Israel moves to ban 'Nazi' slur

Last updated 13:51 17/01/2014

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The Israeli government has given preliminary approval to a bill that would make it a crime to call someone a Nazi - or any other slur associated with the Third Reich - or to use Holocaust-related symbols in a noneducational way, the New York Times reported.

Calling someone a 'Nazi' could result in a penalty fine of as much as $NZ34,700 and up to six months in jail.

In recent months, a satirical television show compared the interior minister to a concentration-camp supervisor for his handling of migrant workers, protesters at the Western Wall shouted "Go back to Germany" at police officers, and a sports commentator denounced a veteran basketball referee as "Gestapo."

Backers of the law told the paper the bill was in response to a rising tide of anti-Semitism around the world as well as an increasing, casual invocation of such terms and totems in Israeli politics and even teenage trash talk.

"We have to be the leader of this battle, of this struggle, in order to encourage other countries," Shimon Ohayon, the lawmaker sponsoring the bill, told the NY Times.

"We, in our land, can find enough words and expressions and idioms to express our opinions. What I'm asking is, please put away this special situation that has to do with our history."

But critics, including some with deep connections to the Holocaust, say the proposed law is a dangerous infringement on free speech and an overreach impossible to enforce.

Many advocate a public awareness campaign over criminalisation.

At least half a dozen European nations, along with Brazil, already prohibit the use of Nazi symbols and flags, along with those of other extremist groups, and a longer list consider Holocaust denial a crime (as Israel has since 1986). 

While the European laws are clearly aimed at neo-Nazism and anti-Semitism, Israel seems to be responding more to the terms' trivialisation.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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