The Knesset plenum, photo by Itzik Edri
Ahead of tomorrow’s (30 May 2012) scheduled discussion of the Proposed Law to Prohibit the Use of Nazi Symbols and Epithets in the Knesset’s Constitution, Law, and Justice Committee, Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) attorney Lila Margalit sent a letter to the MK David Rotem, Chair of the Committee, urging him to oppose the law.
“The Holocaust has a central place in the historical and cultural memory of the residents of Israel. This is a traumatic and unbearably painful subject, and the insensitive use of the symbols of the Holocaust can indeed cause severe offense to the feelings of many people. However, the importance and gravity of the Holocaust serve only to exacerbate the gravity of this attempt to dictate when and in what context it is permissible to mention this event. Freedom of expression includes the right to make forceful, trenchant and even offensive comments. It includes the right to express attitudes, feelings and thoughts in a crude and extreme manner, and it also includes the right to make rhetorical use of difficult and provocative imagery. The social legitimacy of the use of the symbols of the Holocaust in political and public discourse is a complex issue that warrants free discussion in the ‘marketplace of ideas.’ This is not a matter that should be addressed by means of criminal law.”
The proposed legislation was tabled by MK Uri Ariel (National Union) and approved by the Ministerial Committee on Legislation on 9 January 2012. Following the backing of this law by the Ministerial Committee, ACRI sent a letter to the Minister of Justice, Yaakov Neeman, and to the committee members, urging them to act in order to stop this bill, but to no avail.
Attorney Margalit’s letter to MK Rotem warns that law will “impose severe and sweeping restrictions on public debate in Israel, while causing grave and profound injury to the constitutional right to freedom of expression.”
More on this law on ACRI’s Knesset Database.