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Hate-speech claim raises serious questions

Hate-speech claim raises serious questions

Leslie Bravery | Palestine Human Rights Campaign Aotearoa New Zealand | 3 February 2017

On 27 January this year, the NZ Holocaust Centre issued a Press Release on the occasion of International Holocaust Remembrance Day. Referring to the recent targeting of minorities in the US and other Western countries, the statement included the following remark from a speaker at the Wellington commemoration:

"Sadly we are not immune in New Zealand. There was a rapid rise in hate speech against the Jewish community following the Government’s support of the United Nations Resolution on Israel."

This shocking news seemed to suggest that the New Zealand Government's support for Security Council Resolution 2334 had in some way encouraged or instigated hate speech.

Because we could find no instances of the hate speech referred to in their Press Release, we emailed the NZ Holocaust Centre asking them to send us examples of the hate speech theyreferred to, along with the identities of the perpetrators. Hate speech must always be challenged, never ignored.

The Holocaust Centre replied to us on 30 January in an email that read in full:

“Whilst the Holocaust Centre agrees with the Race Relations Commissioner that hate speech must be combated vigorously, the further circulation of such material will not be coming from this office.“

On the same day we responded:

Thank you for your prompt reply. Could you please explain the reasons for the Holocaust Centre's unwillingness to reveal the particulars of the hate speech against the Jewish Community that you reported in your Press Release?

We then asked the Holocaust Centre how we might obtain examples of the hate speech they had drawn attention to in order that we might unite a wider cross section of the community that would be prepared to act against it.

So far, we ourselves have been unable to find any examples of hate speech that had been prompted by the Government's support for UNSC Resolution 2334. We also asked the Holocaust Centre to let us know its policy on how to counter hate speech.

To date, we have received no response to these requests.

Addressing the people attending the Wellington event, Race Relations Commissioner Dame Susan Devoy, said: “All of us are responsible to ensure we live in a country where this hatred is never normalised.” Hate speech is an extremely serious matter and, when action by the New Zealand Government in support of international law is associated with “a rapid rise in hate speech against the Jewish community”, the matter must be cleared up.

Either there was indeed a rapid rise in hate speech against the Jewish community following the Government’s support of the United Nations Resolution on Israel or, as no evidence for it is forthcoming, there was not.

If the hate speech is indeed a reality, those who perpetrated it must be exposed and brought to account, not sheltered. If, on the other hand, it was an invention used in an attempt to discredit the Government's action at the Security Council, it is not only scandalous, it belittles the victims of the Holocaust.

Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu is on record, threatening to exact a “diplomatic and economic price” from countries who acted against Israel's interests and he reportedly warned Murray McCully that New Zealand support for UN Resolution 2334, condemning Israeli settlement-building in the Occupied territories, would be viewed as a “declaration of war”.

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