The Two-Way
11:27 am
Tue January 10, 2012

Israeli Bill Would Prohibit Use Of Nazi Comparisons

In Israel, it might become a crime to use Nazi comparisons to criticize someone. As the AP puts it, a bill under consideration by parliament would "would impose penalties of up to six months in jail and a $25,000 fine for using the word 'Nazi' or Holocaust symbols for purposes other than teaching, documentation or research."

The bill was introduced — and approved by Cabinet ministers — a week after ultra-Orthodox Jews dressed as prisoners from a concentration camp to protest what they said was a campaign against them by secular media.

The BBC reports the protesters wore stripped uniforms with a yellow star of David emblazoned with the word "Jude," which is German for Jew. The protests caused an uproar. The BBC explains that the conflict has been brewing for a while:

"Ultra-Orthodox Jews, who make up 10% of Israel's population, have been criticised in recent weeks for attempting to impose their strict beliefs on others as their population grows and spreads to new areas.

"Extremist sects have sought to ban the mixing of sexes on buses, pavements and other public spaces. Members of one sect jeered and spat at girls walking to school, saying they were dressed immodestly.

"Such efforts have been condemned by the Israeli government and triggered widespread demonstrations against the ultra-Orthodox community. At one recent protest, people held signs reading: 'Stop Israel becoming Iran.'"

Haaretz reports that Uri Ariel, one of the ministers sponsoring the bill, said this law would deter "the cynical exploitation of Nazi symbols and epithets in a manner that injures the feelings of Holocaust survivors."

But civil rights groups are opposing the bill.

"Freedom of expression means the right to say difficult things that might be even hurtful. It means the right to give bold and extreme expression to positions, feelings, and thoughts, and also includes the right to make rhetorical use of provocative and harsh images," The Association for Civil Rights in Israel said in a statement.

The ACRI also said because of the "importance and centrality of the Holocaust, the attempt to dictate when and in what context it can be referenced is very problematic."

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.