Legislating Tolerance

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Australia’s parliament passed a law this week that would ban the display of Nazi salutes and hate symbols in public, a move aimed at addressing a spike of antisemitism in the country amid the ongoing war between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip, CBS News reported.

The new legislation will criminalize the performance of the Nazi salute in public and outlaw symbols associated with National Socialism ideology, such as the Nazi swastika. The bill also makes the act of glorifying or praising acts of terrorism a criminal offense.

Individuals violating the new rules could face up to 12 months in prison.

Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus said the legislation – the first of its kind in the country – sent “a clear message: There is no place in Australia for acts and symbols that glorify the horrors of the Holocaust and terrorist acts.”

Analysts said that the law’s passing came as the country is experiencing a rise in antisemitic incidents in the wake of the Oct. 7 terrorist attack in southern Israel by Hamas and other Palestinian fighters.

The assault saw the deaths of around 1,200 people and the kidnapping of around 240 others. Israel responded by launching airstrikes and a ground assault in Gaza that have killed nearly 23,000 people, according to health officials in the Hamas-run enclave.

Data from the Executive Council of Australian Jewry found a total of 662 antisemitic incidents between October and November.

In October, an unverified video circulated online, depicting a small group of individuals allegedly chanting antisemitic slogans during a pro-Palestinian demonstration outside the Sydney Opera House.

The video showed protesters launching flares and chanting phrases, such as “Gas the Jews.”

Other countries, mainly those in Europe, already have laws outlawing Nazi gestures and denying the Holocaust. More recently, some Europeans have created measures to strengthen protections against antisemitism such as bans in France on protests at the Israeli attacks on Gaza.

One state in Germany, Saxony-Anhalt, recently moved to require those applying for German citizenship to affirm in writing that they back the Jewish state’s “right to exist and condemn any efforts directed against” its existence, the Times of Israel wrote. Saxony-Anhalt is also asking its naturalization examiners to be vigilant for antisemitic and anti-democratic attitudes among applicants.

Other states are considering adopting such a measure.

As antisemitic incidents have risen sharply in the West, anti-Muslim incidents have also seen a corresponding spike, Human Rights Watch wrote.

The organization said that while 12 out of the 27 EU member states have adopted national strategies to combat antisemitism, there has been little attempt to combat hate against other minorities, particularly Muslims. Instead, it added, European leaders have asked “Muslims to distance themselves publicly from antisemitism – as if antisemitism in Europe could be attributed solely to an entire ethnic or religious minority,” calling that stance stigmatizing.

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