Rights group: Make Nazi salutes a criminal offense

State Attorney's Office says those who make "Hitler salute" can't be prosecuted.

Nazi salute neo-Nazi 370 (photo credit: REUTERS/Tim Shaffer)
Nazi salute neo-Nazi 370
(photo credit: REUTERS/Tim Shaffer)
Attorneys from a civil rights group on Wednesday slammed Israel’s lack of legal provision to prosecute people caught making Nazi salutes in public.
The “Nazi” or “Hitler” salute, made by raising and straightening the right arm, was used in Germany during the 1930s as a form of greeting and sign of allegiance to Nazi Party leader Adolf Hitler.
Today, modified salutes are used by neo-Nazis as an anti- Semitic gesture.
The Legal Forum for the Land of Israel asked the State Attorney’s Office to prosecute activists it says were photographed making the salutes during a human rights march in Tel Aviv in December.
However, attorney Dan Eldad, a senior manager in the State Attorney’s Office Special Assignments Division, said that under current legislation it is not possible to criminally prosecute people for making Nazi salutes.
“This is despite the deep revulsion we all feel towards this behavior,” Eldad added.
Attorney Hila Cohen of the Legal Forum said on Wednesday that the situation was “a legal and moral perversity that demands a change in the law.”
“It is unbelievable that as anti-Semitism flourishes around the world, Israel’s law enforcement system is unable to deal with those who make Nazi salutes – and thus say they wish to be like Nazis,” she added.
Cohen said the State Attorney’s Office had previously been unable to open a criminal investigation against activists who doctored an image of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu that made him appear to be wearing a Nazi officer’s uniform, and published it on the Ozer Azrahi blog during last summer’s social justice protests.
In its letter to the office, the Legal Forum had asked whether Nazi saluters could be prosecuted under Article 4 of the Prevention of Terrorism Ordinance (1948).
The law states that a person who commits an act expressing sympathy or identification with a terrorist organization, including the display of a symbol or slogan in a public place, can be criminally prosecuted and imprisoned for up to three years if convicted.
However, Eldad said the ordinance did not apply in this situation either, because the issue did not involve a terrorist organization.
He added that he had passed on the Legal Forum’s request to examine the possibility of creating legislation specifically banning Nazi-era symbols to Deputy Attorney General of the Criminal Division Raz Nazari, who would look into advancing that issue.
Cohen warned that the inability to prosecute those who use Nazi symbology could lead to more widespread use of such images.
“It is just not possible that in a country founded and built in part by Holocaust survivors, no legal solution will be found to deal with those who attempt to make comparisons between state authorities and the acts and conduct of the despicable Nazis,” she said.
In several countries, including France, Austria and Germany, it is illegal to display Nazi symbols or make Nazi salutes. Germans convicted of making these salutes can face up to three years in prison.
Last month, German soccer club FC Kaiserslautern called police after fans made the salute at Israeli soccer player Itay Schechter during a training session.