Jewish groups in ten countries join Germans and New Zealanders to protest the suppression of Palestinians’ right to public expression.

For Immediate Release:  Jewish groups in ten countries join Germans and New Zealanders to protest the suppression of Palestinians’ right to public expression.

Date May 27, 2022

Jewish groups in Germany and New Zealand protested alongside Palestinians when mayors of Berlin and Wellington banned pro-Palestinian demonstrations.

Justice for Palestine staged a guerilla projection in defiance of the Wellington ban. Photo supplied by J4P

May 15 marked the 74th anniversary of the Nakba (Israel’s expulsion of 750,000 Palestinians from their lands and homes). Public events took place throughout the world – almost. The capital cities of Germany and New Zealand suppressed the democratic rights of Palestinian citizens and their neighbours to peaceful public expression. The Berlin Senate banned all pro-Palestinian gatherings and the mayor of Wellington revoked the city’s approval to display the national colours of Palestine.

In Berlin, the Senate, headed by Mayor Franziska Giffey, used the example of a demonstration in April that had seen anti-Semitic behaviour by a small number of individuals to argue that there was a concrete danger of hate crimes, conjuring the spectre of mass rampages targeting Jewish citizens. This pretext was used to cancel long-approved demonstrations and prevent any others relating to the Nakba or Palestinian issues in general, such as the shooting of the Palestinian journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, for whom a Jewish group tried to hold a vigil. The police enforced the ban so zealously that even a spontaneous gathering with Palestinian symbols was broken up violently and participants were arrested.

In Wellington, Mayor Andy Foster forbade the (already approved) projection of Palestinian national colours on a public building after New Zealand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFAT) warned that “displaying the Palestinian colours could result in complaints from the Israeli ambassador and other Israeli groups.” MFAT has not thus far named the ‘Israeli groups’ whose feelings take precedence over Wellingtonians’ legal right to peaceful expression.

From our ten countries we, member groups of the International Jewish Collective for Justice in Palestine, angrily object to the suppression of Palestinians’ rights to individual expression, peaceful public protest and national memory. These 74 years of ongoing Nakba, and the exceptional brutality of the days preceding Nakba Day, both merit public protest. If no one protests, nothing will change.

Mayor Giffey and Mayor Foster, look at the pictures of Israeli police beating, kicking Palestinian mourners. Read the eye-witness testimonies that Palestinian journalist Shireen Abu Akleh was targeted and killed by a bullet fired from the direction of Israeli occupation forces. Do not neglect the story of 16-year-old Thaer Khalil Mohammed Maslat, killed by the Israeli army on the same day. He was the tenth Palestinian child to be killed by Israeli occupation forces this year.

Then please explain why you responded to Israel’s violence by limiting the civil rights of Palestinian citizens in your cities.

Would you ban Jewish commemoration of our historic days? Would you prevent Jews from gathering to mourn the killing of a prominent Jewish person? We think not.

That which you would not do to us, do not do to our Palestinian neighbours. Our rights as citizens are, and must remain, equal.

Signed by these member groups of the International Jewish Collective for Justice in Palestine:

Jewish Voice for Peace – USA

Jewish Voice for Labour – UK

Boycott from Within (Israeli citizens for BDS) – Israel

French Jewish Peace Union (UJFP) – France

Alternative Jewish Voices – Aotearoa New Zealand

Jewish Network for Palestine (JNP) – UK

South African Jews for a Free Palestine SAJFP – South Africa

Independent Jewish Voices – Canada

Jewish Voice for a Just Peace in the Middle East – Germany

Jews Say No! – US

Jews against the Occupation – Australia

Jewish Voice for Just Peace – Ireland

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For enquiries, please contact

Int’l Jewish Collective for Justice in Palestine: globaljewishcollective@gmail.com

Alternative Jewish Voices Aotearoa NZ: https://.ajv.org.nz  shma.koleinu@gmail.com

Jewish Voice for a Just Peace in the Middle East (Germany)

mail@juedische-stimme.de

Silencing Palestine and Stereotyping Jews

Justice for Palestine showing the colours at Te Papa Museum. Image by Kevin Stunt, Stuff

When Marilyn Garson’s memoir of working in Gaza was published, Radio NZ scheduled an interview. On the day of the interview, RNZ first promoted and then cancelled it. In response to her OIA request, RNZ disclosed this internal email.

It reads in full, “Hi guys, given the huge flood of formal complaints we get any time we do a Palestine story without Israeli balance, Either we have to drop it or set up another interview – which you would have to mention before and after tonights one.”

We hear about Israel casually, without always hearing from Palestine before and after. But we are not allowed to hear a first-person story of Gaza unless it is bookended by something, anything, from Israel. That’s not journalistic balance, that’s a one-way concession to the possible inconvenience of complaint.

