If you’re not into rap music, you’d be forgiven for not knowing the name Kanye West (also known as Ye). He’s a critically acclaimed artist and regarded as one of the most influential hip hop artists of all time, with over 160 million records sold and 24 Grammy Awards. He’s been married to Kim Kardashian, has claimed to be a Christian and apparently has mental health issues.
Over the past few weeks Ye has made a range of antisemitic comments in interviews and on social media. While this might not seem newsworthy in itself, the fact that he has around 50 million followers on various social media platforms makes this a matter of concern.
Last weekend, emboldened by Ye’s hateful rhetoric, supporters were photographed on a freeway overpass in Los Angeles, giving Nazi salutes and displaying banners referencing antisemitic comments made by Ye and Bible verses while urging cars to honk in support.
Sadly, New Zealand is not immune from these pernicious influences.
A recent New Zealand report published by a human rights group found that two-thirds of New Zealand Jews said that they had experienced antisemitism on social media in the past three years.
Furthermore, the research showed the type of antisemitic disinformation most experienced online by New Zealand Jewry is anti-Israel or anti-Zionist in nature.
More than half (52%) of the Jewish people living in New Zealand said that they encountered antisemitic misinformation or disinformation online that was either directly related to Israel or to anti-Zionism during the last 12 months, according to the report.
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In June, New Zealand became an observer to the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA). This could be an important step forward in New Zealand’s battle against antisemitism. The organisation’s non-legally binding working definition of antisemitism offers useful examples of when anti-Zionism crosses over into antisemitism, such as:
- Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g. by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor.
- Applying double standards by requiring of it a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation.
Unfortunately, several egregious incidents of Jew-hatred have occurred in New Zealand in recent years with little to no comment or action from the country’s foremost human rights body.
An IINZ investigation found that several ostensibly “pro-Palestinian” groups in New Zealand regularly post antisemitic comments indistinguishable from that espoused by the far-right on their social media feeds. One group in particular, Kia Ora Gaza (KOG), included antisemitic content that would be clearly designated as antisemitic by the International Holocaust Remembrance of Antisemitism (IHRA) Working Definition of Antisemitism, including posts blaming Israel for the 2014 disappearance of Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370, posts referring to Jews as “dogs,” and posts comparing Israel to Nazi Germany.
As fellow director Dr David Cumin has written,
“… New Zealand is not immune to the lies spread about Jews and Israel. The amount of disinformation relating to Israel and Jews online is pernicious and a major part of the reason IINZ exists.”