Forward Thinking

Are Holocaust Images Too Hurtful?

By Nathan Jeffay

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Ultra-Orthodox Jews wore yellow stars and concentration camp outfits at a rally in Jerusalem.

The ongoing protests against the exclusion of women from the public sphere by some Haredim, and counter-protests by Haredi activists who say they are maligned by critics, have everyone in Israel talking. The subject was quite provocative enough.

And then came the Holocaust reference to make it even more so. On New Year’s Eve night, 1,500 Haredim protested in Jerusalem against what they termed “incitement” of secular Israelis against them. Some of them also donned mock outfits from Nazi death camps and yellow stars.

The Jerusalem Post publishes a picture of some protestors kitted out in stars.

It quotes one of the protesters saying: “What’s happening is exactly like what happened in Germany.” He elaborated: “It started with incitement and continued to different types of oppression. Is it insulting that we wear these stars? Absolutely, and it hurts people to see this, but this is how we feel at the moment, we feel we are being prevented from observing the Torah in the manner in which we wish.”

Now, the morning after the night before, a lawmaker is already proposing legislation to ban the use of yellow stars and Holocaust outfits by protestors. “We were witness last night to a cynical act and disparagement from the same extremists that spit on children and curse soldiers simply because they are women,” said Kadima lawmaker Yoel Hasson. This brings back to the surface the old question — rife when philosopher Yeshayahu Leibowitz coined the term “Judeo-Nazis” for settlers — of how it’s acceptable to appropriate the Holocaust in Israel.

Are limitations like Hasson’s proposed law a necessary and moral intervention in the name of good taste. Or is it silencing the legitimate discourse of a minority that feels its treatment is reminiscent of that experienced by its ancestors?


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