Blog – Letter to Prime Minister: Covid19 and Gaza

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Resistance is not terror

Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz has issued a military order which designates six leading Palestinian legal and human rights groups as “terrorist” organisations. The government of Israel has declined to back its orders with evidence.

The order criminalises lawyers who provide legal aid, and observers who inform the world of human rights abuses: Addameer,  Al-HaqPalestine branch of Defence of Children International, Union of Agricultural Work CommitteesUnion of Palestinian Women’s Committees, Bisan Center for Research & Development. 

On the websites of the targeted organisations, you will learn about incarcerations, documented human rights violations, the imprisonment of children, aid to farmers in the West Bank. To prevent the sharing of such information, the Israeli government will now fight these activities as if they were fighting terrorists. 

Leading global human rights organisations have objected in the strongest terms. They clearly state that they will continue to work with their Palestinian colleagues:  Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch call it “an attack on the human rights movement” while B’Tselem calls it “a draconian measure that criminalizes critical human rights work.”

Alternative Jewish Voices calls this military order the contemptible act of an authoritarian.  This order would jeopardise the funding which creates factual information about Palestinian life under Israel’s occupation.  The order poses a new level of violent threat to the defenders of human and legal rights.  If we do not defuse that threat internationally, it will set a frightening precedent for all of the people who stand up to authoritarians around the world.

Israel’s military order extends its pattern of criminalising any resistance to its regime of occupation, de facto annexation and legislated apartheid.

Members of Israel’s government refer to boycotts – the non-violent exercise of economic choice – as economic terrorism.  Israel’s President called Ben and Jerry’s decision not to sell ice cream on occupied land as “a new kind of terrorism.”  Around the same time, Israel confiscated 23 tons of chocolate bars destined for Gaza with the explanation, “We will continue to hunt down networks that fund terror.” 

There seems to be no form of resistance that Israel won’t categorise as terroristic.  This new military order will criminalise even the use of the law.  In occupied Palestine, it appears that resistance will be treated as terror, period.

We urge the government of Aotearoa-New Zealand to take the recent advice of Ban Ki Moon, former Secretary General of the United Nations, and change our yawning diplomatic stance:

“a powerful state is controlling another people through an open-ended occupation, settling its own people on the land in violation of international law and enforcing a legal regime of institutionalised discrimination… What has become increasingly clear in recent years is Israel’s intent to maintain its structural domination and oppression of the Palestinian people through indefinite occupation… resulting in a situation that arguably constitutes apartheid. It is now time for the international community to recognise and confront the consequences of Israel’s policies and actions in this regard.”

When will we defend the people who defend the law and human rights?

Alternative Jewish Voices  

October 26, 2021

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Israel’s propaganda machine again uses Anti-Semitism accusation to distract from justified criticism of Israeli government actions

Israel’s propaganda machine again uses Anti-Semitism accusation to distract from justified criticism of Israeli government actions

Newshub is reporting that Green Party MP Golriz Ghahraman is being accused of anti-Semitism by the Israel Institute of NZ because she has shared an Instagram post which criticises Israel for ‘medical apartheid’ because while rolling out the COVID vaccine to Israeli citizens and  right wing settlers on the occupied West Bank, Israel is making no effort to share the vaccine with the 5 million Palestineans who fall under Israeli occupation.

https://www.newshub.co.nz/home/politics/2021/01/green-mp-golriz-ghahraman-accused-of-anti-semitism-over-instagram-post.html

This is an example of why I joined and want to be part of the Sh’ma Koleinu collective – to provide an alternative Jewish voice.  I cannot stand by and allow this criticism to be construed as the voice of New Zealand Jewry. It is clearly not representing me or the other collective members of Sh’ma Koleinu / Alternative Jewish Voices. The Israel Institute of NZ is a propaganda front for the extremist right wing Israeli government, which is again using the false accusation of anti-Semitism to attack someone criticising Israeli policy, instead of dealing with the substance of the argument. 

Let’s be clear – it is completely accurate that the Israeli government is excluding Palestinians from distribution of the COVID vaccine.  Therefore it is accurate to accuse Israel of ‘medical apartheid’.  Golriz Ghahraman is simply putting a tick next to a factual description of Israeli Government actions.

AJV has been raising the issue of the Israeli Government’s use of the term anti-semitism as a way of attacking those who raise legitimate and rational criticism of their actions. This is another clear example of the NZ propaganda arm of Israel rushing in to attack an elected NZ Member of Parliament for stating a truth that Palestinians are being treated differently than Israeli citizens. Isn’t that what apartheid means?

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The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement is not antisemitic

We, Alternative Jewish Voices and friends, support the call sent out by the signatories to the statement below to reaffirm and insist that the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS) is not antisemitic.

Marilyn Garson, Fred Albert, David Weinstein, Ilan Blumberg, Tami Louisson, Sarah Cole

We want to state unequivocally that the Palestinian-led global movement for justice, which speaks in the name of international law and human rights, and the call for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) is not antisemitic. We want to state unequivocally that anti-Zionism is not antisemitism. We strongly oppose any and all efforts by the US, Israeli or any other government to conflate support for BDS or opposition to Zionism with antisemitism.

Eva Ackerman, Arielle Angel, Peter Beinart, Judith Butler, Jonathan J. Cohen, Jane Hirschmann, Adam Horowitz, Alan Levine, Richard Levy, Nina Mehta, Hannah Mermelstein, SarahAnne Minkin, PhD, Marilyn Kleinberg Neimark, Sheryl Nestel,Donna Nevel, Kathleen Peratis, Rosalind Petchesky, Jacob Plitman, Rabbi Brant Rosen,Deborah Sagner, Mark Tseng-Putterman, Rebecca Vilkomerson, Rabbi Brian Walt,Lesley Williams, Dorothy M. Zellner

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Letter to the Prime Minister concerning Gaza and Covid-19 from Wellington Palestine and Alternative Jewish Voices

We are pleased to work with Justice for Palestine on this urgent letter to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.

Thursday, 10 September 2020

To the Rt Hon Jacinda Ardern

Dear Prime Minister,

An appeal to intervene on behalf of the people of Gaza.

While Aotearoa New Zealand has been patiently managing the long tail of our second COVID-19 outbreak, the occupied Gaza Strip first identified community transmission of COVID-19 on August 24.  Today there are more than 1200 cases in its crowded cities and refugee camps.

We, the citizens of Aotearoa NZ, are failing a community in immediate danger. Why is Gaza our responsibility?  

The UN General Assembly and Security Council, the International Court of Justice, the International Committees of the Red Cross, human rights and legal NGOs all agree that International Humanitarian Law and the laws of occupation apply in full throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territories.  Occupied people are legally protected people.  The duty of states like New Zealand, and one of the first duties of the occupying power, Israel, is to uphold the rights of the occupied people of Palestine. 

Gaza has been battered for a month, as Israel responds to individual acts of Gazan protest:

August 11, Israel closed the one entrance for goods into Gaza

August 13, they cut off fuel supplies.

August 16, they militarily closed Gaza’s fishing waters.  

From August 17, Gaza had insufficient electricity to pump water into Gazan homes.

On August 18, Gaza’s only power plant shut down for lack of fuel so that Gazans have had only a few hours of electricity each day.  

On August 19, sewage treatment had to cease without electricity. 

Israel began bombing Gaza on August 6, and they sustained the bombardment night after night. 

S Michael Lynk, UN Special Rapporteur on Palestine and an associate professor of law noted this week,   “Israel remains the occupying power, and international law – including Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention – strictly forbids the use of collective punishment by the occupier.”

On August 24 COVID-19 was found in the community of Gaza. In the same week that Israel reported its highest-ever use of electricity for air conditioning to combat a heat wave with temperatures up to 48C, Gazans lacked electricity to refrigerate food during their lockdown. Hamas and Israel have now agreed to resume some fuel shipments. 

