Australia bans Nazi salute and public display of terror group symbols

Offenders face up to 12 months in prison; Hamas and Islamic State among groups whose symbols are banned amid rise in antisemitic incidents

A swastika spray-painted on a mural at Bondi Beach in Sydney, Australia, February 10, 2019. (Screenshot: Twitter)
A swastika spray-painted on a mural at Bondi Beach in Sydney, Australia, February 10, 2019. (Screenshot: Twitter)

Laws banning the Nazi salute and the display or sale of symbols associated with terror groups came into effect in Australia on Monday as the government responded to a rise in antisemitic incidents amid the Israel-Hamas war.

The law makes it an offense punishable by up to 12 months in prison to publicly perform the Nazi salute or display the Nazi swastika or the double-sig rune associated with the Schutzstaffel (SS) paramilitary group.

The sale and trade of these symbols is similarly prohibited.

Attorney General Mark Dreyfus said in a statement the legislation sent a clear message there was no place in Australia for those who glorify the Holocaust or terrorist acts.

“This is the first legislation of its kind and will ensure no one in Australia will be allowed to glorify or profit from acts and symbols that celebrate the Nazis and their evil ideology.”

Dvir Abramovich, director of the Anti-Defamation Commission civil rights movement, welcomed the new ban as “a day for the history books.”

“‘Never Again’ has now been triumphantly enacted into law,” said Abramovich, who was a leading campaigner for the ban.

Australia’s Anti-Defamation Commission chairman Dvir Abramovich. (Courtesy)

“This bill delivers a blow to those inflamed with vicious antisemitism who have weaponized this evil gesture and symbol as a rallying cry to terrorize the community,” Abramovich said of the Nazi salute. “This law also closes the lid on the twisted obsession and perverse sale of the blood-stained items, the devil’s tools of the Third Reich. It says no to profits over morality and declares that the extermination and dehumanization of millions should not have a tag price and be offered to the highest bidder.”

Introduced in June and passed in December, the law has taken on new significance amid a surge in antisemitism and Islamophobia following the October 7 attack by Palestinian terror group Hamas that killed 1,200 in Israel, mostly civilians. At least another 240 were abducted and taken as hostages into the Gaza Strip.

Israel responded with a military campaign in Gaza to destroy Hamas, remove it from power, and free the hostages.

Unverified footage showing a small group of men outside the iconic Sydney Opera House shouting “Gas the Jews” during a pro-Palestinian protest in October triggered outrage around the world and a police investigation.

Separately, police arrested three men in October for performing the Nazi salute outside the Jewish Museum of Australia. There were more anti-Jewish incidents in October and November last year than in the 12 months prior, according to the Executive Council of Australian Jewry.

The new law also bans the public display of or trade in symbols associated with prohibited terror organizations, such as Islamic State, Hamas, or the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

Exemptions exist for academic, educational, or artistic use.

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