be accepted in Israel. It has nothing to do with the coronavirus. It has nothing to do with vaccines. It has to do with coercion.” However, he didn’t repeat his poisoning claims in that message.
News of Shaulian’s death saddened and angered his followers on social media, many of whom supported the assassination theory, blaming the police and even Israel’s Shin Bet secret service of the “crime.” Others went as far as to suggest that the activist died because he wasn’t provided with proper care at the hospital due to his views.
Commenters from the opposing camp insisted what happened to Shaulian was a cautionary tale for all coronavirus skeptics and showed the danger of rejecting the vaccine and health advice from the authorities.
There was no official reaction from the Jerusalem police to the accusations of poisoning.
Israel has carried out one of the world’s largest immunization drives, fully vaccinating more than 60% of its population with Pfizer jab and already delivering a third – booster – shot to some 2.8 million people. However, a major proportion of the public, including many Arabs and Orthodox Jews, still refrain from getting inoculated, with anti-vaxxers holding regular protests and actively using social media to question the government’s policies.
Meanwhile, Covid-19 cases keep rising in Israel since the emergence of the more contagious Delta variant. On Monday, the coronavirus reproduction rate, which indicates how many people a single sick person can infect, crossed the 1 mark for the first time in three weeks, according to the Health Ministry. Since the start of the pandemic, Israel has so far registered almost 1.2 million Covid-19 cases and more than 7,400 deaths related to the virus.