Bill to ban Nazi symbols, name-calling, advances

Transgressors would face six-month prison term and NIS 100,000 fine

Marissa Newman is The Times of Israel political correspondent.

A member of the extreme anti-Zionist Naturei Karta ultra-Orthodox sect in the Meah Shearim neighborhood in Jerusalem. May 2 2011. (Photo credit: Nati Shohat/Flash90)
A member of the extreme anti-Zionist Naturei Karta ultra-Orthodox sect in the Meah Shearim neighborhood in Jerusalem. May 2 2011. (Photo credit: Nati Shohat/Flash90)

A key ministerial panel approved a bill on Sunday that would disallow any use of Nazi and neo-Nazi symbols and slogans, and would make any illegitimate use of the word “Nazi” punishable by law.

The legislation would be the most far-reaching hate crime law yet introduced in Israel, carrying a six-month prison sentence and NIS 100,000 ($28,000) fine for offenders.

Sunday’s approval by the Ministerial Committee for Legislation means the proposal has coalition backing and a better chance of making it through the Knesset.

The proposed law is expected to be brought to a vote in a preliminary reading in the Knesset plenum on Wednesday.

The bill, sponsored by Likud MK Shimon Ohayon, would prohibit the word “Nazi” in contexts other than “for the purpose of learning, documentation, scientific study or historical accounts.”

Using words that sound like “Nazi” to indirectly refer to someone as such, would also be subject to penalization.

“Insulting someone by expressing the wish, hope, or anticipation for the fulfillment of the Nazis’ aims, or expressing sorrow or protest that they were not accomplished — [is] forbidden,” the bill reads.

The proposed legislation would also prohibit wearing the kind of gold six-pointed star required of Jews by the Nazis, as well as striped suits similar to those worn in the Nazi concentration camps, and would ban the swastika and other Nazi-related symbols.

Though Europe has strict laws against using Nazi symbols, Israel has none, instead prosecuting those who use “Nazi” as an epithet under incitement laws.

The use of Nazi symbolism in Israel, where it is freighted with extra significance, is considered taboo and has often aroused public anger. Though rare, extremists have used the symbols both to paint their foes as evil, as with a poster of Yitzhak Rabin in a Nazi uniform used at a 1994 rally, and themselves as Holocaust victims.

In 2011, a number of ultra-Orthodox children were dressed up in concentration camp uniforms, complete with yellow star, to protest a looming army draft. The move drew harsh condemnation from the wider public.

“Unfortunately, the phenomenon of using Nazi symbols and epithets has grown in recent years. The intolerable ease with which the day-to-day usage of these concepts as part of public and political discourse, and with blatant disregard for the feelings of Holocaust survivors and their descendants, is reprehensible,” the explanatory text of the bill read.

Israel must prohibit the use of Nazi symbols, just as many European countries do, Ohayon stressed.

“As long as Israel does not prohibit such use of [Nazi] symbols, we cannot complain against such phenomena,” he said.

MKs Meir Sheetrit (Hatnua), Boaz Toporovsky (Yesh Atid), Dov Lipman (Yesh Atid), and Robert Ilatov (Yisrael Beytenu) co-sponsored the bill.

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