The International Raelian Movement defended its display of a swastika over New Jersey beaches on Saturday, arguing it was trying to bring it back as a peaceful symbol rather than promote anti-Semitism, CBS news reported.
A small plane flying a banner imprinted with a swastika intertwined with the Star of David was sited above Long Beach over the weekend. The group claimed it was a part of Swastika Rehabilitation Day, an attempt to "re-educate" the public about the symbol's pre-Nazi roots.
"Why should the swastika, a symbol of peace for more than 1.5 billion people in the world, offend the people of Manhattan?" said Thomas Kaenzig, Swastika Rehabilitation Day coordinator, said in a press release on the Raelian official website.
President of the Jewish Community Center in Long Beach Island, New Jersey, Don Pripstein, told reporters he questioned the flyer's intentions.
In a response directed to Pripstein, the North American Raelian Movement director said they were trying to "negate - not forget the hate and fear carried out by Hitler and his followers."
"If the Jewish people would not hide in terror in the presence of this symbol but instead embrace it's true meaning, the world would stand in awe of this act of love," wrote Ricky Roehr. a spokesman for the North American Raelian Movement.
Pripstein said that publicly displaying the swastika is inappropriate regardless of the message the group was trying to send.
"The image of the swastika is still so ingrained in the Jewish people," Pripstein stated. "So many people have parents or grandparents who were affected by it. The image is so profound, a detestful thing ... it seems too soon."
The group believes that life on earth was scientifically created by a species of extraterrestrial beings.
The Raelians said they also flew the banner along the U.S. West Coast, Australia and handed out flyers on the streets of Tel Aviv, Israel and Karlsruhe, Germany, according to CBS news.
Kaenzig claimed the image did not ignite as much outrage in other parts of the world as it did on the East Coast.
"Obviously the Jewish community on the U.S. 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," he wrote.