Approximately 20 people gathered in Aotea Square, Auckland, to show support for the Iranian-backed Lebanese group, Hezbollah, on Fri, 08 June 2018. The protesters held signs that included “Hezballah [sic] is the symbol of resistance in the face of aggression”.
The protest fell on Quds Day, which is was initiated by the Islamic Republic of Iran in 1979 to express solidarity with Palestinians and opposition to Zionism and Israel. “Al-Quds” is an Arabic term for Jerusalem and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has said this year’s events were “special” because of US President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and 2018 being “the 70th anniversary of the occupation of the Palestinian land” – a reference to Israel’s War of Independence.
This is not the first time that Hezbollah has been openly supported in Auckland. In August, 2017, a man was seen wearing a t-shirt with the Hezbollah flag on it at an anti-Israel protest at Aotea square.
The military wing of Hezbollah, also known as Islamic resistance, is a designated terror entity according to NZ Police. The reasons for this designation are numerous. Of particular note is a Lebanese-Canadian operative in Cyprus charged for stockpiling explosives to attack Jewish targets in 2015 and the actual 2017 bombing of a Jewish community centre in Argentina.
However, the political wing of Hezbollah (literally “Party of Allah”), is not considered a terror organisation and has ostensibly won recent Lebanese parliamentary elections. This is a loophole that London Mayor, Sadiq Khan, has called on the UK government to fix by proscribing the political wing a terror group also. Israel Institute of New Zealand director, Dr David Cumin, believes the New Zealand government could show leadership in this regard:
“The distinction is ridiculous. If not for the terror acts directed by the political wing, or the genocidal statements of their political leaders, the fact that their flag has an assault rifle front and centre should be a give-away as to their motives.” Dr David Cumin
The head of Hezbollah, Hassan Nasrallah, has said “If they [the Jews] all gather in Israel, it will save us the trouble of going after them worldwide” and “The Jews invented the legend of the Nazi atrocities. It is clear that the numbers they talk about are greatly exaggerated“.
This egregious Holocaust denial is also synonymous with Hezbollah and their supporters. Last year, The Israel Institute of New Zealand laid complaints about Holocaust denial and the call for the destruction of Israel by an Iranian diplomat and clerics at the Islamic Ahlulbayt Foundation of New Zealand last year. The same group is behind this protest in support of Hezbollah. Dr Cumin says New Zealand leaders must speak up or risk further emboldening the radical group.
“Last year it was in the context of a community gathering that Holocaust denial and a call for genocide was heard. This year, support for an Islamist terrorist group has been heard and seen in the heart of Auckland city, in broad daylight. If support for terror continues to go unchallenged we increase the risk that an act of terror might follow.” Dr David Cumin