On Sunday May 15, Nakba Day, Wellington Mayor Andy Foster was advised by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) to disallow an already-approved display of Palestinian colours on a public building. Although the same building had recently displayed Ukrainian colours without evident concern for the Russian ambassador’s feelings, MFAT advised that “displaying the Palestinian colours could result in complaints from the Israeli ambassador and other Israeli groups.” The Mayor shut it down – leaving Justice for Palestine to get the job done on the following evening.

Again, Palestinian expression was forbidden because someone might complain. Forget the validity of the complaints – there were none to evaluate. The mere prospect of Palestinian stories or the display of a Palestinian flag was problematised in advance.

When the right to be Palestinian in public is made contingent, policy has become racially intolerant. We share this space and we are prevented from enjoying it equally. That makes the suppression of Palestine everyone’s issue.

MFAT’s advice is further inappropriate in ways that anger us as Jews. A government ministry issued advice that “displaying the Palestinian colours could result in complaints from the Israeli ambassador and other Israeli groups.”

The Israeli ambassador is a guest in Aotearoa, whose presence ought not to drive our municipal policy. Given the frequency with which his government is characterised as apartheid, and given the exceptional brutality it has displayed in the past week, he might benefit from seeing the healthy exercise of pluralist public expression. See our joint open letter to the Prime Minister on the killing of Shireen Abu Akleh and the desecration of her funeral procession by Israeli police.

And exactly who are these ‘other Israeli groups’ whose sensitivities preempt citizens’ peaceful public expression? Is Mossad operating here again? Or does a ministry of our own government truly not know the difference between the Jewish community of New Zealand and an Israeli interest group – can that possibly be??

MFAT, RNZ, Mayor Foster; we are Aotearoa Jews and you need to outgrow your stereotypes of our community.

Members of Aotearoa’s Jewish community express our identities in many ways. Some Jews place a nationalist project called Israel at the centre of their identity. We and other Jews who love justice oppose the apartheid that Israel enacts in our names. We sharply distinguish it from our Jewish identity and we accept a responsibility to pursue justice and peace for all who live between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea.

You do not aid Aotearoa’s Jews by marginalising our Palestinian neighbours. Do not prevent us from sharing our city and our airwaves by perpetuating such a zero / sum model of belonging. We hold equal citizenship and we enjoy equal rights to public space and expression. We are members of a pluralist community that needs to unite against exclusion or racism in all of its forms.

Our support of Palestinian expression is pro-democratic, not anti-anyone. We uphold Palestinian rights as we expect others to stand with us when we need them. Our safety lies in the mutual respect we build with our neighbours. That is a necessity, not a nicety. We live together in a dangerous time and we are each others’ best hope.

Alternative Jewish Voices

Our Open Letter to the Prime Minister

Sent this morning

An open letter to the Government of Aotearoa New Zealand
16 May 2022
Prime Minister Right Hon Jacinda Ardern
Cc Minister of Foreign Affairs, Hon. Nanaia Mahuta


Tēnā koe Prime Minister
NZ Government must hold Israel to account for the murder of Palestinian
journalist Shireen Abu Akleh. Justice for Palestine, Palestinian Youth Aotearoa and Alternative Jewish Voices write to call on the Government of Aotearoa New Zealand to hold Israel to account for the murder of Palestinian journalist for Al Jazeera, Shireen Abu Akleh, who was shot dead by the Israeli army on 11 May, while covering a raid in the occupied West Bank. The Israeli army subsequently attacked and injured mourners at Shireen Abu Akleh’s funeral procession.


A free press is essential to democracy. The targeting of journalists anywhere,
including in conflict zones, undermines democracy and there must be a swift and resolute response to those who try to harm journalists or suppress press freedom.


In 2020 the Palestinian Journalists Syndicate stated Israeli forces had killed over 46 Palestinian journalists since 2000. It is now estimated that over 50 Palestinian journalists have been killed by Israel. Further, in May 2021, Israeli forces destroyed multiple tower blocks housing numerous media outlets, including Aljazeera, Associated Press and Middle East Eye.1


These attacks are not an aberration, they are part of a pattern of systematic
targeting of Palestinian journalists by Israeli forces to prevent them from bearing witness to crimes perpetrated against Palestinians every day.

Israel’s actions towards journalists reporting on the illegal occupation of Palestine violate the right to life, freedom of expression, freedom of movement and freedom from discrimination. They are in breach of international humanitarian law and may amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity.


The International Federation of Journalists alongside other organisations has
recently submitted a case to the International Criminal Court (ICC), which alleges that Israel’s systemic targeting of media workers in Palestine and its failure to properly investigate the killing of journalists amount to war crimes.2 Abu Akleh’s has been added as one of the named victims in the complaint.