The International Crisis Group is warning that “A major outbreak in Gaza would likely be disastrous.”  It is the responsibility of the occupying power to ensure Gazans’ equitable access to quality health care, but blockaded Gaza has been structurally deprived of the resources to fight COVID-19.  S Michael Lynk adds, “This blockade has no meaningful security rationale. It inflicts great misery on the two million civilians in Gaza, while imposing little harm on any security targets.”

COVID-19 makes this long-standing misery into an immediate threat.

We, New Zealanders of Muslim, Jewish and other identities, urge our government to uphold the laws and conventions that it signs in our names.   If we want to live in a world of laws and human dignity, we must show up together when law and dignity are violated.

Today,  we call on Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, to please fulfil our obligations to protect the occupied people of Palestine and restore their equal human rights — especially their urgent right to medical care and COVID-related supplies.  Let New Zealand join the 138 states that already recognize the State of Palestine, and let us speak up for a just solution to the military occupation of Palestine, and the blockade of the Gaza Strip.

Your sincerely,

Marilyn Garson (Alternative Jewish Voices) and

Neil Ballantyne (Wellington Palestine)

Also signed by these Alternative Jewish Voices: Fred Albert, Jeremy Rose, David Weinstein, Sarah Cole, Marilyn Garson, Asher Goldman, Sue Berman and Prue Hyman

http://ajv.org.nz

Also signed on behalf of Wellington Palestine by Laura Agel, Nadia Abu-Shanab, Gill Bailey, Neil Ballantyne, Carl Bradley, Biddy Bunzl, Shahd El-Matary, James Fraser, Jenny Hawes, John Hobbs, Gillian Marie, Jeanie McCafferty, Ben Peterson, M. J. Pittaway, Aida Tavassoli, Adri van Lith, Kate Slankard-Stone and Samira Zaiton.

http://wellingtonpalestine.nz

CONTACT

Marilyn Garson e: shma.koleinu.nz@gmail.com

Neil Ballantyne e: neil.ballantyne@wellingtonpalestine.nz

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Boycott or Not?

By Marilyn Garson and Fred Albert

Occupation is a legally defined and legally limited status.  However, S Michael Lynk, UN Special Rapporteur and legal academic, finds that that occupation of Palestins  “has become illegal, given its flagrant violations of the foundational principles of the modern laws of occupation.”  In the US, A recent in-depth article in the Harvard Law Review, February 2020, Wielding anti-discrimination law to supress the movement for Palestinian human rights, concludes that, in the US context, BDS is not discriminatory and notes:

The weakness of the discrimination claim is constitutionally significant for anti-BDS litigation. It reveals that, despite states’ assertions to the contrary, the government does not have a compelling antidiscrimination interest that could trump countervailing First Amendment interests. Moreover, the weakness of the discrimination claim matters beyond anti-BDS laws. The past decade has seen antidiscrimination law weaponized to undercut a human rights movement that has opponents at the highest levels of the U.S. government — a trend that threatens other controversial political movements that the government may seek to undermine. Chilling disfavored political movements is precisely what the First Amendment is meant to protect against. While First Amendment protections can and should bow to strong antidiscrimination interests, governments must not adopt baseless discrimination claims in an attempt to override First Amendment protections.

Some members of Alternative Jewish Voices protest the occupation through BDS and some do not.  With this post, we open a conversation about our choice.  We begin as the UK Supreme Court upholds the right of pension funds to protest by divesting from companies which profit from Israel’s occupation of Palestinian land.

You annex?  I boycott.  I (Marilyn Garson) did not join the boycott until 2020.  Although I considered BDS to be a valid and important Palestinian-led movement, I had several reservations.  I wanted to distinguish between Israel and the occupied Palestinian Territories, to protest in a way that embodied the two peoples.  BDS is such a broad umbrella, I didn’t agree with every BDS initiative.  I still hoped to enlist more of the Jewish community in conversation about change.  

      Netanyahu and Trump tossed out each of my objections.  Trump’s ‘plan’ for a greater Israel hands to Israel the Palestinian lands that Israel has settled in the West Bank, Jordan Valley and all of Jerusalem.  The Palestinians had no input into Trump’s plan and of course, they do not agree to hand over their land – their land, which is not Trump’s land to give.

The plan overthrows the very foundation of the law:  it is illegal for a state to acquire territory or take foreign civilian property by military force.  The UN has resolved 8 times that Israeli settlements on Palestinian land are illegal. 

Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu and his main political opponent-cum-coalition partner, Benny Gantz have both consistently promised to annex.  On February 11, the Jerusalem Post quoted Netanyanu saying that Trump supports Israel’s annexation of “all of” the settlements, “all of them without any exception… without Palestinian consent.”  On February 18, Netanyahu added, “Whether they accept it or not, it’s going to happen.”

I take Israel’s leaders at their word.  Wrapped in Trump’s fickle embrace, they will draw Israel’s borders in flagrant disregard for international law.  They will erase any distinction between Israel’s illegal settlements and Israel itself.  Standing next to Donald Trump, Benjamin Netanyahu called the very fact of occupied Jerusalem “a big lie.”

So much for my wish to distinguish between Israel and its occupation.  Israel’s leaders have obliterated the distinction and altered my protest. Annexation would have a “cascade of bad human rights consequences” and it must not happen.  Only sustained international pressure will curb Israel’s expansionist, ethnic nationalism.

As for the risk of finding fellow-travellers beneath the broad umbrella of BDS, Zionism’s fellow-travellers are equally troubling.  They begin with Donald Trump and they include self-named White Zionists, the white supremacists who endorse Israel as their model of white ethnic power.  When I get hatemail from white supremacists, it blends Islamophobia with Zionism. 

The law of occupation is not in doubt, but states have failed to enforce the law of this occupation.  I want to live in a world of laws.  I will not let go of the law, so annexation also changes my personal protest.  Only numbers, only sustained external pressure will drag Israel back into the moral and legal world that the rest of us have agreed to inhabit.  In particular, only external pressure will protect the rights of the most vulnerable, blockaded people of Gaza. 

I never thought I would say it, but in February 2020, I did.  Israel, you annex? I boycott.

Fred’s Background: In my case I was introduced first-hand to the power of boycotts in my teen years in California via the 5-year long fight by the National Farm Workers Association to get better conditions for grape pickers in California.  A boycott of “table grapes” was declared and I can remember not purchasing grapes for years as the dispute dragged on and I can also remember our rabbi strongly supporting the farm workers during this period and often referring to them in his drashot over that time.  So, for me, a boycott is a good way to demonstrate solidarity and to let there be some sort of financial cost for choices made by those in power.

Similarly, I avoided buying goods from South Africa during the apartheid era.  It did seem using economically based tactics did cause the South African government concern in a way that demonstrations and other measures did not.

So, BDS seems a useful tool to protest against the Occupation in Palestine and the blockade of Gaza.  It seems clear that the Israeli government fears BDS more than any number of demonstrations or UN resolutions.  There seems to be a lot of misplaced anger against BDS by Jewish groups who don’t seem to understand that the boycott against Israel is tied to the Occupation and not tied to Jews as such.  I fully support BDS.

Having chosen to protest through BDS, we agree that:

  1. The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement is a rapidly-growing, Palestinian led movement to protest Israel’s occupation of Palestine, and its denial of Palestinian rights.  Its website asks us to use our collective power “to impose broad boycotts and implement divestment initiatives against Israel, similar to those applied to South Africa in the apartheid era.”

 A co-founder of BDS calls it:

an inclusive, nonviolent, non-sectarian movement that rejects all forms of racism… It calls for equal rights for all humans, irrespective of identity. It targets Israel and entities that are complicit in its regime of oppression, not on the basis of any real or claimed identity… but on the basis that this regime of oppression denies Palestinians our UN-stipulated rights under international law.[1]

BDS is grounded in international law.  It also inherits a history of effective non-violent resistance. Mahatma Gandhi used boycotts to advance human rights in the 1930s, as did Martin Luther King in the 1950s, and Cesar Chavez in the 1960s. Sustained economic pressure helps to achieve change.  In this occupation, economic boycott makes sense because, as Human Rights Watch Germany wrote in 2019,

years of our research has shown that it is not possible to do business in the settlements without contributing to or benefitting from human rights abuse and violations of international humanitarian law. The only way companies can meet their obligations under the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights is to stop operating in settlements.

