“[the BDS campaign] is often used as cover for antisemitic movements so I cannot agree to the proposition because that particular movement actually has a very, very nasty undercurrent to it.”James Shaw

New Zealand media reported that Green Party co-leader, James Shaw, said “what he said” after Labour Party candidate, Grant Robertson, “navigated a tricky Israel/Palestine question” at a meeting in Wellington on 08 September. There was more to it than that.

The question was the first in a series of five that hate group, Kia Ora Gaza, have encouraged people to ask of aspiring politicians (see here) – whether the candidates would sanction Israel or ensure the SuperFund would not invest in companies associated with Jews living in Judea and Samaria.

Finance Minister, Grant Robertson, answered first and reiterated the official policy of the New Zealand government as being for a two-state solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. He said “we have seen significant aggression from Israel in recent times” yet made no mention of the terror that precipitated the IDF strikes in Gaza. And he ended by stating that New Zealand would follow United Nations sanctions and that a priority for the government was peace in the Middle East.

Green Party co-leader, James Shaw, did follow with “what Grant said” and reiterated the Green Party commitment to a two-state solution also, but then went on to make an important point. Mr Shaw said “[the BDS campaign] is often used as cover for antisemitic movements so I cannot agree to the proposition because that particular movement actually has a very, very nasty undercurrent to it.” This is why, for example, the German government, with bipartisan support, passed a bill that compared the BDS campaign to the Nazi boycott of Jews.

Mr Shaw ended by saying that his comments don’t mean he agrees with the actions of Israel and he thinks the international community should apply pressure to ensure that it does not annex the West Bank. The microphone was then passed to Jesse Richardson who said he was part of the Jewish community and that the issue was close to his heart. He continued to echo Mr Shaw’s comments that there is antisemitism in the BDS campaign and that he supports the campaign in general.

With the crowd applauding Mr Richardson, TOP candidate Abe Grey answered the question with an expressed desire for “the left wing elements that were there” to return to Israeli leadership and a quip about “all their electoral cycles were within the last year”. He made a point about not wanting to marginalise the whole of Israel, citing “the Netanyahu government” as “the problem”. Like the previous candidates, there was no mention of any intransigence of the Arab Palestinian leaders or reference to their last election cycle.

Act candidate, Brooke van Velden, answered next and began by expressing gratitude for living in a country that doesn’t have to actively worry about war. She went on to highlight the discrimination of the BDS campaign by saying that if we take a moral stance on the Palestine-Israel conflict in terms of trade, then New Zealand would need to do similar for every other trade relationship and made the point that we currently trade with countries that are “far more misogynistic” and referenced China’s suppression of speech in Hong Kong.

Finally, National candidate, Nicola Willis also referenced the antisemitism inherent in the BDS campaign. Ms Willis also highlighted the areas where most parties are in total agreement – that New Zealand supports a two-state solution to the conflict and that New Zealand follows United Nations guidelines on sanctions.

Overall, what could have been yet another complete beat-up on Israel turned out to be a more reasonable discussion where the antisemitism within the BDS campaign was exposed by all political parties. While Palestinian terror and incitement were conspicuously absent from the candidates’ responses, a willingness to label BDS antisemitic is encouraging.

Video of the answers is below.