When the Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced New Zealand delegates to the IHRA (International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance) earlier this month it was surprising to see all five New Zealand based delegates were approved by the New Zealand Jewish Council which appears to be the only community group consulted in the selection.
There is no disagreement the Jewish Council should have been consulted. After all it was European Jews who were the primary victims of the Holocaust in Nazi Germany in the 1930s and 1940s when six million were mass murdered in the single greatest genocide in human history.
However it’s vitally important that the Holocaust be seen as more than a Jewish issue. It’s an issue for all humanity; we are all degraded by appalling human behaviour towards any group based on race, religion, culture etc. We must all take responsibility which is why a broader range of New Zealanders should be involved as delegates to the IHRA.
If we truly believe “never again” then we need a plan and programme to ensure this is embedded across our country and through the international human community.
A related concern is that as far as I can tell, all the NZ Jewish Council approved nominees support the Council’s backing for the hugely controversial IHRA definition of anti-semitism – a definition designed more to protect Israel from criticism than to deal with anti-semitism.
According to the New Zealand Jewish Council’s interpretation of the IHRA definition of anti-semitism it is anti-Semitic to call Israel an apartheid state (despite all major international human rights groups agreeing it is!) or to call for sanctions against Israel for its abuses of Palestinian human rights (Just as we called for sanctions against South Africa for its apartheid policies against black South Africans)
The New Zealand Jewish Council used this controversial definition of anti-semitism in their deeply flawed report on anti-semitism released earlier this year.
To use a contemporary description – the IHRA definition of anti-semitism is weaponising the Holocaust against the Palestinian struggle for human rights in Aotearoa New Zealand and around the world.
This is not new. Activists advocating for Palestinian human rights have always faced false smears of anti-Semitism from the pro-Israel lobby – in fact this is the only defence Israel has to its racist, apartheid policies and dehumanising, degrading treatment of the indigenous people of Palestine.
The pro-Israel lobby doesn’t want the world to hold Israel to account as we held South Africa to account for its apartheid system against black South Africans. We must insist in the same human rights for everyone- including Palestinians – and the same accountabilities for any country pursuing apartheid policies.
It is precisely because we have not held Israel to account that the Palestinian struggle against racism and colonisation has gone on so long at such enormous cost to the lives and well-being of millions of Palestinians.
The New Zealand government has taken up “observer status” at the IHRA but has not endorsed the IHRA definition of anti-semitism. However we can be sure that before the end of their one-year appointments this group of pro-Israel delegates selected to represent us at the IHRA will recommend Aotearoa New Zealand adopt the IHRA’s bogus definition of anti-semitism – something we must reject outright.
The New Zealand Jewish Council revealed a dark streak of racism when they said there was no problem with one of their members saying “there will only be peace in the Middle East when Arabs love their children more than they hate us (Jews)”
To see just how awful this anti-Arab, anti-Palestinian racism is, reverse the ethnicities then read it again. Anyone who said the same thing about Jews loving their children less than their hatred for Arabs would be, quite rightly, pilloried by all of us as anti-semitic. But somehow this is lost on the pro-Israel lobby which seems to have found ways to “normalise” their racism against Palestinians.
They have always put Palestinian human rights second to Israel’s ongoing theft of Palestinian land and the sheer brutality Israel dishes out to anyone resisting its racist policies.
Meanwhile the Holocaust is far too important to be marginalised as primarily an issue for Jews alone and certainly shouldn’t be left in the hands of a group of hardline pro-Israel lobbyists and Christian Zionists.
Aotearoa New Zealand should adopt the Jerusalem Declaration on Anti-Semitism and insist on Holocaust education in every school in the country as part of a comprehensive anti-racism education programme. Broadly based human solidarity is always the best defence against race hatred and the best way we can ensure “never again”.