The barbaric, cowardly acts of terrorism in two Christchurch mosques on 15 March caused such immense suffering that it will haunt those who survived and their families forever. In a live stream video, one of the first people to be killed greeted the approaching terrorist with the welcoming words “hello brother” before being mowed down. The grief brought the people of New Zealand together, cut across religious and cultural differences and affirmed recognition of our shared humanity.
From around the world, New Zealand heard the heartfelt expressions of sympathy and understanding. In the UK, among other MPs who addressed the Speaker of the House of Commons on 15 March, concerning the Christchurch mosque massacres, Labour MP, Mike Kane, spoke in agreement with the Speaker’s comment that members should “all stand shoulder to shoulder with the Government of New Zealand, the people of New Zealand and Muslims there, here and across the world.” In his address, Kane quoted the Jewish theologian Martin Buber (who advocated a bi-national Israeli-Palestinian state) as saying that it is the “duty of all of us, in every legislature across the planet, to reduce the space between people.”
Tragically, Islamophobia has thrived, with a growing confidence and hatefulness, fuelled by the wars on Muslim countries started by Bush and Blair. The singling-out of Muslim countries for attack has seen the inhabitants of those countries, especially refugees, demonised by propaganda. In an interview with the New Zealand Herald, Paul Buchanan, Director of 36th Parallel Assessments, said that ever since 9/11, New Zealand’s Intelligence and Security Services has been focussed on the “threat from Islamic extremism”. He said: “Right-wing extremists have been very visible, very vocal in Christchurch and have carried out attacks on minority communities regularly over the past decade or so.” The terrorist in Christchurch expressed belief in Donald Trump as “a symbol of renewed white identity and common purpose” and it is a fact that white supremacist terrorism already kills more Americans than any other ideologically-motivated violence.
It is equally unacceptable that Muslim worshippers in Palestine have to suffer constant harassment from the close ally of the US, Israel. Both the Israeli Army and Israel’s illegal Occupation settlers are guilty of crimes against humanity. A United Nations independent commission of inquiry has also found that “Israeli security forces committed serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law.” Santiago Canton, the head of the commission, stated: “These violations clearly warrant criminal investigation and prosecution.” The US actually voted against the commission’s formation and, to underline its opposition, withdrew from the UN body. Thanks to the silence, even encouragement, afforded by Western political leaders, led by Donald Trump, the Israeli Army is able to continue attacking UN Palestinian refugee camps in the West Bank and Gaza with total impunity.
In Jerusalem on six occasions until and including 18 March, Occupation settler militants, escorted by Israeli troops, invaded the Al-Aqsa Mosque Compound and molested worshippers. On 12 March, Israeli police invaded the mosque, assaulting and forcing out worshippers and security guards. Ten people were injured, including women and children: Amin al-Bassati (aged 10), Omar Al-Kiswani, Wasef Al-Bakri, Sheikh Omar al-Kiswani, Sheikh Wasif al-Bakri, Mufti Sheikh Muhammad Hussein, Shadi Matar, Nasser Qus, Hatem Gharabla and Khadija Khois. On Friday, 15 March, Israeli police again raided the Al-Aqsa Mosque and assaulted worshippers who had managed to gain access to the Bab Al-Rahma area, and place a Palestinian flag. On 16 March, armed Israeli settler terrorists opened fire on West Bank Far’ata village farmland, in order to drive away the farmers.
At a weekly cabinet meeting on 17 March, the Israeli Prime Minister, Netanyahu, said . . .
“I would like to clarify a point that, apparently, is not clear to slightly confused people in the Israeli public. Israel is a Jewish, democratic state. What this means is that it is the nation-state of the Jewish people alone . . . ”
He then attempted to soften the tone by claiming that: “Of course it respects the individual rights of all its citizens – Jews and non-Jews alike.”
However, and unsurprisingly, he then swiftly reverted to his original discriminatory vision by saying: “But it is the nation-state, not of all its citizens, but only of the Jewish people.”
To drive that message home, Netanyahu went on to claim that while non-Jews in Israel have “national representation” in other states,
“The national representation of the Jewish people is in the State of Israel. Israel is the nation-state of the Jewish people and of it alone.”
See also in Haaretz “Israel is the nation-state of the Jews alone.”
Discrimination such as this, promulgated as it is by the leader of a state that is such a close ally of the United States, is a welcome dream-come-true to racists world wide. Today, the alt-right in Europe is looking to Israel for an ally and Netanyahu is welcoming that. News media as disparate as the New York Times and Aljazeera have recognised that reality. Netanyahu’s frequent visits to Central Europe have resulted in the Czech Republic, Hungary and Romania recently blocking a European Union statement criticising the United States plan to move its embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Netanyahu has called Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban a “true friend of Israel”, even though the frequently re-elected leader has long praised Miklos Horthy, Hungary’s World War Two leader who had collaborated with the Nazis.
New York Times, commentator Ivan Krastev, writes that “Zionism in many respects was the mirror image of the nationalistic — and often anti-Semitic — politics that dominated Central and Eastern Europe between the two world wars. What attracts Eastern European populists to Israel today is their old dream realised: Israel is a democracy, but an ethnic democracy; it defines itself as the state for Jews in the same way East Europeans imagine their countries as a state for Poles, Hungarians or Slovaks.” He notes further: “Then there’s demographics. Central and Eastern Europeans see Israel as the only Western society that is winning the population war by reversing the trend of demographic decline.”
In an audio recording obtained by Reuters, Netanyahu expressed anger with the EU for daring to shame Israel over its appalling abuses of human rights. The EU’s decision to label illegal settlement products and keep its embassies in Tel Aviv, is just one driver causing Israel to seek new allies. Israel’s leaders believe that Europe will move to the far-right and are encouraged by the anti-Muslim hatred it engenders.
The settling of European, imperialist-oriented Zionism in Palestine has a long history of racist human rights violations that shows no sign of let up. Just as Zionism depended upon the support of the great powers in order to colonise Palestine, so now it looks upon right-wing allies and leaders such as Donald Trump to afford it the impunity it demands. The failure of the West to require Israel to observe international law and end its terrorism, aided and abetted by mainstream news media silence, has enabled over half a century of cruel, racist injustice to prevail.
Since expressing her profoundly-felt grief over the unprecedented terror attack on innocent Muslims in Christchurch, Jacinda Ardern should also now be taking steps to disassociate this country from the foreign policy of our ‘traditional allies’ that is so dividing our world. A recent New York Times report shows that in the US “domestic counter-terrorism strategy ignored the rising danger of far-right extremism.” So also in New Zealand – as we have now sadly discovered – the right-wing myths that rule policy have betrayed us – all of us.
Ideologically-driven human rights violations committed by state agencies, as well as by fanatical individuals, are tragically on the increase. Sadly, the West prefers to ignore the evil it has helped to create, staying silent and keeping it under wraps. The powers that be require us to look in other directions. To its credit, The New York Times has investigated some aspects of what it describes as this “atmosphere of willful indifference” that has been directed from above. New Zealand should voice its independence. Paul Buchanan’s observations on the presumptions of the New Zealand’s Intelligence and Security Services should serve to alert the Government into re-examining our foreign policy commitments.
If there is any solace to be found following the atrocities in Christchurch, it is in the loving expressions of shared humanity that followed them. With that outpouring of grief and understanding, racism was defeated, its hateful message repudiated – not in our name! That will ring around the world. The future of humanity on this fragile planet depends upon the recognition of our oneness in diversity. Firm and uncompromising support for the UN in strengthening respect for, and observance of, international humanitarian law has become desperately urgent. Never surrender our independence.