A display of swastikas around the western world on June 23rd, triggered a mixture of reactions.
A display of swastikas around the western world on June 23rd, triggered a mixture of reactions. A majority of complaints came from the New York – New Jersey areas where a banner showing a swastika within a Raelian symbol was flown over Manhattan, the Jersey shore and Long Beach Island.
“Why should the swastika, a symbol of peace for more than 1.5 billion people in the world, offend the people of Manhattan?” declared Thomas Kaenzig, coordinator of the Swastika Rehabilitation Day in response to the complaints made by some members of the Jewish community.
“Should the Buddhists, the Hindus and the Raelians of the world hide their symbol because of crimes committed some 70 years ago by people who chose to use the swastika? If so, then should they not also be offended by the christian cross due to the execution of innocent people by the fanatical Christians during the Spanish inquisition, and the lynching of innocent people by the Ku Klux Klan? Should the atomic bomb victims of Hiroshima be offended by, and ban the American flag? The list of insanities associated with the use of symbols is long, but only the swastika has been banned.”
“Any negative emotions regarding the swastika by people under the age of 70 years old are obviously linked to their education and not to their experiences. It's about time people were re-educated to understand the original meaning of the oldest and most recurrent symbol in the world”
For the Raelians and the few other religious group members who organized the 3rd Swastika Rehabilitation Day on June 23rd it was a significant day to help reeducate the public so that they may no longer be offended by what they consider to be a peaceful symbol despite its recent misuse.
Interestingly the public in the streets of Tel Aviv in Israel were quite receptive to the flyers and display of the old swastikas. Many swastikas can be found in the old synagogues around the country and Jewish people in Israel are well aware that the swastika was a peaceful symbol used by the Jews as well, before being highjacked by the Nazis.
“Obviously the Jewish community on the US East-Coast doesn't have the same knowledge as those in Israel. The fact that the Jewish community in America found our banner outrageous shows that there is still plenty of work to be done here.”.
On the West Coast of the US and in Australia too, the flying banner didn't trigger any complaints to our knowledge. Those promoting the day on Venice Beach, California were welcomed by the local community who were well aware of the Buddhist meaning of the symbol.
In Europe, the large group present in the streets of Karlsruhe in Germany were not so welcome. The police clearly stated that no sign of any swastika should be shown at any time in the streets. Marcel Hoffman, the leader of the Raelian Movement in Germany decided to challenge this status and hold pictures of ancient swastikas that can be found in the country, predating the time of the Nazi era. The police decided to take him to court where he will hopefully have a chance to defend his point of view.
Despite the emotional reactions of some, at least some others were able to see the point of the swastika rehabilitation day. As one NY reader put it after reading a main-stream media article on the subject:
“I doubt they were flying the Nazi flag, as you have depicted. They were surely just flying a plain banner with a swastika on it, which — just as they say — was for thousands of years a symbol used universally, including by Jews. Some of the ancient shul mosaics in Eretz Yisroel have swastikas, and there were seforim printed with swastikas as a decorative motif. Until the Nazis used it it had no bad associations. So now for us it’s a painful reminder and we shun it, but if these people hold it dear we can’t really expect them to keep it in hiding just to spare our feelings. They want to expose it to sunlight and demystify it, so it will seem just as innocuous as it was before the War; I doubt it’s possible, but I can’t blame them for trying. After all, would we stop using a mogen dovid if the Japanese had used it as their symbol instead of the rising sun? “
“Excellent question, would the Jewish community accept that their symbol be banned if another group had highjacked it?” asked Kaenzig. “What would the Jewish community do if the Palestinians in the name of those who are killed today one day ask the International community to ban the symbol used by their torturers?”