by Sanjay Suri
(IPS) LONDON -- The European Parliament passed a unanimous resolution urging a Europe-wide ban on incitement to racial and religious hatred. That specifically could include a ban on the swastika, the symbol adopted by the Nazis.
The European Parliament resolution was passed Jan. 27 to mark 60 years of the liberation of the Nazi Auschwitz camp in Poland where 1.5 million people including more than a million Jews are said to have been killed during World War II.
The resolution was given an unexpected edge by 20-year-old Prince Harry of Britain, third in line of succession to the British throne, when he wore a prominent swastika on his sleeve to a fancy dress party.
But while the memorial service has drawn attention to the Holocaust, and the prince's party to the swastika associated with it, the debate masks the more recent association of the swastika with racist killings in today's Europe.
The historical focus masks also questions whether Prince Harry was ignorant only of history or remains ignorant also about what goes on in his country today. It raises also the question whether his royal young highness was simply ignorant, or worse.
"When members of the far-right British National Party have been arrested in criminal cases they were always found to have Nazi memorabilia," Weyman Bennett, national organizer for the Anti Nazi League in Britain, told IPS.
Bennett earlier called the British National Party (BNP) "brutes in suits." He said "we're going to take off their suits and reveal the swastika underneath."
The swastika has marked several racist killings. Nineteen-year-old Zahid Mubarek was battered to death with a table leg by cellmate Robert Stewart in prison in March 2000. Stewart was found to have written racist letters and produced racist graffiti, which included the swastika.
David Copeland, the notorious nail bomber whose bombs killed three people and injured 139 a year earlier, was a member of a group calling itself the Nazi National Socialist Movement. He planted bombs in Brixton, a largely black area, in Brick Lane, a Bangladeshi area, and at a gay club in central London.
Police found a huge swastika on the wall of his apartment when they moved in to arrest him.
The far right has now adopted the swastika as its symbol. Colin Smith from the BNP was revealed to have multiple convictions, including possession of a weapon and possession of a controlled drug. He was a former member of the British Movement, an openly Nazi group before he joined the BNP in the early 1990s.
He was photographed in 1981 wearing a jacket at a British Movement rally with a swastika armband. The linkage of the swastika with the far right in Britain has surfaced frequently.
Prince Harry has shared more than the swastika with violent elements of the far right; he has shared the violence too.
He was recently accused of hitting a photographer at a London nightclub. The Crown Prosecution Service considered no more than cautioning the prince, but finally decided against it.
In 2002, his father Prince Charles ordered him to attend a drug rehabilitation center after the young prince was found to have been smoking cannabis and engaging in heavy drinking sessions.
Ignorance is about the best possible scenario anyone can now paint for the prince. Because he could otherwise either be expressing sympathy with the Nazis, sympathy several British royals, including the Duke of Windsor before World War II, have had a history of exhibiting, or his swastika could be seen as an endorsement of the far right that has not stopped short of murder.
"You have had the swastika painted over at Muslim cemeteries at places like Leeds (in north England)," Bennett told IPS. "It has become the symbol of the far right, racist elements and organizations that support them," Bennett said.
"It is a symbol of a past and present that meet today, and it is very important to stop them (groups using this symbol) from becoming a mass organization."
EU commissioner for justice and home affairs Franco Frattini who has led calls for an EU-wide ban on Nazi symbols received a threatening letter posted from Britain Thursday. "Political pygmies like you won't conquer national socialism," the letter said. It was accompanied by a large swastika.
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