The New Zealand Jewish Council has criticised civic and political leaders’ failure to condemn anti-Semitic rhetoric at pro-Palestine protests, saying it leaves the minority community feeling “isolated and vulnerable”.
It comes a week after a statue of former Mayor of Auckland Sir Dove-Myer Robinson, who had Jewish heritage, was vandalised with a swastika after a rally for a ceasefire in the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas and several Israeli-linked buildings have been vandalised.
“The painting of a swastika on the statue of Jewish former mayor of Auckland Sir Dove-Myer Robinson, and the failure of civic and political leaders to speak out against it, add to our community’s feeling of isolation and vulnerability,” president of the New Zealand Jewish Council (NZJC) Juliet Moses said.
Juliet Moses, president of the New Zealand Jewish Council. Photo / Dean Purcell
Moses said there was no place in New Zealand for the threats, assaults, school bullying, graffiti, property damage, and the “open anti-Jewish antagonism in social media and inflammatory public rhetoric which are threatening to our community” and harmful to the country’s social cohesion.
“As representatives of a small faith and ethnic minority community present in Aotearoa New Zealand for over 180 years, the NZJC calls on this country’s leaders in all fields to make strong statements against the total unacceptability of antisemitism within our motu.”
Moses also called on leaders of other faiths, specifically in the Muslim community, to show solidarity against bigotry and noted how the Jewish community stood with New Zealand’s Muslim community after the Christchurch terror attack.
“We would welcome open support from faith leaders like the statement signed by 15 leading Muslim figures in Britain,” Moses said.
Although Moses said she supports “the principle of free speech”, she did not feel it was being used “lawfully and responsibly” at pro-Palestine protests around New Zealand.
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“The cry ‘Globalise the intifada’ heard at a recent Auckland rally threatens our community,” Moses said.
Intifada is an Arabic term used to describe an uprising and has been associated with historical armed Palestinian opposition to Israel in Gaza and the West Bank.
At a pro-Palestine rally in Auckland’s Aotea Square video showed chants of, “Rise up! Globalise the intifada”.
A statue of former Auckland Mayor Sir Dove-Myer Robinson in Aotea Square was vandalised with a swastika and 'free Palestine' after a ceasefire rally on Sunday, November 12
The statue of Sir Dove-Myer, which features prominently in Aotea Square, was defaced with a swastika on the chest and the words “free Palestine” on its plinth at or after a rally earlier month.
Other trouble arose from the same demonstration, including a man hitting a young boy over the head with a shovel as crowds dispersed and a scuffle to stop him.
Police have charged a 30-year-old man over the assault but said it was not politically motivated and the man had been subject to mental health supervision.
Police arrested a total of three people at the demonstration on November 12.
Two more demonstrations in Auckland and Wellington, which drew thousands of people once again, had no arrests or reports of incidents.
The US Consulate in the Auckland CBD was splashed with red paint early on November 14 by a group called Tāmaki for Palestine. Photo / Michael Craig
A Jewish-linked property was targeted four days earlier when a fence of a building registered as the Consulate of Israel in Epsom was hit with an arson attack and sprayed with pro-Palestinian graffiti.
The fence outside Premier House in Wellington has also been tagged with pro-Palestine slogans, including the misspelled phrase “Fre Gaza” and “stop the genocide”.
A person was arrested after red paint was splashed across the United States Consulate and New Zealand’s foreign affairs building in the Auckland CBD by a group of pro-Palestine protesters. The group Tāmaki for Palestine said the paint represents the blood of Palestinians killed by Israeli military forces.
Red liquid, resembling blood, was also used to deface the Israeli Embassy in Wellington this morning.
Pro-Palestine protesters had earlier used red and green cellophane to light up Auckland Museum in the colours of the Palestinian flag, with around 100 people attending the protest.
The museum had earlier lit up in the colours of the Israeli flag, which drew dozens of pro-Palestine supporters who “blacked out” the building’s lights, before forcing management to later apologise.
The fence outside the Jewish owned property was sprayed with pro-Palestine slogans. Photo / Jason Oxenham
Yesterday, Labour Party leader Chris Hipkins called for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, bending convention to speak in his role as Labour leader rather than caretaker Prime Minister. National accused Labour of playing politics over the conflict.
Hipkins is caretaker Prime Minister while the new Government is being formed, but his latitude to act and speak in that role is limited because he must consult with members of the incoming Government.
On Friday, the caretaker Government had talked with National about calling for a ceasefire. However, National did not agree and Hipkins decided to go it alone and call for a ceasefire as Labour leader, rather than Prime Minister of the caretaker Government.
“I want to acknowledge that this is an unusual period for New Zealand. While we wait for a government to be formed, we will continue to uphold the caretaker convention and as Prime Minister, I will work within what can be agreed with the incoming government,” Hipkins said.
“However I speak today as the Labour Leader. I, and the Labour Party, cannot stand by any longer in the face of the horrific scenes we are witnessing without calling for a ceasefire.”
Luxon today called the move “unhelpful”.
“I have to say, up until this point, I think the relationship between the incoming and the outgoing government has been very constructive and in New Zealand’s broader interests,” he said.
“We would all love to see hostilities cease in the Middle East, all New Zealanders are horrified by the images that we’re seeing on our TVs, but the reality is you need the conditions for a ceasefire to be there and that requires that you need both parties wanting to progress a ceasefire.”
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