BDS targets Israel because Israel is responsible for its occupation, as South Africa was responsible for apartheid. When apartheid ended, so did the boycott. In response to those who claim that the end of the occupation is really a code for ending Israel, we note that neither South Africa nor New Zealand’s own decolonizing steps have made anyone disappear. States do not end when they institute more equitable power relations; they are enhanced. BDS is grounded in the international frameworks that will protect the rights of Israelis and Palestinians in any solution.

BDS, like any political expression, can be used by racists.  However, boycotts are not by definition racist. It is abhorrent to label anyone anti-Semitic for choosing not to conduct business with the occupation of Palestine. 

Racism essentializes and demeans a group of people. BDS explicitly does not target Jews, the Jewish identity or Jewish businesses. If it did, we would be in the front row of those who oppose it. BDS invites Jewish and Israeli participation, and hundreds of thousands of Jews support BDS through membership organizations and campaigns.  

BDS targets complicity with, and the profits derived from, Israel’s occupation. Israel is not the Jewish people, and the occupation is not a religious act. It is a project of military force and political power. It is not anti-Jewish to stand up for the equal rights of all human beings.

Some people charge that BDS denies the Jewish right to self-determination. Political rights, including the right to self-determination, are not Jewish rights in particular. No ethnic group has an exclusive claim to political rights or to power. Palestinians have an equal right to self-determination. Here again, it’s important that BDS in grounded in the legal frameworks that resolve conflict and uphold the rights of all people.

So then, why do folks target the individuals who choose not to trade or invest in the occupation? That’s easy: people attack the protestor in order to deflect attention from the object of the protest. As long as we’re calling each other names, we’re not talking about the occupation of Palestinian land and the devaluing of Palestinian lives. We’re not asking what justice might look like, and we’re nowhere near talking about the regional vulnerability to climate change.

In that spirit, here’s our challenge to readers. We ask that you please address the issue, which is the occupation of Palestine. There’s been enough name calling, and it’s time to have the real conversation. If you support the occupation of Palestine, please say so as clearly as we have said that we oppose it. Defend it, and Netanyahu who has been elected five times to implement it, and Donald Trump who gleefully advances it.

We invite you to debate the real questions.


[1] Omar Barghouti, Two degrees of separation: Israel, its Palestinian victims, and the fraudulent use of antisemitism, in On Antisemitism: Solidarity and the Struggle for Justice, Jewish Voice for Peace (Chicago: Haymarket Books, 2017).

Dear Statistics NZ, we are not Israeli / Jewish

Once there was a Jewish religion. Then code 51117 made us all officially Israeli.

Before Nakba Day, our Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) advised the Wellington City Council that ‘the Israeli Ambassador or other Israeli groups’ might be discomfited by the sight of Palestinian colours. We wondered which Israeli groups were being given a veto over Wellingtonians’ peaceful use of public space. Tongue in cheek, we wrote, ‘can it possibly be that MFAT doesn’t know the difference between the NZ Jewish community and an Israeli pressure group?’

We set out to educate MFAT about the difference between ‘Israeli’ and ‘Jewish’, only to find that NZ’s official, current ethnic statistical classifications do not distinguish them at all!

Our search turned up only one result, only one way to be Jewish in Aotearoa:

Every ethnic category that we might write on a form (and there are far more labels than this website recognises) has been coded as a subset of category 51117, Israeli / Jewish.

The New Zealand Department of Statistics’ ethnic coding is not the norm. The UK’s Office for National Statistics shows a category ‘CT0753 – Ethnic group: Jewish’ with no reference to Israel. Nor does Australia’s ethnic ‘Jewish’ category #42 mention Israel.

The Australian and UK statisticians understand that Israel is a state. ‘Israeli’ names a citizenship, not an ethnicity. Only Israel itself uses the Jewish religion as a nationality. Naturally, we wonder who might have advised our government statisticians to adopt this outlier Israeli practice in Aotearoa New Zealand.

The same coding is presumably used throughout our official statistics. Coding is an abstract act of organising, but it quickly creates real-world consequences by defining the categories of subsequent descriptions. Here, for example, the same categories describe Wellington’s ethnic composition.

We object to this coding, because Israeli / Jewish names us inaccurately. We further – and at high volume – reject the category’s political consequences. Israeli / Jewish confines our global religion to a territory, and it enlists New Zealand Jews in Israel’s project of ethnic nationalism.

  1. Israeli / Jewish is inaccurate

Our ethnic statistics subsume all non-Israeli Jews into Israeli citizenship, and classify Palestinians as an ethnic group unrelated to their land. That also neatly encapsulates Israel’s nationalist project.

The merging of ethnic Jewishness with Israeli citizenship flatly contradicts the New Zealand Department of Statistics’ own definition of ethnicity:  ‘Ethnicity is a measure of cultural affiliation. It is not a measure of race, ancestry, nationality, or citizenship.’

There is no reason to include a classification of Israeli citizens in our ethnic statistics. We don’t record Canadians or Australians as a distinct ethnic group. Having created an Israeli category, it is an additional wrong to populate that category only with Jews.

The people who reside in the territory governed by Israel are roughly half non-Jewish Palestinians.  State citizenship is an administrative matter in a world governed by states. Residency constitutes citizenship, not religion or any other identitarian qualifier that can be used to create tiers of rights. This is why the NZ Department of Statistics rightly separates ethnicity from citizenship in its words, although not in its action.

It’s especially important to treat Israeli citizenship according to the global norms of citizenship. To do otherwise would be complicit in the erasure of all those non-Jews who are presently disenfranchised and discriminated against.

Conversely, the majority of the world’s Jews are not Israeli. Depending on one’s definition of a Jew (and oy, please don’t ask us about the who-is-a-Jew thing!), there are 15 – 20 million Jews worldwide. Around 46% of us are Israeli. Our government has just relocated the rest of us, and coded away two thousand years of Jewish diasporism.

Aotearoa’s 7000 Jews are 0.035% of the Jewish population of our world. We do not wish to statistically vanish into Israel’s manufactured demographic majority, thank you.

We are not Israeli / Jewish. We are ethnically Jewish citizens of Aotearoa New Zealand

2. What kind of Jew refuses to be Israeli / Jewish? Many.

ultra-Orthodox anti-Zionist protest, Toronto 2017. Photo: Marilyn Garson

Israel was established on the premise that Israeli citizenship would be attached to Jewish identity, not to residency as citizenship is constituted in pluralist states like Aotearoa. That founding imaginary privileged a global Jewish population who could belong at will, at the direct expense of a local indigenous population who would never be allowed to belong to their land. That bit of ethnic privilege was coded into Israel’s Law of Return. It grants rights to every Jew and ignores every Palestinian’s UN-mandated Right of Return. Israel’s 2018 Nation-State Law hardened and extended ethnically differentiated rights. It legislated that self-determination belonged only to Jews in Israel, not to Israel’s citizens.

You can see the ethnic imaginary at work in the Jewish Council’s recent survey of antisemitism in Aotearoa. Respondents had to agree that Jews are indigenous to Palestine, or they would be labeled antisemitic. The Jewish Council’s survey did not allow any pluralist belonging that might better reflect the thousands of years of settlement and fluid peoplehood in Palestine / Israel.

Israel’s regime has now calcified into one which the global human rights community calls apartheid.  We are deeply offended that our own government should require us to be associated with apartheid each time we name our Jewish religion on a census or any other official form. We are Jews and we are not occupiers.

The former Speaker of the Israeli Knesset or parliament, Avraham Burg, is seeking to break the same Israeli / Jewish coding. Born into a prominent family of religious scholars, Burg takes the ethics of Judiasm to heart. He is suing to be released from his Israeli / Jewish nationality because it violates his religious principles to be identified with the oppression of non-Jews. His statement to the court rejects Israel’s definition as a state ‘belonging to the Jewish nation, and [he writes] that he is no longer willing for his “nationality” to be listed as “Jewish” in the Interior Ministry’s records.’

