Call Israelis "the strongest democrats in the Middle East." Call them complex and fractious. Call them militarized tools with racist streaks who expand their territory at the expense of peoples they consider inferior. Only don't call them Nazis, because they will totally throw you in jail!
Israel was founded, in part, to give Jews of the world a safe haven from the sort of anti-Semitism that found its lowest expression in the Nazis' extermination programs. Since then, what with their universal military service and wars and secret assassination squads and crazy settlers and bizarre policing practices of Palestinians and their own Arab citizens, Israelis have had to suffer through every undergraduate activist's discovery of reductiveness, dramatic irony, and shock value: "The Nazi-haters are acting like Nazis!"
Parliament gave preliminary approval on Wednesday to a bill that would make it a crime to call someone a Nazi — or any other slur associated with the Third Reich — or to use Holocaust-related symbols in a noneducational way. The penalty would be a fine of as much as $29,000 and up to six months in jail.
Weirdly, Israelis who actually have some experience with Nazis are not so sure that "Never Forget" and "Don't Fucking Say That or We'll Arrest You" are entirely compatible:
...many suggest such episodes call for a public awareness campaign, not criminalization.
"You have to build it by educational process, by the spirit of public debate, what you can say publicly and what you cannot," said Avner Shalev, director of Yad Vashem, a holocaust memorial and museum. "I would prefer to create this kind of atmosphere that things are not done or not said or not expressed in this way. Societies know how to do it."
But the Times touches on a bigger problem with criminalizing references to Nazis: Everybody does it, especially us Jews!
...younger people have also been heard using the Hebrew word shoah — which literally means catastrophe but is generally reserved for the Holocaust — to describe an everyday disaster like a botched relationship or a messy kitchen...
Dov Lipman, a rabbi and a Parliament member from the centrist Yesh Atid Party who is one of the bill's sponsors, said he was frequently called a Nazi during the 2011 demonstrations in Beit Shemesh, when he was trying to protect schoolgirls from attacks by religious mobs who considered their dress immodest...
...a lawmaker from the left-wing Hadash Party... suggested during the debate that perhaps Mr. Netanyahu himself "should be put in jail" for comparing Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the former Iranian president, to Hitler.
This is just absurd. Hitler probably would have sent Bibi and Mahmoud to the ovens together. Shit, am I gonna get denied an Israeli visa for writing that? Fucking Nazis.
[Photo credit: AP]