We end this Jewish year deeply concerned by the rise of racism, and our Jewish community’s position in Aotearoa. We are letting the Jewish Council situate us as conservative opponents of human rights.
This year, the Jewish Council used funding from the Ministry of Ethnic Communities and the IHRA Working Definition to call two-thirds of New Zealanders ‘antisemitic’. The survey actually showed that most New Zealanders support the conclusion of human rights defenders: Israel’s regime is apartheid. We think it’s wonderful that our neighbours value everyone’s rights. We count on them to oppose antisemitism for the same reason.
But too many New Zealanders now encounter the Jewish community through those alienating, false accusations. In order to end that, we must keep the IHRA’s harmful definition out of Aotearoa. Anti-Zionism is not per se antisemitic.
We have met with MFAT officials to understand the history of the initiative to become an observer at the IHRA organisation. We believe that MFAT does not intend to introduce the IHRA working definition of antisemitism. We believe that MFAT agrees that racism must remain the responsibility of our Commissioners of Human Rights and Race Relations.
The IHRA working definition has no standing in this country—none, kore—and we mean to keep it that way. We will do that by calling out every unofficial use. But that is not enough.
The Jewish community must also reject the path that is being taken in our names.
A 2021 Wellington Jewish community meeting roundly rejected the Wellington Regional Jewish Council’s voice and operations. The regional council has ceased to operate. That’s a start. Nationally we, the Jewish community, need to pay more attention to the unelected NZ Jewish Council. We are lending a passive legitimacy to their increasingly Christian Zionist echo chamber.
During this pre-holiday month of Elul, we are each charged with facing and transcending the attitudes that limit us and harm others. Elul is a time to ask how far we have slid from taking the side of the oppressed.
In the coming year, let us put aside the political ‘antisemitism’ and confront the reality of racism in Aotearoa together.
While our purported community spokespeople spend their days slandering critics of Israel’s human rights record, real antisemitism is encroaching on our public discourse—from the far Right. The hatred of Jews is a core component of conspiracy theory and the White supremacist world view.
Jews belong in the front row of every antiracist gathering, standing up with and for our neighbours. We should also be a focus of antiracist concern. Neither of those is happening yet. A handful of Jews attended the August Wellington anti-hate rally, and when that crowd chanted its list of communities of concern, Jews were not included.
We have become estranged from our natural allies. Those who oppose the far Right need to place antisemitism firmly on their agenda. And we need to turn up.
In the week of AJV’s formation, we wrote:
Hatreds and resentful identity politics have their own histories, but now they have joined forces under the toxic rubric of white supremacy. We need to respond to that together… rather than seeking an ethnic safety behind my synagogue gate or your mosque doorway. No gates for us, please. There is no separate safety.
A real response must be a joined-up, antiracist Never Again that makes us responsible to and for each other. Hatred and violence must be confronted and turned away by a broad, loving, uncompromising embrace of justice and mutual protection. We are each other’s best hope.
The task has become more urgent. The solution has not changed.
In the coming year of 5873, may we build a better antiracist solidarity.
Alternative Jewish Voices of Aotearoa NZ