The Israel Institute of New Zealand can report that Labour MP for Christchurch Central, Dr Duncan Webb, has been an active member of an antisemitic Facebook group for about one year having posted to the page, commented on posts, and ‘liked’ posts.
“Aotearoa Standing With Palestine” promotes and tolerates the most egregious expressions of antisemitism – including Holocaust denial.
Some more examples of antisemitism posted in the group are below. Even more examples are indistinguishable from antisemitism espoused by the far-Right group, Action Zealandia.
The administrators of the group are Lindy Loo, Sandra Ann, Nedina Hohaia, and Fred Hayward. Hayward is one of the founding National Committee Members of the Palestine Solidarity Network Aotearoa – a group chaired by John Minto with Neil Scott as secretary.
Dr. Webb is a committed anti-Israel activist and has made no secret of this on social media. He also has amassed a long history of concerning comments and conduct associated with the conflict that have long troubled members of the New Zealand Jewish community.
In 2019, the New Zealand Jewish Council condemned Dr Webb for his promotion of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign, a movement that the German government has likened to the Nazi boycott of Jews.
He has also hosted a lunch for Mike Treen upon his return from the “flotilla” trip to Gaza, a publicity stunt in aid of terror group Hamas that promotes, among other things, misinformation about the military blockade imposed by Israel in response to rocket fire and attempted inclusions onto Israeli territory.
In a public talk given in Christchurch in 2019, Dr Webb accused “a strong Zionist Jewish lobby” of controlling US politics, a trope considered antisemitic by the IHRA (International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance working definition of antisemitism) and in early 2020 opposed Wellington City Council adopting the very same IHRA definition, citing free speech concerns. His position here seemed to wildly contradict his oft-stated support for his parties proposed new changes to ‘hate speech’ laws.
While one of the more high profile MPs, Dr. Webb isn’t the only active member in our current coalition government. There are also two other MPs who are members of “Aotearoa Standing with Palestine” – Labour Party MP, Ibrahim Omer, who joined the hate group about 3 years ago and Green MP, Teanau Tuiono who joined about one year ago.
While they do not seem to have engaged with the group like Dr Webb has, Mr Omer is also a member of the online group, BDS Wellington, and has engaged with that group, including making a post in which he stated that “…isreal [sic] deliberately targeting civilians speciaaly [sic] children…” and liking a post that suggested Auckland University Student’s Association was going to endorse the discriminatory BDS campaign. And Mr Tuiono openly supported Mr Treen when he partook in the “flotilla” stunt and called the “March of Return” riots peaceful.
It has been more than one week since The Israel Institute of New Zealand wrote to Labour Party leaders concerning such a prominent MP as Dr. Webb’s being an active contributor to an openly racist group. The Green Party co-leaders have also been contacted about the participation of some of their MPs. Neither party has responded as of the date of publication.
The Human Rights Commission has told The Israel Institute of New Zealand they
“do not condone, and are very concerned by, any alleged association of MPs with forums that express discrimination or racism. We also agree that antisemitism should not be allowed to grow in NZ politics.”NZ Human Rights Commission
Prof Hunt spoke out against antisemitism similar to that found in “Aotearoa Standing with Palestine” that was previously exposed in another anti-Israel group – Kia Ora Gaza, run by Roger Fowler – saying they peddled “utterly deplorable antisemitism”.
Prime Minister Ardern was made a member of Kia Ora Gaza without her knowledge and distanced herself from it when she saw the racism on display and heard the comments of Prof Hunt.
However, some Green MPs, including co-leader Ms Davidson, are still part of the group. Moreover, in 2017 Ms Davidson participated in the ‘flotilla’ stunt organised by Roger Fowler, and Ms Ghahraman proudly stated how “special” she felt that her first post-election meeting was with John Minto, Don Carson, and Roger Fowler.
The developments of New Zealand MPs being members and engaging with online hate groups mirrors some of the issues that the United Kingdom had under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership that contributed to an investigation by the EHRC. An MP as prominent as Dr. Duncan Webb participating in an online group rife with vile antisemitism makes a mockery of the work done by the Labour Party post the atrocity on 15 March and calls into question his fitness for the role as public servant.
An unfolding story, IINZ will post updates and any responses from the government and/or Dr. Webb. You can do your part by communicating your concerns to Labour Party leader, Jacinda Ardern, and Senior Whip, Kieran McAnulty; and Green Party co-leaders, James Shaw and Marama Davidson.