Dave Muscovitz [pictured above] is a former Temple Sinai president, co-chair of the Wellington Abrahamic Council of Jews, Christians and Muslims and, until recently, the Klezmer Rebs’ main vocalist.
On May 22, he was part of a panel on “Hate and the Internet” at an event run by Internet NZ.
Muscovitz described himself as a middle-aged Pakeha, cis hetero male, geek, property owner, investor, co-director, immigrant, American, religious, Jew and a Zionist.
Then he said it was a bad week to be a Zionist but, then again, it was never a great week.
“ Here’s the Oxford definition for Zionism: A movement for (originally) the re-establishment and (now) the development and protection of a Jewish nation in what is now Israel.
“ In other words I believe Israel has the right to exist as a Jewish country and that makes me a Zionist.”
There was nothing in that definition about bombing little children or imprisoning Palestinians but that is the way much of the world saw Zionism, he continued.
“The word has been usurped by those who see no place for a Jewish state in the Middle East.”
One of his purposes in life is getting people who hate each other to talk to each other, learn about each other and see what common ground could be found, he said.
His first encounter with internet hate was in 2006 when he was targeted by one of New Zealand’s few white nationalists.
They put out a guide to “Zionists in your neighbourhood” and included a photo of the Muscovitz house bedecked with balloons for his three-year-old’s birthday party.
The white nationalist said Jews, Judaism and the Israeli people were not welcome and in a follow up interview in the Sunday News he described himself as anti-Semitic, believing all Jews should be exterminated.
“That is crossing the line. Saying you don’t like a group of people while repugnant is exercising free speech. Implying they should have been killed, borders on incitement,” Muscovitz said.
He set out some general principles to guide against hate speech.
“First, the golden rule is treat others as you would like to be treated. Secondly you should stay true to your ideals and thirdly your rights offline are your rights online and vice versa.
“The key thing to do when you encounter hate speech is to help others when they are being targeted.”
He believes that what is most likely to lead to the best outcome is to be respectful and minimalise intervention.
“People should look beyond labels and treat each other as humans for the wonderful, complex and fascinating people that we all are.”
Read Dave Muscovitz’s speech in full here.