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Swiss parliament approves Nazi symbol display ban

The lower house of the Swiss parliament approved Wednesday a measure banning the use, wearing and display of extremist and Nazi-related symbols.

The lower house of Swiss parliament on Wednesday followed in the footsteps of the Senate, or upper house, in approving a measure that would ban the use of, public wearing or display of Nazi and racist symbols that could foment extremist hate or violence.

The proposal — years in the making — goes beyond a simple ban on Nazi memorabilia, which had failed in the past in parliament, to include other forms of extremist symbols that could stir hatred or violence. The National Council in the capital, Bern, in a 133-38 vote with 17 abstentions, passed.

Most political groups backed the measure and overcame opposition from the right-wing Swiss People’s Party, which has the most seats in the two chambers. The vote puts Switzerland on track to join other European countries that have enacted similar bans.


Efforts to push for tougher legislation have accelerated in recent months in the wake of a surge of antisemitic attacks across Europe and beyond that accompanied the start of the latest Israel-Hamas war in Gaza more than six months ago.

The war erupted after militant groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad attacked southern Israel on Oct. 7, killing 1,200 people in Israel and seizing 250 as hostages. Israel responded with an offensive in Gaza that has caused widespread devastation and killed over 33,800 people, according to local health officials.

"Today in Switzerland, it's possible — even permitted — to fly a flag with a swastika on the balcony. It's possible to fly a flag with the image of the ‘SS’ on the windshield of your car. It's possible to make a Hitler salute in the public space," said Green lawmaker Raphael Mahaim, in a debate preceding the vote.

He said that until Wednesday's vote, such actions were banned only if they were linked to sympathy for Nazi ideology — not whether they spread it or stir hatred.

"This situation is intolerable," he added.

However, Zurich lawmaker Barbara Steinemann of the Swiss People's Party disagreed. "Our society must be able to deal with the fact that there will always be a base of a few insignificant cranks," she said.

Steinemann further argued that the new law will do little to stop Jews from being afraid in an antisemitic climate. She alluded to the stabbing of a Jewish man early last month in Zurich, sending a chill through the Jewish community in Switzerland.

"Jews ... are taking their children out of schools, leaving Europe, because they no longer feel safe," said Steinemann.

"A ban on symbols will prevent no attacks, prevent no antisemitic attitudes, which are also rife at our universities and in intellectual environments," she added.

The measure will now head to the executive Federal Council for a finalized text that can be written into law by parliament.

Justice Minister Beat Jans said the seven-member council last week expressed support for the measure, and noted the need to fine-tune the legislation so that it's clear about which actions are allowed — and which are not — while also providing flexibility to make changes easily if needed.

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