update deskAntisemitism

Ban on racist, Nazi symbols passes Swiss upper house

Austria recently passed a law fining those who wear Nazi or pro-Hamas symbols up to $22,000.

Swiss Federal Councillor Élisabeth Baume-Schneider. Photo by Béatrice Dévènes/Federal Chancellery.
Swiss Federal Councillor Élisabeth Baume-Schneider. Photo by Béatrice Dévènes/Federal Chancellery.

Switzerland’s Council of States, the upper house of its parliament, voted 23 to 16, with three abstentions, on Wednesday to ban public displays of racist symbols, including those associated with the Nazis.

“There’s no place for symbols that make apologies for violence in our society,” said Élisabeth Baume-Schneider, one of seven members of the Federal Council and the head of the country’s Justice and Police Department. The members of the Federal Council serve as the collective head of state and government of Switzerland.

The bill now requires passage in the National Council, the lower house of parliament, to become law. 

Last Friday, the Austrian parliament voted to stiffen penalties under a 1947 law that criminalizes the display of Nazi symbols. Those who sport pro-Hamas symbols now face fines of up to $22,000. Austrians who do so abroad could also face penalties. Whereas the law previously criminalized “gross” Holocaust denial, partial trivialization is now prohibited.

“With the new regulation, we are now ensuring that tearing down the Israel flag from synagogues will certainly not go unpunished,” Karoline Edtstadler, Austria’s minister for the European Union and the constitution, wrote on social media, in German. “We must continue to do everything we can to nip all forms of antisemitism in the bud.”

David Roet, the Israeli ambassador to Austria, wrote, “Thank you Chancellor Karl Nehammer and Minister Karoline Edtstadler for your strong commitment to ensure that antisemitism and hatred of Israel have no place in Austria and for making it an offense to degrade flags and national emblems.”

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