We are not willing to be recorded as Israeli / Jewish either.  This coding has deep epistemological and ethical implications. It politicises our wondrous, ancient religion and identifies us with the ongoing harm that Israel is doing to our fellow Semites, the Palestinians.

We have asked Minister David Clark to change the codes. We are Jewish New Zealanders and we want our religion back.

Alternative Jewish Voices of Aotearoa New Zealand (not Israel)

Official Information Act casts doubt on the NZ Jewish Council’s survey

Under the Official Information Act, the Ministry of Ethnic Communities released the NZ Jewish Council’s (NZJC) funding application, correspondence and related documents to Alternative Jewish Voices. Much of the file is missing the letters ‘i’ and ‘l.’ We have filled those letters in when we quote documents for clarity.

It is misleading to state that this survey had ‘widespread Jewish community support,’ as the NZJC funding application claims.

The survey used an Israel-centered definition of antisemitism, which has no official standing in this country. Its findings are discontinuous with any analysis based on our official definition. The survey departs radically from the 2017 UK study on which it claims to be based. Its findings are better compared with the findings of a 2019 exercise in Canada.

Antisemitism in Aotearoa has been on unprecedented display this year by the White supremacist Right, with worrisome encroachment into our political discourse. The NZJC survey does not reflect our real and present concerns. It seeks to incite a moral panic about anti-Zionism, rather than racism, of which antisemitism is one form.

Nothing in the correspondence with the Ministry of Ethnic Communities indicates that any of these issues were recognised, queried or knowingly approved. The Ministry’s grant must not be understood as an endorsement.

  1. Less than meets the eye

The NZ Jewish Council funding application claims, ‘This is a project with widespread Jewish community support, across multiple organisations.’

The document file includes supporting statements from organisations that are related and not primarily Jewish. See our endnote below[i] for details. Most of the survey’s supporters share Zionism, Evangelical Christianity and very conservative politics. If the Ministry of Ethnic Communities believed that the Jewish community broadly requested a survey centred on attitudes about Israel, it was mistaken or misled.  There is no breadth of Jewish voices in the document at all, nor is there any reflection of Jewish experience.

The NZ Jewish Council is, itself, unelected and unrepresentative. The Wellington Jewish Council members acknowledged in 2021 that they lack a mandate to speak for the community.

Notwithstanding this, the Ministry of Ethnic Communities recommended that a $15,000 grant be given to the NZ Jewish Council, adding, ‘We have good connection with this group.’ Perhaps familiarity replaced due diligence.

The days when a Jewish-Evangelical-Zionist-conservative coalition can claim to speak for the Jewish community are long gone. Around the world, Jewish communities are deeply divided by Jewish nationalism (Zionism). In the course of its 2020 finding that it is not antisemitic to boycott, the Harvard Law Review reiterated the reason for our divide: for growing numbers of Jews, Israel’s project is not our Judaism.

[T]here are certainly respectable reasons for disfavoring complicity in Israel’s human rights record. Moreover, the status of being Jewish is not ‘inextricably tied’ to such conduct or complicity – and to suggest otherwise would in fact ring anti-Semitic. Zionism does not reflect the views of all Jewish people.

The Ministry of Ethnic Communities issued its grant without hearing from the ethnic community. The NZ Jewish Council went on to apply a very particular definition.

2. What is the IHRA Working Definition of antisemitism?

The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance Working Definition of Antisemitism (IHRA-WD) was intended to be a research tool. It sought to make the judgement of antisemitism more consistent by plotting comments on a spectrum. An issue which was part of healthy political discussion at one end of the spectrum, might shade into racial hostility and finally become antisemitic at the other end of the spectrum. The research tool was initiated between 2003-5. It was not completed, but the work reappeared in an absolutist form more than a decade later.

The resurrected IHRA-WD opens with a brief definition of antisemitism. Professor David Feldman, Director of the Pears Institute for the Study of Antisemitism (University of London) commented:

Here is the definition’s key passage: “Antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred towards Jews.” This is bewilderingly imprecise.

Eleven examples follow, seven of which are statements about Israel rather than Jewishness. Not a single one of the examples was ever formally adopted by the IHRA’s own decision-making body. The formative notion of a spectrum of thought had been discarded. Instead the eleven statements had been rendered antisemitic in their entirety. Kenneth Stern publically objected,

I drafted the [IHRA] definition of antisemitism. Rightwing Jews are weaponizing it.

The stitched-together IHRA-WD has chiefly been used to call Israel’s critics antisemitic. See our our resource page for condemnation of the IHRA-WD’s history of use, including by a former Lord Justice of Appeal and Judge ad hoc of the European Court of Human Rights; Harvard Law School; Brian Klug of Oxford’s philosophy faculty, and others.

The NZ Jewish Council’s use of the IHRA-WD is consistent with this ideological history. Its use is additionally improper because the IHRA-WD definition of antisemitism has no official standing in Aotearoa New Zealand – none, kore, zip, zero. We have a definition of racism and this is not it.

Nothing in the Ministry of Ethnic Communities file indicates that ministry staff queried the NZ Jewish Council’s method.

3. Discerning the impact of the IHRA-WD

The NZ Jewish Council’s funding application cites the methodology of a 2017 report, Antisemitism in contemporary Great Britain: A study of attitudes towards Jews and Israel.

The UK survey asked a number of paired questions about Jews and then about Israel to help discern whether ‘Israel’ had become a proxy for ‘Jews’ in a respondent’s mind or vice versa:

The interests of Jews in Britain are very different from the interests of the rest of the population … The interests of Israelis are at odds with the interests of the rest of the world.

Jews have too much power in Britain … Israel has too much control over global affairs.

          The survey also included Israel-specific statements, some of which are replicated in the NZ survey. Several of those Israel-specific statements have been published as factual – not antisemitic – findings of the world’s leading human rights organisations.

The UK responses were categorised as ‘strongly agree’ or ‘tend to agree,’ in order to facilitate analysis.

On pgs 33-38, the UK survey asks whether anti-Jewish and anti-Israel sentiments are linked at a population level. The broadest and weakest linkage occurred among ‘a much larger number of people who believe a small number of negative ideas about Jews, but who may not be consciously hostile or prejudiced towards them.’ That group was estimated to include 30% of the population.

The NZ Jewish Council’s method found that ‘63% of New Zealanders surveyed agree with at least one antisemitic view’(p vii, emphasis in the original) – twice as many!

According to the NZJC funding submission, a 2014 survey of antisemitism in New Zealand had found that 14% of New Zealanders held antisemitic views. Can antisemitism have increased 450% in eight years, to a level more than double its prevalence in the UK?

In 2019, Canadians were told a similarly jarring story. Both the Canadian B’nai Brith and the American Anti-Defamation League conducted audits of antisemitic incidents in 2019. The American audit applied more limited criteria to the relation between attitudes toward Israel and Jews. Their method was

careful not to conflate general criticism of Israel or anti-Israel activism with antisemitism. However, Israel-related harassment of groups or individuals may be included when the harassment incorporates establised anti-Jewish references, acusations and / or conspiracy theories, or when they demonize American Jews for their support of Israel. ‘ (p 4, italics in the original)

The Canadian B’nai Brith audit eschewed such qualifications. It cast a wider net and claimed ‘that an equal number of antisemitic incidents has taken place in Canada [and the US] despite the fact that the US has a population 9 times that of Canada and has 17 times as many Jews.’ (Statistics and quote in this section are taken from The Use and Misuse of Antisemitism Statistics in Canada, by Sheryl Nestel PhD for Independent Jewish Voices.)

 Population in 2019Jewish Population in 2019Antisemitic Incidents
Canada37,590,000392,0002207
United States328,300,0006,970,0002107

The use of the IHRA-WD definition foreseeably, greatly inflates the findings of antisemitism because it confuses Israel with Jewishness.

