BERLIN – An antisemitic rally where an Israeli flag was torched caused German lawmakers on Thursday to pass legislation outlawing the burning of all foreign flags within the borders of the federal republic.
The Jerusalem Post reviewed the 16-page change in German law that imposes a criminal penalty that could lead to a three year prison term for flag burning.
The Social Democratic Party faction wrote in the proposed law ahead of its passage “that the draft law and the coalition factions’ amendment were not about restricting freedom of expression. Rather, a clear criminal law barrier should be set and a gap in criminal law should be closed. It was unbearable and unacceptable for the flag of the State of Israel to be burned in public.”
The main triggering event for the legislation was a 2017 demonstration in Berlin, in which 2,500 people, most of whom were German Muslims, protested against US President Donald Trump’s decision to relocate the US embassy to Israel’s capital, Jerusalem. The protesters torched an Israeli flag, prompting police at the time to initiate investigations into 11 people in connection with the flag burning.
According to the “justification” section of the legislation, the law to criminalize flag burning was extended “to any disparaging destruction of flags of foreign countries.” According to the justification, this is intended to react to events in December 2017: “A public demonstration in Berlin in that participants burned the Israeli flag and chanted corresponding slogans had become an antisemitic rally.”
German law until yesterday proscribed a criminal penalty for the burning and denigration of the German flag. The previous law only criminalized the burning of foreign flags under strict conditions in connection with, for example, a ceremony event.
The new law also criminalizes the desecration of the EU flag and EU anthem.
The Post reported in January that the largely anti-Israel party Die Linke (The Left) has torpedoed a bill in the Berlin senate, which would have banned the burning of the Israeli flag in Germany’s capital city.
The new federal law will now apply to city-states like Berlin. Left Party politician Sebastian Schlüsselburg blocked a ban of torching Israeli flags at the time. The Left Party opposed a ban of the terrorist entity Hezbollah. In 2014, MPs from the Left Party secured the No. 4 spot on the list of the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s list of worst outbreaks of antisemitism and anti-Israel conduct.
Party members Annette Groth, Inge Höger, Claudia Haydt and Heike Hänsel fomented hatred of the Jewish state during a talk in the Bundestag, the center said at the time.