Expert legal counsel for the group that submitted the case stated:3
“The cases communicated to the ICC Prosecutor are emblematic of the ongoing,
systematic attacks and use of lethal force against journalists and media organisations in Palestine by the Israeli security services. These journalists and media organisations were targeted and attacked in circumstances that give rise to strong grounds to suspect that war crimes and crimes against humanity have been committed.”


Consequently, as citizens of Aotearoa New Zealand, we call on our Government,
elected to represent us, to act in support of human rights and international law by:
• Condemning, in the strongest possible terms, the targeted killing of
Palestinian journalist Shireen Abu Akleh
• Issuing a statement supporting the International Criminal Court complaint
seeking investigation and prosecution of the systemic targeting of Palestinian
journalists
• Calling in the Israeli ambassador, Ran Yaakoby, and demanding an
explanation of what action will be taken to provide justice for Shireen Abu
Akleh, and to establish effective measures to protect journalists reporting
within illegally occupied Palestinian territories.


In solidarity – ngā mihi nui,
Justice for Palestine, Palestinian Youth Aotearoa, and Alternative Jewish Voices

1 https://www.palestinechronicle.com/israel-targets-palestinian-journalists-ramzy-baroud-speaks-out-on-shireenabu-akleh/
2 https://www.ifj.org/media-centre/news/detail/category/press-releases/article/palestine-icc-case-filed-oversystematic-targeting-of-palestinian-journalists.html
3 https://www.ifj.org/media-centre/news/detail/category/press-releases/article/palestine-icc-case-filed-oversystematic-targeting-of-palestinian-journalists.html

Erev Nakba – the Eve of Nakba Day 2022

Blazetrends: Mourning Shireen Abu Akleh

On Nakba Day we commemorate the explulsion and the ongoing harms inflicted by Israel upon the Palestinian nation. Zionism is the project of Jewish nationalism. We acknowledge our responsibility as Jews to help muster the pressure that is necessary to transform the racist society that Zionism has built.

This week we also mourn for journalist Shireen Abu Aqleh, and for 16-year-old Thaer Khalil Mohammed Maslat who was killed by the IDF on the same day. He is the tenth Palestinian child to be shot and killed by Israeli occupation forces this year.

Today Israeli police assaulted Shireen Abu Aqleh’s pallbearers and mourners while the world watched. Absent any comment by our own government, we second the statement of EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs Josep Borrell: “The European Union is appalled by the scenes … in occupied East Jerusalem. The EU condemns the disproportionate use of force and the disrespectful behaviour by the Israeli police against the participants of the mourning procession.”

Also in the EU, Berlin has banned Palestinian demonstrations including those for Nakba Day. Would Berlin treat its Jewish community the same way, banning the commemoration of Jewish suffering and the mourning of an internationally prominent Jew? We think not.

Attempts to marginalise Nakba Day are acts of public erasure, offering us private excuses not to learn and empathise with the lived experience of Palestinians. When we turn away and desensitise our hearts, we prop up the walls of this world with our backs.

The problem is not simply Zionism. Both there and here the problem is exclusivity, the absolute doctrines of mine and mine alone.

In Palestine we oppose a society of Jewish privilege wherein “the freedoms of one [ethnic] group are inextricably bound up in the subjugation of the other… This is apartheid.” Apartheid is a crime against humanity and that makes Nakba Day everyone’s business.

Here in Aotearoa, we object to the Zionist monotone of our unelected, unrepresentative Jewish Council and institutions. We oppose the institutional intolerance of any belief other than Zionism. Shame on any heart that thinks so small. Judaism has been a plural noun for at least two thousand years.

Look beneath the false claim that all anti-Zionism equals antisemitism. That claim rests upon the false foundation that Zionism equals all of Judaism. Zionist exclusivity enables the outrage which some Zionists direct at any other, older Jewish belief: Judaism is ours and ours alone.

Some Jews do place nationalism at the heart of their identity. We reject their monopoly to act as if Zionism were the only expression of Jewishness. It is not, never was, never will be.

We wrote our kaupapa, our principle, on our homepage on the day of our establishment. Sh’ma Koleinu – hear our voices – there are many ways to be a Jew. We adhere to an expansive Judaism. We let our hearts jump the fences and roam our world. We share others’ losses. We seek their comfort as well as our own. We work for our common future, grounded in justice and dignity.

On this Nakba Day 2022, we stand in solidarity with our Palestinian friends to commemorate the living Nakba.  Our hearts reach out to imagine a peaceful, pluralist, democratic future for all who live between the river and the sea.

Alternative Jewish Voices and friends

Marilyn Garson

Fred Albert

Justine Sachs

Jesse Richardson

Leigh Friday

Sue Berman

Lynn Jenner

Margalit Toledano

David Weinstein