The N-Word's Real Crime

Editorial

Nazi No-No: Demonstrations that use Nazi symbols and imagery would be banned under a proposed Israeli law. Would it be any more effective than New York’s ban of the other N-word?
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Nazi No-No: Demonstrations that use Nazi symbols and imagery would be banned under a proposed Israeli law. Would it be any more effective than New York’s ban of the other N-word?

Published January 22, 2014, issue of January 31, 2014.
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The Nazi flag — with its foreboding black swastika and its blood-red background — had incited hatred and violence in those countries not so long ago, within living memory. Banishing it is a way of protecting lives and maintaining public safety, a cause which could trump the right to free speech.

That is why even the clumsy attempt by the New York City Council to outlaw the N-word has some legitimacy. It was a word first used by white people to subjugate, brutalize and persecute black people. Here. Not really that long ago.

Israel doesn’t face a Nazi threat from within its borders, just a threat within its soul. The crime now is trivializing the past, appropriating Nazi language and symbols and twisting them into something ordinary, temporarily offensive, or just plain awful. But not life threatening. Insult is not the same as genocide.

International Holocaust Remembrance Day is January 27. It is an invented “holiday” but a useful occasion to focus on what we Jews still owe the survivors in our midst. And despite the billions of dollars spent in restitution money, tens of thousands of them still suffer.

Of the estimated 200,000 survivors in Israel, 25% need food aid, and 12,000 had no heating or warm clothing during this unusually cold winter, according to Latet, an Israeli humanitarian aid organization. Of the 120,000 survivors in the United States, 25% live below the poverty line, according to federal officials.

The White House announced in December that it was willing to spend up to $15 million to help needy Holocaust survivors in the U.S. Given the immense financial resources in our community, combined with the billions that has flowed through the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany for decades, why should taxpayers’ money be necessary?

The crime here is not a slanderous remark by a thoughtless citizen, or the display of an offensive symbol. The real crime is that tens of thousands of the neediest, most deserving Jews in our midst live in inexcuseable deprivation.

What’s the use of banning the Nazi’s symbols if the victims of their dastardly work continue to suffer today?


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