(Image by Matt Rourke, Associated Press)
– Zionist Federation of New Zealand…
As I am sure everyone reading this article is acutely aware, Saturday 27 October 2018 was the day that 11 people were gunned down at the Etz Chaim Synagogue in Pittsburgh, murdered purely for being Jewish. With the increasing levels of anti-Semitism we are seeing across the world, once the shock and horror dissipated, I doubt too many of us were surprised that this could have happened. The increased vilification and demonisation of Israel, the assumed ‘collective responsibility’ of world Jewry for everything Israel does, the regurgitation of age-old conspiracy theories, and the ease in which one can spread hate on the internet and social media has no doubt played a pivotal role in what happened in Pittsburgh.
The realisation that once again as Jews we are open targets for hate, violence and murder was felt throughout all world Jewry, even here in New Zealand. The small ray of light from this tragedy, however, was the solidarity we saw not just from world Jewry in its coming together to mourn, but also from the statements of world leaders expressing solidarity with the Jewish People against antisemitism as well as their condolences and sympathy to the families of those killed. Except in New Zealand that is.
In the US, the UK, Canada, Italy, Germany, France, Australia, the UN, the EU, the Vatican and countless other countries and world bodies, messages of support for Jews and condemnation of anti-Semitism was heard. Even Hamas, Iran, and the Palestinian Authority condemned the attack. Whilst theirs was arguably a cynical piece of propaganda on their part, their condemnation only served to amplify the silence of the New Zealand government and in particular of Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.
The New Zealand Jewish community, eager to hear our publicly elected leaders express solidarity with us and our brethren and to show how they understood and felt our pain, waited patiently. Yet with the silence of every passing day, the hurt, anger and feeling of disillusion towards the government has intensified. And then in response to a letter as to why the Prime Minister had not made a comment unlike other world leaders, the following reply was received, “Many thanks for your email to the Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, about the tragic shooting at the Pittsburgh Synagogue this week. The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Rt Hon Winston Peters, will respond to your email, as this is something which falls into his area of responsibility”.
The Prime Minister, the person who is supposed to represent us and look after our interests as a community, could not even be bothered to comment on the murders, but rather deferred responsibility to the Foreign Minister, who is also yet to make a comment!
There have been some comments of support, notably coming from the National Party and specifically from Hon Simon Bridges MP, Simon O’Connor MP and Hon Alfred Ngaro MP (see below), with Alfred Ngaro also submitting a Motion without Notice in Parliament condemning the Pittsburgh Synagogue murders, condemning antisemitism and hatred, and expressing solidarity with the Jewish people across the world. It would seem that the level of animosity towards Israel in the governing Labour Party has clouded their ability to condemn blatant anti-Semitism, yet our Prime Minister had no problem in condemning other acts of international terrorism such as the 2017 Las Vegas shooting, the 2016 Ankara attack, and the 2016 Brussels attacks, the December 2017 attack in Melbourne and the April 2018 car ramming in Canada. She even managed to describe her concern at the “devastating one-sided loss of life” when asked about the death of Palestinians from Gaza when they were trying to infiltrate and kill Jews in Israel, over 85% of whom were acknowledged by Hamas as terrorists. In other words had Israeli Jews died, she would have felt more at ease!
It would appear that under the current government support for the Jewish community has been intrinsically linked to support with Israel, and support of Israel appears to be becoming more polarised across the political parties. Unfortunately, it seems that the NZ Labour Party is at risk of going down the same path as the UK Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn. Yet even Corbyn, was able to condemn what happened in Pittsburgh, so why not our own Prime Minister or government?
The sound of silence in this case is clear to us all!
Messages of support from Hon Simon Bridges MP, Hon Alfred Ngaro MP and Simon O’Connor MP
Hon Simon Bridges MP
“The National Party condemns the recent horrific attack on the Jewish Community in Pittsburgh. No one should be forced to live in fear, no matter their race or religion, their politics or their beliefs, or to be targeted while going about their daily lives. My thoughts, and the thoughts of our Caucus, are with the victims of this attack as well as their families and friends and your community. Terror and anti-Semitism have no place in our international community and we must continue to work together to end it and ensure hatred doesn’t prevail.”
Hon Alfred Ngaro MP
“My belated condolences
To the families of the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, USA. As the chair of New Zealand Israel Parliamentary Friendship Group I am truly saddened for the families whose loved ones have been tragically taken away. This crime of hatred reminds us of the importance to be Constantly vigilant of the anti Semitism that at times confronts our Jewish community.
May you be comforted from above.
(meen hah-shah-MAH-yeem teh-noo-KHAH-moo)”
Simon O’Connor MP
“Excuse my silence over recent days; I have in South Korea visiting some of our troops at the border and meeting my political counterparts here in Seoul. I am only getting back to my correspondence now but with all the tragic and disturbing events in Pittsburgh, be assured it was something I have been very aware of and my thoughts and prayers have been with the Jewish community. Now that I can write again, I have put a few words together below for you and the wider community:
I was shocked to hear of the appalling violence perpetrated against the Jewish community in Pittsburgh on Saturday. I wish to express my condolences to all of the families affected and to the Jewish community in Pittsburgh. I would also like to convey my sympathy to the wider Jewish community here in New Zealand and around the world. This is yet another example of a disturbing rise in anti-Semitism that we have seen in recent years. Despite the fear and sadness that this event has understandably generated in Jewish communities, I hope that you can find comfort in knowing that so much of the world stands with you. The strength of the Jewish people will not be diminished by the barbaric actions of a hateful few. Clearly, we have a long way to go in ending this terrible prejudice and the horrific violence to which it leads. I know we will succeed because we all know we must.
With thoughts and best wishes
Member of Parliament for Tamaki