COMMENTARY: By John Minto
The Aotearoa New Zealand government decision to take on observer status at the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance is a step backwards in the fight against anti-semitism and the struggle for Palestinian human rights.
The IHRA is a partisan, political organisation working hard to deflect criticism of Israel’s racist policies towards Palestinians with false smears of anti-semitism.
For example the IHRA has adopted its own definition of anti-semitism which claims calling Israel an apartheid state (as every major international human rights group such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch does) or calling for sanctions against Israel is anti-semitic.
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The New Zealand Jewish Council and the Holocaust Centre of New Zealand have already adopted this bogus IHRA definition which they used in a so-called “survey of anti-semitism” earlier this year to make the absurd claims that describing Israel as an apartheid state or calling for sanctions against Israel were anti-semitic.
Palestinian civil society organisations called for BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) in 2005 to build international pressure to require Israel to abide by international law and United Nations resolutions.
BDS was an important part of the fight against apartheid in South Africa and is also an important strategy in the fight against apartheid in Israel.
The three aims of BDS are to end Israel’s military occupation, end its apartheid policies towards Palestinians and allow Palestinian refugees to return to the land and homes from which they were ethnically cleansed by Israel in 1948.
This legitimate and successful BDS strategy is fiercely opposed by Israel which is weaponising the Holocaust against Palestinian demands for human rights.
Needless to say, Palestinians had no role in the Holocaust whose cause was European anti-semitism.
By joining the IHRA, Aotearoa New Zealand is undermining the fight against anti-semitism and racism of all kinds.
The government has caved in to relentless bullying and threats of false smears of anti-semitism from the pro-Israel lobby.
Joining the IHRA is a weak, cowardly decision.
Aotearoa New Zealand should adopt the Jerusalem Declaration on Anti-Semitism and insist on Holocaust education in every school in the country as part of a comprehensive anti-racism education programme.
John Minto is a political activist and commentator, and spokesperson for Palestine Solidarity Network Aotearoa. This article was first published by The Daily Blog and is republished with the author’s permission.