The NZJC’s funding application calls its survey ‘especially [important] as the Jewish Community Security Group (CSG) has recorded a record number of incidents in 2020.’ Unsurprisingly, the CSG uses precisely this ideological definition to count incidents of ‘antisemitism,’ which it then shares with the NZ Police, security agencies and the Embassy of Israel.

Members of Alternative Jewish Voices have been calling on the Community Security Group to act with transparency for a year and a half. We do not know how many among the Palestinian, non-Zionist Jewish, human rights and antiracism communities have wrongly been labeled as Jew-haters in their present, opaque process.

Nothing in the file suggests that the Ministry of Ethnic Communities queried the survey’s method, or the credibility of its findings.

4. The Project of the NZ Jewish Council Survey

How, and against whom, has the NZ Jewish Council directed its survey?

The NZ Jewish Council categorised responses in the most absolute and normative way possible. They define every disagreement with their stance as being antisemitic, easy peasy.


Four of the survey’s seven Israel-related questions require respondents to grant Israel an exception to global norms of human rights and democracy – or be labelled antisemitic.

  • Five million Palestinians cannot vote for the government which exercises authority over their lives. Are respondents willing to create an Israel-exception to this universal democratic norm by calling Israel democratic?
  • Our government and many other individuals, corporations and states boycott Russian goods and products to protest its gross violations of international law. Are survey respondents willing to create an exception by agreeing with the NZJC that the same non-violent economic protest against companies complicit in the occupation of Palestine can only be evidence of a hatred of Jews?

By setting its terms in this way, the NZ Jewish Council has placed Jewishness in direct opposition to some of our bedrock values.

Not only has the NZ Jewish Council called two-thirds of us antisemitic, they have interspersed positive human rights and democratic values with genuinely hateful statements in a document partially funded by a government ministry. That sets an insidious precedent.

Authoritative legal opinions and studies by the world’s leading human rights organisations have established that three of these statements are accurate and are not antisemitic. For example, these groups and distinguished individuals call Israel an apartheid – and therefore not a democratic – state.

Amnesty International; Human Rights Watch; Harvard Law School’s International Human Rights Clinic, in association with Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association; Habitat International Coalition – Housing and Land Rights Network; B’Tselem; Michael Sfard and Yesh Din; Michael Lynk, (former) UN Special Rapporteur.

Do we really need to cite legal proof that five million Palestinians are entitled to vote for the government that exercises authority over their lives, or that belief in democracy is not anti-Jewish? Can everyone who aspires to a world of law and human equality be antisemitic?

The New Zealand Jewish Council has constructed a survey which says we are.

The NZJC’s discussion of White privilege (p 36) makes it clear that the designers have very little idea of what they are measuring. It is also clear that they are unhappy with the concepts of intersectionality and Critical Race Theory, but perhaps they should have tried to understand the concept before including a statement about it in a survey. As it stands, the survey statement is somewhat racist in its implied assumption that all Jews must be White (since it should be obvious that only White Jews could have White privilege).

White privilege contends that people who present as White are treated differently and more favourably than those of colour – such as Māori – in many situations. It implies that perceptions of colour are more formative of privilege than ethnicity, which can only be guessed at visually. The issue is especially important in former colonial contexts where the colonisers constructed governmental systems that reflect their world view to the detriment of other groups. This short video includes a straightforward explanation of White privilege.

It is simply ludicrous to call all of the people who understand issues of colonisation and structures of advantage antisemitic.

On page 37, the survey discusses indigeneity. This is a very disingenuous statement, especially in the New Zealand context, and it shows the particular political preferences of those constructing the survey.

In New Zealand, we think of Māori as clearly being the indigenous people of New Zealand, since they were here hundreds of years before other groups arrived. However, in Israel/Palestine, which has been under human habitation for thousands of years, the question of indigeneity isn’t straightforward and it is more likely that multiple groups can claim to be indigenous. The construction and parameters of peoplehood are also fluid and contested.

The survey designers seem to want to transfer the singularity of the New Zealand situation (only Māori are indigenous to New Zealand) to the situation in Palestine/Israel. The only response that they will not consider antisemitic is a response that calls Jews the only indigenous group. This is the Zionist mantra that the land of Palestine/Israel can only belong to the Jewish people. The survey interprets an ideological preference as fact.

The Ministry of Ethnic Communities file contains no expressions of concern with the contents or findings of the study it helped to fund.

5. What are the implications of the NZ Jewish Council’s survey?

The NZ Jewish Council has thrown both public and private money into an ideological project at a moment when a genuine study of antisemitism would have been so helpful. They have advanced the IHRA-WD project by stealth, producing a document which confuses Israel with Jewishness, and confuses antisemitism with the principles of democracy and human rights.

This survey places the Jewish community at odds with the New Zealand human rights community, antiracism activists, Palestinians and non- or anti-Zionist Jews, and anyone who espouses democracy. Because human rights and antiracist actors extend their concern to Palestinians, the NZ Jewish Council has vilified them. It may serve Israel’s supporters to confuse disagreement with racism, but it does not serve the Jewish community of Aotearoa. This survey seeds unjustified suspicion and fear among us, at a moment when the Jewish community needs to link arms with all those who work against racism.

It beggars belief that any NZ survey of racism could fail to prioritise White supremacist threats in 2022. That the Ministry of Ethnic Communities would fund such an oversight after all the efforts of the Muslim community to draw attention to those threats, after the enquiries into our nation’s security biases, during this shocking season of White supremacist racism, is inexcusable.

If the Ministry of Ethnic Communities had heard from our ethnic community, we are confident this would not have happened.

The NZJC survey must not go unchallenged, nor should its findings be used as a benchmark or policy driver. Such usage would misdirect public resources and concern. To take the survey at face value would encourage a moral panic over anti-Zionism rather than racism, of which antisemitism is one longstanding form. We and many others do oppose Zionism for reasons that have nothing to do with race. We object because Zionism denies the fundamental democratic and human rights of Palestinians.

We who challenge this survey are not standing in opposition to the Jewish community, because this survey cannot be called a Jewish community undertaking. We are taking issue with an ideological project of New Zealand’s dedicated Zionist lobby.

By Fred Albert and Marilyn Garson, For Alternative Jewish Voices of Aotearoa NZ

[i] Postscript:

‘This is a project with widespread Jewish community support, across multiple organisations.’ (NZ Jewish Council funding submission)

Who supported this survey?

Holocaust and Antisemitism Foundation

  • Majority Christian, overlaps with the Israel Institute whose directors are also not majority Jewish

Co-founder and trustee Perry Trotter – see http://www.lcje-na.org/perry-trotter (married to co-founder and trustee Sheree Trotter)

  • Director of the Israel Institute
  • Former officer of Ariel Ministries, Presenter at the Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization. Compiles resources for those seeking to share a Christian Messianic message with Jews. See messiah.com.es

Ashley Church

  • Director of the Israel Institute
  • Founder / officer of Free Speech Union, Taxpayers’ Union, Auckland Property Investors Association

Paul Moon, Trustee,

  • Also submitted a separate letter of support on behalf of the Auckland University of Technology History Department
  • Acknowledged as a speaker and contributor to the work of the Friends of Israel Association in that organisation’s annual reports.

New Zealand Friends of Israel Association Inc. NZ Charities Registration Number CC 43880.

  • See the writings of President Tony Kan and others, for their consistent hostility to any non-Zionist expression of Jewishness.

NZ Jewish Community Security Group (CSG)

  • Membership overlaps with the NZ Jewish Council and Israel Institute
  • We repeat our objections to the CSG’s use of the IHRA-WD to compile and share information with the NZ Police and security agencies, and the Embassy of Israel.

NZ Jewish Council

  • Unelected and not representative. In 2021 the Wellington Jewish Council acknowledged its lack of community mandate and its members agreed not to speak on behalf of the Jewish community.
  • Overlaps with Israel Institute, Community Security Group

Also signing, Deborah Hart, Chair Holocaust Centre of New Zealand and former
Chairperson of the Wellington Jewish Community Centre.

‘widespread Jewish community support’ ??

