A new "Nazi salute" is sweeping Europe, and the world stands still. The neo-Nazi gesture is spreading rapidly among anti-Semites in Europe. In the past few couple of months, it gained popularity when hundreds of Europeans posted online pictures of themselves performing the new salute.
It is not like the original "Heil" we all know, but rather a modern take on it: this new gesture has the right hand and its fingers are stretched downwards along the body, while the left hand lies on the opposite shoulder. The people shown in those pictures online don't look like the stereotype neo-Nazis either. They are not skinheads with tattoos and scary expression on their faces, but normal- looking people, young and old, men and women, and even soldiers, police officers and other officials. Many of the pictures were taken at sensitive sites such as in the Auschwitz concentration camp, the Anne Frank House and the Western Wall. Some of the people performing the salute used the innocence of unaware Israelis, IDF soldiers included, and photographed themselves with them.
The reason the new "Heil" was created was to able neo-Nazis to fly under the radar of strict laws forbidding the "classic" salute. The problem is that the technical legality of the new salute actually allows those people to go unpunished and furthermore, spread their hate.
The technicality of the gesture is what's preventing this frightening phenomenon from vanishing. How is that even possible? How come the movement of the hands is what defines something as a hate-speech? It will now take weeks if not months for electors all over Europe to discuss the consequences and change the law, so it will include this new take on the original "Heil." In the meantime, this bureaucracy will allow more and more neo-Nazis to step out of the shadows, recognize one another and communicate.
The size of this group is still unknown, to us and to them. There could be thousands of neo-Nazis worldwide living in our midst, or there could be millions of them. The question is if decision makers in Europe will take an action or wait for the possibly destructive consequences. Decision makers must bend the rules and step out of the box this time. Although two French soldiers were punished after getting caught using the new salute, most of those people still walk freely and their pictures are still shown on mainstream websites and social networks.
This unsettling situation cannot last. Neo-Nazis from all around the world cannot be allowed to gather because of a technicality. This growing shadow threatening Jews everywhere cannot go unnoticed. Decision makers in and outside of Europe cannot raise their hands in pretend helplessness. We, as members of the Jewish community, must stay alert and not look the other way and wait for the storm to pass. We must raise our voices, raise awareness and call for action. History cannot repeat itself.