Online hate uncovered in New Zealand anti-Israel group


A group based in New Zealand has been found to have dozens of antisemitic posts and comments on its Facebook account.

The national debate in New Zealand about online hate is being had at all levels of society, with Prime Minister Ardern meeting with other world leaders to garner support for the Christchurch Call, and investigative journalists uncovering White Supremacist hate posted by Kiwis on social media channels.

The White Supremacist hate posted is xenophobic, mysogynistic, Islamophobic, and antisemitic; with adoration for Hitler and Nazi motifs abound. It is also not dissimilar to the social media comments made by Kiwis that was exposed in January 2018 that led to then-Race Relations Commissioner Susan Devoy to comment that “If Facebook were around during the Third Reich these posts would’ve fitted right in…“.

Antisemitism online is a global phenomenon – the World Jewish Congress undertook a study of online antisemitism in 2017 and found there was an antisemitic post made every 83 seconds.

Such antisemitism, however, is not confined to White Supremacists. The United Nations issued its first report on antisemitism last week, acknowledging the growth in global antisemitism and identifying its sources as including radical Islamists, the far-right, and the far-left.

An investigation into a New Zealand-based anti-Israel group, Kia Ora Gaza, has found that it has allowed dozens of comments that would clearly be considered antisemitic according to the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) working definition, a definition accepted by the European Union and the UN. IHRA is an organisation with representation from 33 countries.

For example, comments on the Kia Ora Gaza Facebook page suggested that Israel was responsible for the disappearance of Malaysian Airlines flight MH370, posts compared Israel to Nazi Germany, called Jews dogs, and wished for their “punishment”.

Example comments tolerated on the Kia Ora Gaza Facebook page.

There were also posts calling Jesus a Palestinian, denying the fact that he was a Jew born in Judea. And official posts from the group have included comparisons of modern-day Israel with Nazis. The uncovered comments and posts have nothing to do with legitimate criticism of any Israeli policy; they are tropes identified by IHRA as antisemitic.

Kia Ora Gaza Antisemitism
Antisemitic posts on the Kia Ora Gaza facebook page

Furthermore, at the time of the series of terror attacks against Israelis in 2015, Kia Ora Gaza posted support for a third intifada – or another wave of more serious violence against Israelis. And Kia Ora Gaza’s leader, Roger Fowler, compared Israel to Islamic State (ISIS) and made it clear he was against a two-state solution to the Arab Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

When people have tried to combat the antisemitism or post anything to balance the anti-Israel hate, the moderators of the account delete and block them. Unfortunately, Kia Ora Gaza is not alone in spreading their hate under the guise of legitimate political debate; the UN report also identified

“…numerous reports of an increase in many countries of what is sometimes called ‘left-wing’ antisemitism, in which individuals claiming to hold anti-racist and anti-imperialist views employ antisemitic narratives or tropes in the course of expressing anger at policies or practices of the Government of Israel. In some cases, individuals expressing such views have engaged in Holocaust denial; in others, they have conflated Zionism, the self-determination movement of the Jewish people, with racism; claimed Israel does not have a right to exist; and accused those expressing concern over antisemitism as acting in bad faith…”UN Report on Antisemitism

Less than one week following the publication of the UN report, The Israeli Ministry of Strategic Affairs released their own report that used the IHRA definition to identify more than 80 examples of antisemitic social media posts by leaders of the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel.

The antisemitic posts by BDS leaders were identical in nature and intent to those of Kia Ora Gaza, which should come as no surprise as Kia Ora Gaza also promotes BDS. The BDS campaign has also been linked to terror groups and the German government recently passed a bill with bipartisan support comparing the boycott of Israel with Nazi boycotts of Jews.

A recent study from the London-based Institute for Jewish Policy Research shows that there is a “clear statistical connection” between backing boycotts of Israel and the endorsement of traditional anti-Jewish tropes. Unfortunately, New Zealand is clearly not immune from this, either.

We hope that the wide-ranging debate currently taking place in New Zealand about on-line hate will take seriously the concerns raised by the United Nations, Jewish and Israeli research groups, and community leaders. Antisemitism is a persistent and recurring problem, that is rising again at an alarming rate. These issues need to be faced squarely and not brushed under the carpet.

Hopefully, New Zealand leaders will follow the UN report guidance to use the IHRA definition “as a non-legal educational tool… [to] contribute usefully to efforts to combat antisemitism…” and to condemn hatred when it is found.


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