When we meet …

by Tameem Shaltoni and Marilyn Garson

Tameem Shaltoni and I (Marilyn Garson) had exchanged some comments on social media. We met for the first time in May, when I drove past his town. We brought our coffees to a park and sat down with all the history, emotion and potential that Palestinians and Jews bring. Our meetings are vital and charged, and we decided to get to know each other in writing. We speak only for ourselves. Indeed, this is about what happens when we meet as individuals who wish to do more than be polite.

Tameem: I have to admit, this is the first time I engage in a face to face dialogue about Palestine with a Jew.
The expulsion of my family from Palestine to clear the way for Jewish settlers in the shadows of WWII severed our lives and traumatised us. Based on where I grew up and what my family went through, it was unthinkable to co-exist with Jews, let alone co-resist! But here we are, I’m glad that we are talking and letting our different worlds clash.

Marilyn: So am I. Jeff Halper writes about ‘bridging conversations’ in his book, Decolonizing Israel – Liberating Palestine. We have to find ways to be ourselves – to bring our identities into a conversation that imagines liberation from our real, historical starting points.  Our questions and the trust we build are the bridges that we need to cross.

Tameem: As a Palestinian, Palestine to me is embodied in the holy city of Al-Quds (Jerusalem), and Al-Aqsa mosque is the centre of my universe. Al-Aqsa mosque is the only name I’ve ever known that place as. As a Jew, Marilyn, what does Al-Quds (Jerusalem) mean to you?

Marilyn: Jerusalem is an integral part of my religious history and imagination. It holds great emotion for me. A Muslim or a Christian can say the same thing, but you cannot go the place we both love. I once drove to Jerusalem with a Gazan colleague.  I have visited over the course of nearly half a century, while she who lives two hours away was seeing the Al-Aqsa mosque for the first time in her life.

Jerusalem will always be plural for me: ours. I believe that the layers of Jerusalem need to be loved and shared by all of us. A society that loves religions – plural – and is governed by and for all of its citizens would be a far more Jewish place than this apartheid Israel.

I think that some Jews fear your love for Al-Quds. They fear that you must want to turn the tables and exclude or harm Jews as you have been harmed. If there were to emerge a decent and dignified society between the river and the sea in which Palestinians play a full role, can you imagine sharing the center of your universe?

Tameem: Yes absolutely. Exclusionary thinking is a big part of why we are here now, and two wrongs don’t make it right. I respect the different layers of perspectives of Jerusalem, and I believe in a permanent solution based on inclusiveness and right to belief(s).

As part of a reconciliation process, we also need to have honest conversations based on evidence and historical facts to understand those different layers and work through reasonable solutions to share and co-exist, and when I say ‘honest’, I mean honest to ourselves first and to each other. At the moment, the atmosphere is too politically loaded to have meaningful conversations about the shape of a permanent solution, and I believe there’s a lot of disinformation going around. This brings me to my next question.

What does ‘being indigenous’ mean to you and what part of the world -if any- do you think you indigenous of?

Marilyn: I’m not indigenous to Palestine, nor to the Eastern European places from which my grandparents fled, nor Canada (where I was born) nor Aotearoa where I live as tauiwi. I’m a citizen, and I live my Jewish life where I live. I am loving the recent flowering of Diasporist Judaism like mine.

Because I am neither Palestinian nor Israeli, the shape of solutions is not my brief. Foreigners don’t draw the maps. We build the pressure that requires change.

Tameem: The history of Jews’ persecution for thousands of years is horrific, let alone the Holocaust which is the worst crime I’ve ever heard of. What I often hear from Israelis and Jews in particular is; my family’s expulsion from Palestine is a natural outcome of the Holocaust and Jews’ persecution, which to me is absurd of course. How do you relate between the Holocaust and Jewish persecution, and Palestine and the Palestinians?

Marilyn: I think Israel was the product of an intentional settler-colonial project, an overwhelming moment of genocide and shock, and a whole array of visions. There was Jewish support and Jewish opposition but the fact is that my antecedents took the homes of yours. That act lies unsettled since the birth of Israel. That act did not resolve the horror of the Holocaust, and it initiated a second national trauma. Your family’s expulsion was neither natural nor acceptable. Until we acknowledge and transform that, until the cycle of trauma and response is broken, the Palestinian Nakba will be a living event in the present tense.

Working with child survivors of the Khmer Rouge genocide, with Afghan women and in Gaza, I have known people who lived their lives trapped within their trauma, and people who transcended it. I have known child soldiers – profoundly victimised – who learned with difficulty not to beat their own children as adults. It did not diminish their childhood horror for the adult to break the cycle from victim to abuser. Everyone needs to do that.

Tameem: Let’s talk about antisemitism. By the way, not many people know that as a Palestinian Arab, I am Semite too!  I’m being told that demanding justice for what happened to my family and my people is antisemitic. Do you feel threatened by my Palestinian identity and activism?

Marilyn: I was raised to deny your existence. I have had to confront and learn from that – learn to meet my cousins.  I think we both need to distinguish our identities from others who use the same labels differently. Occupation is not my Judaism but it is the Judaism of some. Palestinian resistance is not about Jewishness but it can be a pretext for some people who hate Jews. As I understand it, Palestinian resistance is an assertion of our full, equal human and political rights. That is no threat to me; on the contrary, that’s the world in which I wish to live.

But to be honest, I do feel uncertain as we begin. I love being a Jew while generations of your family have been shaped and harmed by a system built for Jewish privilege. You – not I – have the emotional initiative when we meet: you tell me what occupation means. You have a right to fierce emotions, and I need to really hear you if I am to support your work to obtain justice.

Tameem: I tried to express how I feel, and I had thought the words failed me. Now I think what I have been trying to describe is numbness, and it makes sense no one can define nothingness. Let me instead tell you my story.

As my family’s tragic story goes, an army of Jewish nationalists came to our town, committed a massacre, then went from door to door and got every single human, men, women, children, and elderly to leave town on foot with no food, water, or anything, threw us in a refugees camp and never let us return to our home, then confiscated our house, our land, our workplace, and all of our belongings, and let Jewish settlers from Europe and Middle East move into our house and assumed our previous life right in front of our eyes, and if that was not enough, they tried to erase our identity, deny our history and our plight, and called us a terrorist anti-semite if we dare to fight back.

Because it is an exclusive Jewish nationalist program that devastated me and my people in the name of the world Jewry and you, I believe the world Jewry has a collective moral responsibility to speak up and drive a change from within in parallel to our Palestinian own struggle for justice, dignity, liberty and self-determination. A change from within the Jewish structures could be the best outcome and least violent for the ongoing struggle, and to be clear, a moral responsibility doesn’t mean that all Jews are accountable for the actions of Israeli governments.

To me, a Jewish self-determination right is a matter for the Jewish people, and my only problem with the current manifestation of it in the form of Zionism and colonisation of Palestine is it came on the expense of me and Palestinians.

I just have no respect whatsoever for anyone who is involved in this horrendous crime, from the perpetrators to the Jewish settlers who don’t have a problem in living our stolen lives.

Marilyn: I am sorry for the history that has left you numb. I really hope that you find sources of joy, and company, to lift some of that numbness.

You’ve said something else that we must unpack – “in the name of.”  It would be misleading and embittering to take those claims at face value. White supremacists justify racist violence by saying that they act in the name of all White people, who are under threat from people of colour and others. They make that claim, but any reasonable White person will disavow it in disgust.

When Zionist settler colonialism is justified in the name of all Jews, you should hear their claim the same way. They have no such mandate. Every Jew who says “not in my name” is repeating that those claims are illegitimate.

Everyone who believes in our equal humanity has an obligation to help generate the pressure for change, but I agree with you that Jews have an additional obligation because they are using our names. We cannot be bystanders, because that’s a passive permission for the project to continue.

Tameem: I admire you Marilyn for choosing not to take advantage of the privilege which Israel’s apartheid gave you based on your Jewish identity.

