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New legislation in Australia bans public display, use of Nazi or terrorist symbols

Australia saw a 738% increase in antisemitic incidents during the months of October and November

Anti-racism protesters march in a demonstration in Melbourn, Australia, Jul. 18, 2023 (Photo: Screenshot)

A new set of laws went into effect in Australia on Monday banning the public display or sale of products of featuring Nazi or terrorist symbols.

Australia's Counter-Terrorism Legislation Amendment Bill, which also bans the public performance of the Nazi salute and the glorifying or praising of an act of terrorism, is the first of its kind in the ‘land down under’ and comes amid a 738% increase in antisemitic incidents during October and November.

According to the Executive Council of Australia Jewry, 662 antisemitic incidents were tallied in October and November alone, only five of which took place before Oct. 7, when the war between Israel and Hamas began.

By comparison, during the entire 12-month period ending Sept. 30, there were only 495 anti-Jewish incidents reported across Australia, the council said.

In December, Israel's National Security Council issued a travel warning for Jewish passengers visiting some 80 countries, Australia included.

The rise of antisemitic incidents in Australia is something Anti-Defamation Council chairman Dvir Abramovich has been fighting in the Australian legislature for a long time.

"This has been a long journey. I started this campaign six years ago when no one believed it to actually take place," he said.

The new bill was first introduced in June and passed in Australia’s parliament in December, making it illegal to publicly display the Nazi swastika and the Nazi double-sig rune of the Schutzstaffel Paramilitary organization. The law also prohibits the trade of terrorist symbols associated with banned terrorist organizations, such as the Islamic State, Hamas or the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (KWP).

Attorney General Mark Dreyfus said the legislation “sent a clear message there was no place in Australia for those who glorify the Holocaust or terrorist acts.”

“This is the first legislation of its kind and will ensure no one in Australia will be allowed to glorify or profit from acts and symbols that celebrate the Nazis and their evil ideology.”

The new law makes the display or trade of Nazi or terrorist symbols (except for educational, artistic or academic use) a criminal offense punishable by up to 12 months in prison. Flags, armbands and t-shirts with banned symbols are prohibited from being displayed both in the public arena and online.

"The legislation delivers a blow to those inflamed with vicious antisemitism who have weaponized this evil gesture and symbol as a rallying cry to terrorize the community,” Abramovich told the Sydney Morning Herald in November.

“This law also closes the lid on the twisted obsession and perverse sale of the blood-stained items, the devil’s tools of the Third Reich. It says no to profits over morality and declares that the extermination and dehumanization of millions should not have a tag price and be offered to the highest bidder.”

In October, video footage circulating on news outlets showed a group of men outside the Sydney Opera House shouting “Gas the Jews” during a pro-Palestinian protest, sparking outrage around the world and prompting a police investigation.

In a separate incident that same month, police arrested three men for performing the Nazi salute outside the Jewish Museum of Australia.

The return of Nazi rhetoric and symbolism has been distressing for Holocaust survivors, according to Abramovich.

"We have seen a resurgence of the white supremacist movement here in Australia, becoming much more agitated, much more angry, taking their online activity into the real world, taking their activity to the steps of the Victorian Parliament House, doing their Heil Hitler salute," he said.

"Holocaust survivors who never imagined that in their lifetime they would see the offspring of Hitler, marching through the streets, giving this salute, and trying to resurrect the ideology of extermination. For them, it's like being threatened with a gun. There's a hole in their heart."

The new legislation is welcomed by groups researching the rise of far-right extremism in Australia, which was marked by a mass shooting in 2019 at a Christchurch mosque. The shooting was carried out by a white supremacist and took the lives of 51 people.

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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