Israel’s parliament gave initial approval to legislation that will curb the public use of Nazi symbols on Wednesday, according to Reuters.
Ha’aretz reported that the laws prohibit use of the word “Nazi” or similar-sounding words, as well as any epithets associated with the Third Reich or the Holocaust. Clothing similar to that worn by prisoners in concentration camps is also banned, along with yellow stars. Any violation can lead to up to six months in prison and heavy fines.
The laws were drafted in response to ultra-Orthodox protesters wearing concentration camp garb in a clash with the police in Jerusalem in early Jan., when the protesters called police Nazis. The New York Times reported earlier this month that the organizers of the protests were angry about “what they called growing incitement against their community, with Israeli and foreign news media now focusing on ultra-Orthodox zealots who have been increasingly encroaching on the public sphere.”
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The protest which took place on Dec. 31, 2011, drew thousands of ultra-Orthodox Jews who had come under fire for their efforts to segregate the sexes in public spaces. According to the Guardian, in one city there were reports of extremists jeering and spitting on school girls deemed to be dressed inappropriately.
However, there are fractures within the ultra-Orthodox community itself, with some ultra-Orthodox leaders turning to the media for help in dealing with the more extremist factions that have recently gained power.
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More than 200,000 Holocaust survivors still live in Israel, but this is not the first time protesters have used symbols or words related to the Holocaust to highlight their plight. Reuters quoted the Association of Civil Rights in Israel stating that while Holocaust symbolism is “indeed a big question which deserves a robust and free public debate, it is not a question that should be handled through criminal law."