No, No, Nazi

During the first few weeks of January, the Israeli Parliament took the initial steps towards approving a sponsored bill that would essentially criminalize the use of Holocaust-related symbology. The bill also attempts to outlaw the use of language claiming that someone is a Nazi or any other slur commonly derived from the Third Reich. The language of the bill sets a violation of the law at $29,000 and jail time up to six months.

The law was drafted in an attempt to subdue an increased level of anti-Semitism that has sprung up around the world in recent times. Shimon Ohayon, the Israeli lawmaker charged with sponsoring the bill, said in an interview “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.” However, the bill is not without its critics. A multitude of dissenters claim that the possibly impending law is a hazardous restriction on free speech and  impossible to enforce.

The law is also at odds with contemporary actions and culture within Israel. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has consistently invoked the Holocaust in an attempt to warn against the Iranian nuclear threat and highlight the need for a strong Israeli army.  In present Israeli culture, younger people commonly use the Hebrew word shoah, which translated, means catastrophe.  However, this word is generally reserved for the Holocaust, but has come to describe a commonplace disaster “like a botched relationship or a messy kitchen.” Under the new law, certain words, such as shoah, would be banned.

Many European nations, along with Brazil, have outlawed the use of Nazi flags, symbols and other paraphernalia synonymous with other extremist groups. However, banning the use of the words, such as Nazi, would be an international first.

Do you think that this law is a proper attempt by the Israeli government to shape the conversation of its citizens? Should free speech be an issue when discussing such a horrendous period of human history? What are other possible ways for a society to change the way people remember the Holocaust?

Source: NYTimes

Picture: CBC Radio

4 comments

  1. Very interesting topic. The Holocaust was a terrible, horrendous period in history, which will hopefully never again be repeated. The lives that were lost should never be forgotten, and everyone who was involved in the terrorizing should be prosecuted to the highest extent of the law. Although I sympathize with Israel, and believe that they have legitimate reasons to sponsor such a bill, I personally do not think that the ends are justified by the means. I think that the bill would be very hard to enforce, and that it impinges too harshly on free speech. The government shouldn’t punish words, but at the same time it should not hesitate to punish actions. Therefore, I think Israel should abandon the newly proposed law and adopt the law followed by Brazil, and other European nations. Anti-sematic paraphernalia should be outlawed, and hate crimes should be more severely punished, but words should not be criminally penalized unless they amount to harassment for instance. In my opinion, a law like this would never pass in the United States, but I am interested to see what happens in Israel.

  2. I also agree with the above author that the Holocaust was a terrible time in history. But, there are two points I would like to make in opposition of this law. First, I ask what good is having an awful historic event occur, if nothing is learned from it? Here, if the Holocaust and Nazism is never to be spoken about, history could easily repeat itself if it is not used a learning tool. Second, there is an inherent violation of freedom of speech, by United States standards. This law prohibits people from calling other Nazis or using the Hebrew word “shoah”.

    I personally am second generation American with my grandparents emigrating from Germany. I do not like being called a “Nazi” even as a joke, but I also am aware and respect that people have the freedom of speech in America. To me, this law put too harsh a limit on the freedom of speech and freedom of expression, despite its awful connotation and historic significance.

  3. I think the law is proper to outlaw the use of Nazi paraphernalia. As the author mentioned, countries around the world have banned the uses of paraphernalia and even political parties that embody the Nazi agenda or background. Since Israel was created after World War 2, creating a Jewish state after the events of the Holocaust, it is understandable as to why they would want to implement a law like this. I do believe that Israel should follow the lead of other nations in restricting Nazi paraphernalia and Nazi based political parties. However, I feel it goes too far on infringing the free speech rights of citizens by outlawing the word “Nazi”.
    The law would essentially be censoring history as well as a word synonymous with evil. By not allowing people to say “Nazi”, how would people freely discuss the horrific events of the Holocaust and World War 2. After all, this was the worst genocide in human history and as painful as it is to remember such a catastrophe, it is important that people remember the events so that future generations can prevent genocides on all scales. By making it illegal to say “Nazi” the law is curtailing the people’s discussions and basic rights of free citizens. Freedom to exchange ideas helps citizens and governments be democratic and educate people like in this instance. If no one can say Nazi, the conversation never starts. It will be interesting to see what happens.

  4. While I can understand the reasons behind trying to minimize the history of the Nazi regime, I believe that the law goes too far. It limits expression of people and seems like a means to censor any type of expression geared toward the Holocause. How far is Israel willing to go with this type of censorship and as a result how much more will the parliament be willing to go to show “protect” people from the dangers of the past? How about satirical pieces attempting to bring awareness to the issues the Nazi regime presented simultaneously informing the youth about this horrible passage in history? How are we supposed to instruct our future generations on what not to do when they are unable to learn from their past? It seems like that they are trying to do away with their history and rewrite in their favor, reminiscent of George Orwell’s Ministry of Truth in his novel 1984. Censorship is not always good, and while history is not always in our favor, it does give us a guideline of how bad the world was and can show us how far we have come since those times. There is no true freedom without freedom of the press, freedom of expression and free speech and this is just one step closer to fascism.

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