Displays of Nazi imagery must end

By Shlomi Tabib, Ross Darrell Feingold  / 

Thu, Jan 24, 2019 - Page 8

In recent days, local media reported on the social media postings of an American in Taiwan, who photographed a store in Taipei’s Wanhua District (萬華) that displayed the Nazi swastika flag. This is the latest incident in Taiwan, of which there have been many in recent years, involving the use of the Nazi swastika or Adolf Hitler imagery, including in stores as decoration, in commercial advertising, costumes worn by young people at school or other social events, or in posters and advertisements as part of political activities.

Long-term observers of such incidents are aware that they have occurred for decades and often result in negative international media coverage for Taiwan.

When such incidents occur, the response we often receive from stakeholders, who include those making use of Nazi imagery, as well as government officials trying to respond to the negative publicity, is that no ill-will is intended, that as foreigners we do not understand aspects of Taiwanese culture or that there is nothing to apologize for.

A government official once told us that apologies for such incidents are only necessary to the governments of Israel and Germany, but not to Taiwan’s Jewish community.

On New Year’s Day, President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) said: “In our rapidly changing world, Taiwan’s best option is to persevere on the path of democracy, and work together with like-minded people around the globe.”

The high value that the people of Taiwan put on human rights and democracy has attracted worldwide attention, and the first step to protecting human rights is to respect others.

We thus hope that the Wanhua store owner who is presently displaying the Nazi flag can understand that even if no ill will is intended, their display of the Nazi flag is an extraordinarily disrespectful act toward the Jewish victims of the Nazis and toward human rights in general.

This message is even more important at a time when anti-Semitism is on the rise around the world, and religious freedom is under attack by repressive governments in Asia, Africa and the Middle East.

In recent years, Taiwan has worked hard to bring about transitional justice and unity across ethnic groups, and the nation is generally accepting of and open to different cultures and religions.

We, along with our members who are long-term residents of Taiwan and work to contribute to Taiwan’s prosperity, are thankful for this.

We hope that we can all respect our differences while working together to safeguard Taiwan’s democracy and freedoms.

To the government officials who pledge each time such incidents occur that there will be greater efforts to educate the public about the Holocaust and why the use of Nazi related imagery is inappropriate, we look forward to action and, as Jewish residents of Taiwan, are eager to assist.

Shlomi Tabib is the rabbi and Ross Darrell Feingold is the chairman of the Taipei Jewish Center.