Bill to Outlaw Holocaust Symbols Sparks Fierce Debate in Knesset

YERUSHALAYIM -
Shas party chairman Aryeh Deri (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Shas party chairman Aryeh Deri (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

A bill to restrict the use of Holocaust symbols outside of an educational or historical context sparked a fierce debate in the Knesset on Tuesday as opponents argued it would violate free speech, The Jerusalem Post reported.

The proposal, sponsored by MK Shimon Ohayon (Likud-Beitenu) and MK Elazar Stern (Movement), was approved in a preliminary vote, but not before it touched off angry exchanges between MKs.

According to the proposal, the use of Nazi or Holocaust symbols or calling someone “Nazi” or similar names, or expressing hope that the Nazis’ plan will be completed, will carry a 100,000 shekel fine and can be the subject of civil suits.

“I respect the memory of the Holocaust no less than anyone else, but is this what the plenum is doing these days? This bill is an embarrassment. Educate your children. Not everything has to be passed as a law,” Shas leader MK Arye Deri said.

“I am the daughter of Holocaust survivors, but I call on everyone to vote against this bill,” MK Shelly Yacimovich (Labor) said. “Does the use of Holocaust concepts in Israel legitimize anti-Semitism? Do you not have any better bills to propose?” Yacimovich asked.

Ohayon defended the bill, saying that such legislation is needed in Israel, otherwise it will undermine efforts to pass legislation combating anti-Semitism in Europe.

“What should we tell them? This is your fight in Europe, but we [in Israel] will be fine with an abstract debate?” Ohayon asked. “Freedom of speech is not total; it’s relative. There is a new reality here, and neo-Nazi movements are rearing their heads. If we don’t try to stop them, we are not doing our job.”