Should Israel ban use of ‘Nazi’?

Does anybody have the right to restrict what we say?

At first glance, many Americans would say no. As a country founded on the principles of freedom of speech, we naturally try to protect our rights as often as possible. But does that concept apply everywhere?

That is the question many Israelis currently face as some Israeli politicians plan to pass a law that would make the use of the word “Nazi” a criminal offense.

“This is something Israelis need to decide, placing the discussion and ultimately the decision within the context of Israeli society,” said Executive Director of the Greensboro Jewish Federation Marilyn Chandler in an email interview.

Part of that context includes looking back at Israel’s history.

The word “Nazi” carries a past filled with hate and violence. To many Holocaust survivors and their families, this word brings about personal memories of hardship and loss. As a result, it angers some people to see the word thrown around and used to describe anyone who shows aggressive behavior.

“As a son of two Holocaust survivors, I find it particularly rankling,” said Israeli author Etgar Keret in The New York Times.

Israel also has a past filled with incidents where hate speech has led to violent crimes. The most famous incident is the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.

“Given the track record in Israel, they are well-advised to monitor speech, threats, intimidation and harassment carefully,” said Max Carter, interim chair and adjunct professor of religious studies. “I have personally seen the fear some in Israel have about demonstrating their political point of view and their concerns in public.”

On the other hand, some Israelis also find the idea of banning this word childish and undemocratic. It would cause breaches in the right to freedom of speech that many people value.

“It’s not the best idea to ban it for everyone,” said junior Julia Geaney-Moore. “People should have the choice to decide whether or not they want to use that word.”

Not only will the proposed law violate the right to freedom of speech, but it also lacks the elements to create an intended impact. Instead, what needs to happen is a shift in mindset.

“Alternate solutions include education, education, education,” said Chandler.

Programs that bring students from various backgrounds and cultures together to discuss diversity and inclusivity do more to inspire a fundamental change in views than a law banning the use of a word. Educational programs and presentations aid students in better understanding their background while still preserving freedom of speech.

“I am proud to be an American and proud to be a Jew,” said Chandler. “Freedom of speech should always be protected wherever and whenever possible.”

The best solution is to find a way to bring about awareness without sacrificing anyone’s rights.

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