Silencing Palestinian rights activists in Aotearoa

In 2022, New Zealanders were repeatedly called antisemitic for beliefs consistent with universal human rights and democratic norms. Because it confuses opposition to Zionism with a hatred of Jews, the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s Working Definition of Antisemitism (IHRA WD) enables Zionist individuals and organisations to make false and unanswerable accusations of antisemitism against their fellow New Zealanders. New Zealanders are being labelled as antisemites for upholding the UN-recognised rights of Palestinians, or simply for making statements about their Palestinian or non-Zionist Jewish identity. In 2022, two national surveys of antisemitism were distorted by classing opposition to Israel’s illegal occupation as a prominent form of antisemitism. The NZ Jewish Council survey explicitly labelled every respondent as an antisemite if they held views consistent with global human rights reporting, and with our basic democratic norms.

Justice for Palestine and Alternative Jewish Voices jointly surveyed New Zealanders who advocate for Palestinian rights. In these pages, we begin to hear their experience of being falsely accused. These voices signal the need for more systematic study of the IHRA WD’s stealthy use to silence Palestinian speech, harm human rights advocates and denigrate non-Zionist Jewish identity in Aotearoa.

  • 86% of respondents have witnessed accusations addressed to others in public, private or religious (synagogue) venues.
  • 67% have been personally accused of antisemitism, including 10 of the 14 respondents who identified themselves as Jewish or Palestinian.
  • Only 2 respondents have been accused of antisemitism for comments relating to Jews or Judaism. 93% of respondents were accused for commenting on the actions of the Israeli state, politicians, police or military forces. 66% were accused for commenting on the history or Palestine, and 62% for commenting on Palestinians’ equal entitlements to UN-recognised rights.
  • 31% of respondents reported being or feeling threatened.
  • Although we tend to speak of these accusations taking place online, 62% of our respondents have been accused in a face-to-face encounter. 55% have been accused on social media, while 28% have received letters or emails accusing them of antisemitism. This problem is experienced more intimately than we had assumed.
  • Seriously harmful personal outcomes were most likely to be reported by Jews or people of Arabic descent.

None of us has the right to define our identity so expansively as to demand the erasure of another.

Human rights and the IHRA WD are not two equally valid, opposing views. Human rights is our global, codified, committed standard and the IHRA WD violates it. Antisemitism is real and integral to the worldviews of White supremacists and the far Right. The IHRA WD does not combat that primary source of real antisemitism. It is a tool to punish support for the equal human and political rights of Palestinians, and it is a mechanism to Zionise and monopolise Jewish identity.

In our Appendix, we excerpt from United Nations and New Zealand Human Rights Commission reporting on the need to address antisemitism, Islamophobia and all forms of racism in ways that support and advance our universal human rights. That is the way forward.

We call on our government to publicly oppose any adoption, use or endorsement of the IHRA WD in Aotearoa or in the United Nation

Read the full survey results here.

Photo by Kristina Flour on Unsplash

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