Marilyn: And I admire you for telling every difficult story. Wherever I have worked, war imposed crazy consequences on people because of their identities: these ones were made refugees, those enslaved, dispossessed, marked for death.  Personal stories remind us that the big Nakba consists of terrible individual choices and ongoing consequences like those of your family. Those are the histories by which you earn your Right of Return.

There is no substitute for your voice. We hear you as a human being and we know this isn’t right. We enlist in the work of setting it right because we aspire to live in a world of justice.

Tameem: I can’t find peace and co-exist with what happened without establishing justice. Justice is one of the key principles in a civilised society, without justice laws don’t have any meaning, and life falls apart. Justice is the first step in ‘getting along’ and co-existence. Without justice, co-existence is a bitter capitulation that’s waiting to explode. Remember treaty of Versailles.

Marilyn: Well said: there is no getting along without justice. Neither of our peoples is going to be free of this until we are both free.

And what you think when people want to get along without really challenging the nature of co-existence?

Tameem: It’s the difference between getting real, and lying to ourselves. When we don’t seek justice, we are accepting injustice as a normal tenet of society. Justice is probably the only principle that everyone, no matter where they are on the political spectrum, believes that it must be served with no limit at all the times and in all the places and situations. Unless someone can convince me why I shouldn’t seek justice, then the only real help a friend can offer is to seek justice.

At the end, we can say so much only in the time we’ve got today, and I had enough sandfly bites anyway! so it’s the time to say ka kite ano.

June 9, 2022

Tameem Shaltoni and Marilyn Garson


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

—–

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

What is the local project of Zionism in Aotearoa?

Global human rights leaders: ‘Apartheid.’ NZ Jewish Council: ‘Antisemitism!’

Human rights lawyers including these now call Israel’s regime apartheid, which is a crime against humanity: Amnesty International; Human Rights Watch; Harvard Law School’s International Human Rights Clinic, in association with Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association; Habitat International Coalition – Housing and Land Rights Network; B’Tselem; Michael Sfard and Yesh Din; UN Special Rapporteur Michael Lynk

The apparent project of Aotearoa’s overlapping Zionist institutions is fraught with contradictions. We find their project more coherent when we regard it as being an activity of NZ’s most conservative, neoliberal actors.

Discussions of Zionism usually focus on the sensitive, exceptional license claimed by Jewish Israelis to maintain their occupation of Palestine. However, it is wrong to regard Zionism strictly as a Jewish undertaking in New Zealand today. One of its harshest proponents, the Israel Institute, is a company whose directors are Jewish, Evangelical Christian, and  secular neoliberal.

The internal contradictions of the NZ Zionist partnership are glaring. Liberal and Progressive Jews allow themselves to be represented by leaders of the neoliberal Taxpayers’ and Free Speech Unions. Zionist Jews partner with Evangelical Christians, some of whom support the Jewish return to Palestine in order to hasten Armageddon and the conversion or death of said Jews. The New Zealand Jewish Council (NZJC), one of whose members traffics in Nazi memes, speaks for the descendants of Holocaust survivors.

Right now, while we are all reeling from an unprecedented display of racist disinformation, the Jewish Council has chosen to publish a survey which stresses attitudes to Israel rather than our pressing local reality. Either these folks are tin-eared, or we have not understood their aims well by focusing on their apparent objectives.

This whole fraught assemblage becomes more coherent when we turn our focus to Aotearoa and ask, what are they doing here and now?

Start with the IHRA

Any explanation must begin with the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance Working Definition of Antisemitism (IHRA), the sweeping definition which renders support for Palestinian rights antisemitic. The IHRA elevates the political ideology of Zionism into the protected space of our religion, Judaism, in order to shield Israel from its political critics. The IHRA has no official standing in Aotearoa, none, but our Zionist institutions use it anyway – and it makes all the difference by inverting the object of our attention.

When we begin any study by assuming Palestinians’ full personhood, equal human and political rights, Israel’s occupation is shown to be apartheid. That’s the conclusion of rights- and law-based research. However, the IHRA normalises Israel’s occupation regime as our starting point. When the protection of Israel’s status quo is the starting point, Palestinian identity and rights can be miscast as threats to the legitimacy of that status quo.

Proponents of IHRA-style Zionism project racism onto those who oppose the harm being done to Palestinians. We see IHRA-Zionism politicising Aotearoa Jewishness and making our institutions intolerant. We see it in the endless accusations against public figures and we have seen it play out through intimidation within Jewish institutions and at public events.

Because NZ’s Zionist institutions are a coalition of the Right, they focus on undermining dissent from the Left, rather than on the real and dangerous rise of White supremacy and disinformation. This focus may serve the interests of Israel but it does not advance the safety or the good standing of the Jewish community of Aotearoa. On the contrary, it targets and alienates our antiracist allies because their concern extends to the rights of Palestinians. Who benefits from dividing us – certainly not the Jewish community in whose name this targeting takes place.

Sleight of hand, in two steps

The NZ Zionist coalition has written a selective and intentional framing of Israel’s occupation of Palestine, and they have imported that framing to create an atmosphere of domestic threat. That’s a two-step process.

First, the selective framing of Israel’s occupation. Jewish and Christian Zionists rallied together in support of Israel’s 2021 bombardment of Gaza, but we do not hear public promotion of Israel as the site of Armageddon. We hear of Israel exclusively as being endangered and requiring endless, exceptional military license.

As Jews, many of us were raised to admire Israel’s ‘Jewish power,’ and to believe that it would be wielded wisely.  But now we are told to admire Israel as a hegemon-victim, a dangerous fusion of power and entitlement. Former UN General-Secretary Ban Ki Moon and others are urging us to revoke Israel’s license and confront its actions.

This selective framing is called securitisation. Securitisation casts an issue as a threat to the security of the actors in power. It seeks not popularity but fear, compliance, and temporary exceptional powers (which tend not to be so temporary in action). Securitisation shapes decisions and directs resources.

A securitised view of Gaza, for example, portrays Gazan Palestinians as being so inherently dangerous to the Occupying Power as to justify the blockade and deprivation of their rights. It will spend endless funds on containment. Any view of Gaza that is grounded in human equality, rights, and international law regards the blockade as illegitimate collective punishment.

When that securitised rationale is brought home from Israel to Aotearoa, it leads to the chilling, anti-democratic results that we see around us. The IHRA definition of antisemitism allows the Zionist coalition to classify objections to the occupation as antisemitism posing a danger here in Aotearoa. It escalates rights-based political challenge into racial threat and urges action on that threat. The IHRA definition, we repeat, has no official standing in New Zealand.

The Jewish Council’s survey (mostly) of attitudes to Israel’s occupation

The coalition of Zionist institutions and their methods are moving our Jewish institutions far to the intolerant Right. This is the context of the Jewish Council’s survey of antisemitism, which was partly funded by the Ministry for Ethnic Communities. We do need a serious study of racism, disinformation and the place of antisemitism within it – but this document does not study that. It seeks out public concern about Israel’s occupation of Palestine and calls that the problem.

The Jewish Council surveyed responses to eighteen statements, half of which are statements about Israel rather than Jews. Real antisemitism is lost in what follows.

Respondents who replied in accordance with the findings of the world’s leading human rights organisations were classed as antisemites – literally. The survey table contains no column for ‘agree,’ only a column for ‘antisemitic.’ If respondents did not consider Israel democratic because the government of Israel wields power over millions of West Bank and Gaza Strip Palestinians who cannot vote in Israeli elections, the respondents were called antisemitic. A Palestinian who asserted her indigeneity and equal rights would be called ‘antisemitic’ on at least four counts. Her very identity and her rights have been rendered racist and therefore dangerous to New Zealand’s Jews.

More sleight of hand: If you don’t call apartheid democracy, you’re a racist. Your conscience, commonsense and the world’s human rights leaders tell you that Israel’s occupation regime is not democratic. While you’re grappling with your choice to be dishonest or be called ‘racist,’ you may fail to notice that Palestinians have been erased. You have been placed in a bind that is all about Israel.

One Jewish student tweeted, “Makes me furious to my bones that the NZ Jewish Council are implying that me and many other Jews hold anti-semitic views simply because we are critical of Israel.”

