Israel advances bill banning Nazi terminology

JERUSALEM (AFP) - Israel's parliament has given initial approval to a bill banning the use of Nazi terminology, media reported Thursday, with critics saying it violates freedom of expression.

The bill was passed at a preliminary reading on Wednesday but it must still be debated in a parliamentary committee, then go through a series of votes in the Knesset before it can become law.

According to the proposal, penned by Shimon Ohayon of the ruling Likud-Beiteinu party, a person who uses the word Nazi or a derivative, a Holocaust symbol such as concentration camp inmates garb or yellow stars of David, or a Nazi symbol, could be imprisoned for six months and fined the equivalent of US$28,654 (S$36,400).

The bill's introductory note states, however, that using Nazi terminology or symbolism for educational or historic purposes is permitted.

Shelly Yachimovich of the Labour party, who voted against the bill, said there was "a great distance between an offensive and inappropriate expression, and prohibiting it by law".

Dov Khenin of the Arab-Jewish socialist party Hadash noted the extensive use of Nazi terminology by Israeli politicians, including by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Khenin criticised the proposed bill and said ahead of Wednesday's vote: "Will whoever makes a film about the Nazis face prison?".

An official close to the legislation process told AFP on Thursday the bill would "most likely be killed" in the committee, adding that attorney general Yehuda Weinstein has deemed the bill unnecessary.

Avner Shalev, chairman of Yad Vashem holocaust memorial museum, said that legislation was not the correct venue for dealing with inappropriate use of Nazi symbolism.

"I would prefer if through education, through the spirit of public debate, there was an atmosphere where these terms would not be so easily used and abused," he said in a statement to AFP on Thursday.

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