During the “Great March of Return” protests in Gaza, beginning in March 2018, Israel’s brutality towards unarmed Palestinian protestors reached new levels of savagery.
From March 2018 to 31 December 2018 a United Nations Independent Commission of Inquiry found Israeli snipers injured 6,106 Palestinians with live ammunition while another 3,098 Palestinians were injured by bullet fragmentation, rubber-coated metal bullets or by hits from tear gas canisters.
In total 189 Palestinians were slaughtered during the demonstrations with 183 of these killed by live ammunition. Thirty five of these fatalities were children while three were clearly marked paramedics, and two were clearly marked journalists.
Meanwhile four Israeli soldiers were injured at the demonstrations.
The Commission noted the Israeli claim that the protests by the separation fence masked “terror activities” by Palestinian armed groups. However, the Commission found that the demonstrations were civilian in nature, with clearly stated political aims. Despite some acts of significant violence, the Commission found that the demonstrations did not constitute combat or military campaigns.
When confronted with this sickening brutality during a debate at Auckland University in 2019 the Spokesperson for the Israel Institute, Dr David Cumin, sought to blame the victims and said Palestinians engaged in –
“…violent riots on the border with Israel to which they bring children to use as human shields. The quote of Israel’s first woman Prime Minister sums the situation up beautifully. Golda Meir said: “there can only be peace when the Arabs start to love their children more than they hate us” ”
Suggesting Palestinians use their children as human shields and that Arabs hate Jews more than they love their own children is appalling and deplorable racism. Dr Cumin’s remarks are a particularly vile statement of anti-Palestinian racism and a repugnant slur on all Arabs.
Imagine for a moment if we reverse the ethnicities. If anyone made a similar statement that “Jews use their children as human shields and that we will only have peace in the Middle East when Jews start to love their children more than they hate Palestinians” it would be roundly condemned as deeply racist and anti-semitic. The same would apply if these comments were made about Maori, Pasifika or any ethnic group.
The Palestinian and Arab communities in New Zealand are small and vulnerable. This was graphically and savagely exposed in the March 2019 terrorist massacres in Christchurch. Six of the 51 people slain were Palestinian and many more were from Arab countries.
Dr Cumin comments about Palestinians and Arabs would fit in readily with the commentary on the racist, white-supremacist websites accessed by the Christchurch killer. And yet just six months after the Christchurch shootings Dr Cumin was fuelling anti-Palestinian and anti-Arab racism in the most revolting manner.
As well as being a spokesperson for the Israel Institute, Dr Cumin is also a member of the New Zealand Jewish Council, so we wrote to the New Zealand Jewish Council spokesperson Juliet Moses and requested the Council investigate our complaint of anti-Palestinian and anti-Arab racism and take action against Dr Cumin.
In response Juliet Moses sent an email saying –
Dear Mr Minto
We refer to your email of 14 October. The NZ Jewish Council considers your complaint to have no validity. We will not enter into any further correspondence about it.
Juliet Moses has failed to respond to a follow up letter pointing out this is a cowardly refusal to face blatant racism from a council member. By defending such despicable racism Juliet Moses has brought the New Zealand Jewish Council into disrepute.
Dr Cumin and Juliet Moses have had plenty of time to reflect on Dr Cumin’s comments. Dr Cumin should have been required to withdraw them and apologise unreservedly. He hasn’t. And to have the New Zealand Jewish Council defend Dr Cumin’s racism is shocking and unacceptable.
Juliet Moses and Dr David Cumin spend a great deal of time spreading false smears of anti-semitism against those, such as myself, who call for sanctions against Israel until Israel abides by international law and United Nations resolutions. They have construed similar smears against other Palestinian solidarity activists and organisations, members of parliament, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and a host of other groups and individuals. They use bullying and public shaming as weapons to deflect criticism of Israel’s racist apartheid policies towards Palestinians.
In their desperation to defend Israel, they are actively pressuring government ministers, members of parliament, newspaper editors, editorial staff, editors of blogs and public officials of all sorts and using the threat of the label “anti-semitic” to encourage these groups to “self-censor” in their criticism of Israel.
Hostility, hatred or discrimination against Jews must always be condemned. Like any kind of racism it is a cancer in our community and the answer to all racism is community solidarity – when the community closes ranks around a vulnerable group and squeezes racism to the margins. I attended a protest in Auckland some years back (organised by Socialist Aotearoa) against the spray painting of swastikas on graves in the Jewish cemetery on Symonds Street. It was moving afterwards to be approached by several people from the Jewish community I didn’t know, to thank myself and others for our public expressions of solidarity and support. Our attendance meant a lot to them and it drove home to me how important it is to make a public stand with vulnerable communities when they come under attack.
There is an important fight to be had against racism in Aotearoa in all its forms, white supremacy, Islamophobia, racism against Maori and Pacific Islanders, Palestinians, Arabs and Jews etc.
However, by failing to speak out against Dr Cumin the New Zealand Jewish Council has made itself part of the problem rather than part of the solution. There is no credibility for an organisation which condemns anti-semitism on the one hand and then practices and defends anti-Palestinian and anti-Arab racism on the other. Giving comfort to white supremacists is not the role of any credible New Zealand organisation.
Juliet Moses and Dr David Cumin should be required to resign from the New Zealand Jewish Council.