We need to keep repeating that it is not antisemitic to respect democracy and value each other equally. We, like our neighbours, are protected by those values.

This survey does nothing to keep Jews safe or advance our understanding of the rise of real racism around us. It leads to no meaningful policy.

Actions like this alienate a widening swathe of our politically engaged neighbours. Are we to believe that Amnesty International’s 80,000 NZ supporters (of eight million worldwide) all hate Jews and Jewishness?  Or, they are the merely latest targets of a neoliberal coalition that benefits politically from sowing division?

Aotearoa’s political Zionist campaign is better understood as a local neoliberal project operating in the protected space of our Jewish religion. Liberal and Progressive members of the Jewish community should be asking whether the gains of a joint project with the Taxpayers’ and Free Speech Unions still outweigh the local anti-democratic damage.  Is this really where we fit?

Alternative Jewish Voices of Aotearoa-NZ

NZ Jewish Council calls New Zealanders antisemitic for holding views consistent with the world’s leading human rights organisations

Media Release from Alternative Jewish Voices of Aotearoa

The NZ Jewish Council has released a survey which calls hundreds of thousands of New Zealanders antisemitic for expressing views consistent with those of the world’s leading human rights organisations.  By conflating legitimate criticism of Israel with the hatred of Jews the survey is weaponising antisemitism in a way that it is more than dishonest. It is dangerous. Their method should not have been funded.

The survey uses a sweeping definition of antisemitism which conflates opposition to the occupation with the hatred of Jews. Known as the IHRA Working Definition, it has no official standing in Aotearoa, none. This survey shows us why it is so dangerous. Of the survey’s 18 attitudes, fully half are attitudes about Israel rather than Jews.  Therefore, this survey seeks out public objections to Israel’s occupation of Palestine and calls that racism. The NZ Jewish Council has a history of calling disagreement racist.

If, for example, a respondent simply agrees with the conclusion of Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Harvard Law School and others that Israel’s regime constitutes apartheid, that respondent is classed as hating Jews. Literally: the survey has no category called ‘agree,’ only a category called ‘antisemitic.’ If a person understands that Palestinians are indigenous to Palestine, they are antisemitic. If they do not consider Israel democratic because they see that the government of Israel wields power over millions of West Bank and Gaza Strip Palestinians who cannot vote in Israeli elections, they are classed as antisemitic.  These are not hateful attitudes to Jews, they are attitudes that show respect for democracy, international law and human rights.

The Jewish Council’s partisan method has undermined what should have been a serious and timely study of antisemitism. Instead, they have used their platform to alienate our neighbours whose concern extends to the rights of Palestinians.

And where does this method leave Palestinians? A Palestinian who asserts her identity and her full human and political rights would fall foul of this survey on several counts. The NZ Jewish Council has published a document that renders Palestinian identity racist. It should not have been funded.

The study’s first category comes closest to a real definition of antisemitism. Those responses give us sufficient concern to work more closely within Aotearoa’s broad antiracist community. It is a travesty that the NZ Jewish Council went on to politicise the exercise and place one more obstacle in the path of a genuine Jewish antiracism.

Alternative Jewish Voices of Aotearoa NZ

Apartheid, the Right of Return, and Ukraine

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We usually think of a country taking in refugees as a helpful, necessary action for the benefit of all but watching Israel select and privilege Ukrainians of Jewish descent highlights its racist nature.  Israel has refused to take in many refugees from Africa.  Although the news calls the Ukrainians refugees they are, in fact, being offered instant citizenship under an ethnic law.  We also have read that some Ukrainians will be settled illegally on the West Bank, thereby even further alienating Palestine refugees from their land and rights.  Three fundamental issues have intersected here: apartheid, the Right of Return, and Ukraine.

Human rights lawyers including these have determined that Israel’s occupation of Palestine and its domestic regime now constitute apartheid, which is a crime against humanity:

As one tactic of its settler colonial project, Israel has perennially held the parts of Palestine apart. Therefore, every response should consciously address Israel’s single-minded project, although it is being variously enacted in different geographies: domestically through an ethnic hierarchy of rights and entitlements; in Gaza through blockade and repeated bombardment; in the West Bank through the encroachment of illegal settlements and a regime of fragmentation; and globally by privileging the status of Jews as instant citizens-in-waiting while denying the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their own land.

That last phrase needs unpacking because the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their own land are under renewed assault.

First, the descendants of displaced Palestinians are refugees. The United Nations website’s issue page on refugees explains that intergenerational recognition is the global norm, not an exception:

“Under international law and the principle of family unity, the children of refugees and their descendants are also considered refugees until a durable solution is found… Palestine refugees are not distinct from other protracted refugee situations such as those from Afghanistan or Somalia, where there are multiple generations of refugees, considered by UNHCR as refugees and supported as such. Protracted refugee situations are the result of the failure to find political solutions to their underlying political crises.”

Second, Palestinian refugees have an internationally mandated Right of Return. On December 11, 1948, United Nations General Assembly adopted Resolution 194 outlining principles for a just solution in Palestine / Israel. NZ voted in favour, agreeing that “refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbours should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date, and that compensation should be paid for the property of those choosing not to return and for loss of or damage to property.”

Israel’s apartheid regime has denied Palestinian refugees their internationally mandated Right of Return for 74 years.

Daily, we are watching yet another enactment of Israel’s legislated Jewish supremacy: as many as 200,000 Ukrainians of Jewish descent are being brought to Israel under its ethnic “law of return.”  Israeli publications refer to Ukrainian arrivals as ‘immigrants’ taking up citizenship, not refuge. Israel’s race-based law of return offers instant citizenship to far more people than Israel’s prevailing religious law recognises as Jews.

“Israeli officials have declared that they will open their arms to any Ukrainians who qualify to immigrate to Israel. Under the Law of Return, any individual with at least one Jewish grandparent, or a Jewish spouse, is eligible for Israeli citizenship. However, a significant portion of those new immigrants are expected to be … Jewish enough to obtain citizenship, but not Jewish enough to be married or buried as Jews in the Jewish state.”  Times of Israel 

Why would Israel take in a few hundred thousand Ukrainians and emigrating Russians, some of whom may or may not later convert to Judaism? This influx responds first to Israel’s longstanding fear of confronting a Palestinian majority in the land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. Despite decades of policy that has sought to include maximum land with minimum Palestinians, the day of demographic reckoning is close.

“According to the latest figures, the year 2021 saw the number of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, the West Bank and those based in Israel approach 7,253,000 Palestinians, which, for the first time ever, came close to the number of Jews that stood at 7,4 million. … A fresh study, released by a journal affiliated to the Israeli Ministry of Intelligence in July 2020, indicated that Tel Aviv sees demography as the most critical ​​menace to its national security.”  MENA Affairs.com

Demography has always underpinned Israel’s disavowal of the Gaza Strip as a fully-fledged, occupied, intrinsic part of Palestine. Don’t count the two million Gazans!!  Gaza’s numbers have always posed a far more strategic threat to Israel than its rockets.

To top it off, “the World Zionist Organization’s Settlement Division – which is funded by the Israeli government and falls under its direct control – announced the building of 1,000 housing structures for Ukrainian Jewish families in both Israel and settlements in the illegally occupied Palestinian territories.” Al Jazeera

That is the coup de grace: Israel is preparing to add Ukrainians to the 620,000 illegal settlers who aggressively eat up the occupied West Bank and occupied East Jerusalem.

We are boycotting, divesting and sanctioning Russia because we wish to live in a world governed by laws rather than predators. At the very same time, Israel is piling tens of thousands of those displaced by Russia’s crimes into its manufactured demographics and its illegal settlements on occupied land. Wrongs are compounding wrongs. Let’s sanction Israel’s violations too.

We wish all refugees safe refuge until they are able to choose resettlement or return to their homes. For the very same reason, we recognise the UN-mandated right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes. When the land between the river and the sea is governed by, and in the interests of, all of its citizens then others of any religion can apply to immigrate.

Alternative Jewish Voices