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Australia bans Nazi salute, swastika, other hate symbols in public as antisemitism spikes

Bomb threats at temples, Jewish institutions
Bomb threats at several synagogues, Jewish institutions over weekend 03:59

Australian lawmakers have banned the performance of the Nazi salute in public and outlawed the display or sale of Nazi hate symbols such as the swastika in landmark legislation that went into effect in the country Monday. The new laws also make the act of glorifying OR praising acts of terrorism a criminal offense. 

The crime of publicly performing the Nazi salute or displaying the Nazi swastika is punishable by up to 12 months in prison, according to the Reuters news agency. 

Mark Dreyfus, Australia's Attorney-General, said in a press release Monday that the laws — the first of their kind in the country — sent "a clear message: there is no place in Australia for acts and symbols that glorify the horrors of the Holocaust and terrorist acts."

"No one in Australia will be allowed to glorify or profit from acts and symbols that celebrate the Nazis and their evil ideology," the press release said.

The landmark new laws were introduced as Australia tries to get to grips with a spike in antisemitism in the country as the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza rages.

Members of the National Socialist Network perform Nazi salutes during a protest rally in Melbourne on June 4, 2023. MARTIN KEEP/AFP/Getty

Preliminary data released by the Executive Council of Australian Jewry showed a rise in antisemitic incidents in the wake of the bloody Oct. 7 terror attack on southern Israel by Hamas militants, which the Israeli government says left more than 1,400 people dead. Israel launched an immediate war on Hamas in response, which health officials in the Hamas-run Gaza Strip say has killed nearly 23,000 people. 

Data released in December showed a total of 662 antisemitic incidents were reported during October and November 2023 in Australia. 

"By comparison, there were 495 anti-Jewish incidents reported in Australia for the entire 12 months to 30 September 2023," the council said. 

In October, unverified video went viral online showing a small group of people appearing to chant antisemitic slogans at a pro-Palestinian demonstration outside the Sydney Opera House. A video posted on social media on Oct. 8 by the conservative Australian Jewish Association group purportedly showed protesters launching flares and chanting "Gas the Jews" and other antisemitic refrains. 

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese condemned the reports of the chants as "horrific" and "appealing" at the time of the incident.

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