Anyone who uses Holocaust imagery or Nazi epithets in public may soon face a NIS
100,000 fine and up to six months in jail, following the approval of a bill by
the Ministerial Committee for Legislation on Monday.RELATED:
Creators of Shaham ‘Hitler’ poster arrested Haredi use of Holocaust symbols reaps condemnation
The bill will be
brought to the Knesset on Wednesday for its preliminary hearing.
proposal, by MK Uri Ariel (National Union), comes following a demonstration in
Jerusalem last month by
, in which protesters dressed up
in concentration camp uniforms and wore yellow Stars of David on their clothing
bearing the word “Jude,” to protest against what they saw as incitement against
the haredi community.
The incident sparked national outrage and
condemnation from many quarters.
“I am pleased that the government is
supporting this important law,” Ariel said in response to the bill’s
“Unfortunately we have been witness in recent years to the
cynical exploitation of Nazi symbols and phraseology, which is offensive to
Holocaust survivors, their families, and many others among the Jewish
“The law constitutes an appropriate warning, and will anchor in
law, a fitting punishment for the despicable use [of such imagery],” he
Ariel also pointed out that his bill does not differentiate
between rioters in Bil’in, “price-tag” attackers or the ultra-Orthodox that
“cynically and inappropriately” use Nazi imagery.
However, the bill has
come under fire from civil rights groups and Holocaust educational
The Association for Civil Rights in Israel strongly
criticized the bill, calling it an attempt to forcibly control public discourse
through criminal prohibitions and threats of imprisonment.
expression is the right to say harsh, piercing and even offensive words,” the
organization said in a statement released on Sunday.
“It is the right to
express crass and extreme attitudes, feelings and thoughts, and also includes
the right to make use of harsh rhetoric and provocative imagery.
question of the social legitimacy of the use of Holocaust symbols in public and
political discourse is a big question, fitting for free debate in the
‘market-place of ideas.’ It is not a question that should be dealt with through
the means of criminal law.”
Efraim Zuroff, director of the Simon
Weisenthal Center in Israel, also expressed opposition to the bill and said he
was not supportive of such a law at this stage.
“Would Uri Ariel be
willing to incarcerate those who protested against the disengagement from Gaza
by wearing Stars of David?” he asked, referring to the use of such badges in
2005 by anti-disengagement activists.
“Laws like this only reflect the
weakness of civil society and an inability to behave in an appropriate way,”
Zuroff continued, adding that it would mean that Israeli citizens are unable to
refrain themselves from misusing Holocaust imagery.
“As infuriated as I
was with the use of Holocaust imagery in the recent demonstration, it would be a
terrible reflection on Israeli society if we have to legislate against it,” he
Activists protesting a number of causes have turned of late to Nazi
slurs and symbols to raise the stakes on their issues, and catch the public
Two men were recently arrested, for example, after a picture was
published on a haredi website in which the face of Jerusalem District Police
commander Nisso Shaham was edited onto a picture of Adolf Hitler.
late last year, when right-wing activists stormed an IDF base in the West Bank,
one vandal called deputy brigade commander Harpaz Zur
, whose grandmother
survived the Holocaust, a “Nazi.”Jerusalem Post staff contributed to