Israel and Holocaust Terms

This letter originally appeared in the New York Times on January 16, 2014.

Letters to the Editor
The New York Times

To the Editor:

Re “Israel’s Efforts to Limit Use of Holocaust Terms Raise Free-Speech Questions” (news article, Jan. 16):

As a Jew and a Holocaust survivor, I greeted with strongly conflicting emotions the news of the Israeli Parliament’s effort to make it a crime to call someone a Nazi or, as you report, “to use Holocaust-related symbols in a noneducational way.”

On the one hand, if there is any country in the world that needs to make sure that the events of World War II and the Holocaust are not trivialized, it should be Israel. This is, after all, the country with the greatest number of Holocaust survivors, and memories of the war and its painful consequences for the Jewish people are still fresh in many people’s minds.

On the other hand, as an American civil libertarian, I’m troubled by the fact that language, even if it is an ugly epithet that cheapens the historical meaning of the Holocaust, can be punished by the law as a criminal act.

And yet if there’s anywhere in the world where such a law is appropriate, it is in the Jewish state. My hope is that people will take the law, if passed, seriously, and that it will have a restraining effect without having to resort to litigation or punishment.


Abraham H. Foxman
National Director

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