Did you know that yesterday was the last day of “International Swastika Rehabilitation Week”? It was — at least according to an organization called the International Raelian Movement, whose members believe that the symbol was brought to Earth millions of years ago on a spaceship, along with some other stuff. To celebrate, the Raelians paid $2000 to have a plane to fly a banner featuring a swastika superimposed over a Star of David, an equation suggesting that a swastika means peace and love, and their website’s address over Brighton Beach, Coney Island, and the Rockaways on Saturday afternoon. While any reasonable person would be unlikely to appreciate the sign, it was particularly awful because the neighborhoods where it was spotted is home to a significant number of WWII and Holocaust survivors.
Unsurprisingly, people found it offensive and, as the 14-year-old relative of Holocaust survivors described it to the Post, “horrific.” City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito confirmed that the flying of the banner was “an outrageous and hurtful act,” while the area’s city councilman, Mark Treyger, proclaimed, “There is no place for this in New York City.”
The Raelians disagree: “By keeping the negative connotation of the swastika and linking it to Hitler, you only give credit to this guy’s monstrosity,” spokesman Thomas Kaenzig told the Post. While it’s true that the swastika had a long, inoffensive existence before it was adopted by the Nazis, its association with the genocidal instigators of a conflict that led to the deaths of 60 million people has obviously rendered it unusable by anyone else. But Kaenzig is determined to stick with it, as he explained to NBC New York: “As long as there are people still offended by it, it means we need to continue our work, we need to continue to rehabilitate the symbol.” So — even if you believe that the IRM’s swastika project isn’t intended to be anti-Semitic — it looks like these people are going to be stuck ruining beach days until the end of human history.