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The Other N-Word: Knesset Trying to Ban Use of the Word ‘Nazi’

The implications are far-reaching

Liel Leibovitz
January 17, 2014
Knesset Chamber. (PikiWiki)
Knesset Chamber. (PikiWiki)

Earlier this week, the Israeli parliament began the process to pass a law that bans illegitimate use of the word Nazi. What kind use is legitimate use? It’s hard to say, and even if it wasn’t, it’s still debatable whether the offense caused by calling someone a Nazi merits such a rampant violation of the freedom of speech. Israel’s own Attorney General feels strongly that it does not, as do many others, from Israeli legislators to former editors of the Scroll. But we here at Tablet are a peaceable bunch. Far be it from us to criticize. Instead, we offer, as a helpful public service, a partial list of changes that will go into effect with the new law:

• Israeli productions of The Sound of Music will no longer be permitted to have actors representing Nazis, as the new law bans all use of Nazi iconography as well. Instead, the von Trapps will heretoforth escape the clutches of Hassan Rouhani and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, of which Rolfe is a member.

• Similarly, all screenings of Raiders of the Lost Ark will be edited to comply with the new law. Rather than be chased by Gestapo agent Arnold Toht and his goons, Indiana Jones’s new nemeses will be American rabbis who do not meet the approval of Israel’s chief rabbinate.

• Dissemination of the popular Internet meme of Hitler reacting to everyday annoyances will no longer be permitted. Anyone wishing to manipulate a German-language Holocaust-related movie to make a lame joke about the banality of modern life will be required to use instead clips from the 2012 drama Hannah Arendt.

We’ll bring you updates as the implications of this law continue to grow clearer. Meanwhile, if you happen to be in Israel, take a cue from Basil Fawlty and don’t mention the war.

Liel Leibovitz is editor-at-large for Tablet Magazine and a host of its weekly culture podcast Unorthodox and daily Talmud podcast Take One. He is the editor of Zionism: The Tablet Guide.