The New Zealand Jewish Council and the Holocaust Centre of New Zealand are dismayed at the use of inflammatory and Holocaust-related language in the political arena in New Zealand.
At the first sitting of the new Parliament, we witnessed multiple examples labelling the Israeli response to the October 7th terrorist attacks as a “genocide.” In addition, we saw the use of the term “ethnic cleansing” as well as suggestions that Israel’s 75-year sovereignty is an “occupation.”
The Jewish community in New Zealand is made up in part by Holocaust survivors and their descendants and at a time of heightened antisemitism in this country, this language inflames tensions in New Zealand and adds to the trauma the Jewish community already feels after the terrorist attacks. Labelling Israel’s existence as an occupation denies Jews self-determination and a right to a sovereign homeland.
The misuse of the Holocaust for political ends is a form of Holocaust denial as it belittles what occurred in the Holocaust. What is occurring in Israel and Gaza is horrific, but it cannot be correctly compared to the Holocaust. “Words matter and it is a time that all, but especially political leaders, should choose their words carefully, to ensure they do not inflame tensions in New Zealand,” said Deborah Hart, chair of the Holocaust Centre of New Zealand. “The misuse of the Holocaust, and the terms “ethnic cleansing” and “genocide” have specific meanings and should not be bandied about.”
These statements are counter-productive and, rather than furthering peace between Israelis and Palestinians, it causes the two sides to be further apart. “Accusing Israel of not learning from the Holocaust and becoming Nazi-like perpetrators is a malicious trick, aimed to inflict hurt on Jewish people.”
Associate Professor Giacomo Lichtner, Deputy Chair of the Holocaust Centre of New Zealand commented that: “These are false and dangerous equivalences that rest both on partial narratives of a decades-old conflict and on selective historical analyses. Such analyses are misleading and harmful: they feed anti-Jewish conspiracies and effectively justify Hamas’s unspeakable and openly antisemitic brutality.”
“When some of our political leaders in New Zealand continue to use these terms, it directly incites antisemitic behaviour and we call on all leaders to consider their words carefully,” said Ben Kepes, Spokesperson for the New Zealand Jewish Council (NZJC).
The NZJC and Holocaust Centre noted with dismay the marked escalation of antisemitic abuse on social media, at protest rallies and in person, since the 7 October terrorist attacks by Hamas.