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Australian state becomes first in country to ban display of swastikas

A state in Australia has passed legislation to specifically ban the display swastikas, after cases of nationalist and racist violent extremism increased by 750% over 18 months. Under Victoria's new law, people who intentionally exhibit the Nazi symbol could face a year in jail or a $22,000 fine, BBC News reports.

"Victoria has now become the first in Aus to ban the public display of the Nazi symbol, recognising its role in inciting antisemitism & hate," tweeted Victoria's Attorney-General and Minister for Emergency Services Jacyln Symes. "It's a proud moment to see these important laws pass - it sends the strongest possible message that this vile behaviour wont be tolerated."

"In our state, nobody has the right to spread racism, hate or antisemitism. Ever. That's why last night we passed legislation to ban the Nazi symbol. And now, it's the law," Premier Dan Andrews wrote on Twitter. 

Anti-Semitism increased around the world in 2021, according to the The Anti-Semitism Worldwide Report 2021, by the Center for the Study of Contemporary European Jewry. 

In Australia, 447 antisemitic incidents were recorded in 2021 – a 35% increase from 2020. Incidents of abuse and harassment, graffiti, and antisemitic stickers and posters also increased. May 2021 saw the most incidents, with 88 occurring during the Israel-Hamas conflict.

A survey of American media reports suggests 28 incidents of violent physical assaults against Jews took place in 2021, compared to 12 in 2020, according to the report.

All 50 states reported incidents, with a dramatic spike during Israel-Hamas conflict, according to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL). Attacks against synagogues and JCCs increased 61%.

While Victoria has anti-hate speech laws, they have been criticized for having "gaps," according to BBC News. In 2020, when a couple raised a swastika flag above their home, the local community began to push for tighter laws.

Under the new law, perpetrators will only be prosecuted if they deny a request to remove the symbol. It will come into effect in six months.

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