Tag: New Zealand
In reality, there is a high degree of misunderstanding about what freedom of speech means. All too often, people seem to think the principle only applies if they agree with what is being said - with anything else being re-defined as "hate speech".
This tendency has been further complicated by the growth of the internet and social media and all that they entail. While they provide more people with platforms to express their views, they have also led to an increased aversion to hearing differing points of view.
United Nations Resolution 2334 came screaming out of the blue, just before Christmas. The "anti-settlement" resolution itself, which passed after the US broke with convention and abstained, was disturbing enough. But for Jewish New Zealanders it was particularly shocking.
It's rare for a sitting prime minister to resign in New Zealand. It is unheard of for a sitting prime minister who is at the top of his game and riding high in the leader polls to do so. But, one fine day in November, that is just what New Zealand's now former Prime Minister John Key did...
The former Prime Minister's surprise resignation is particularly worthy of comment in this column because of his Jewish background.
Last year a number of incidents occurred at several New Zealand universities which give cause for concern. One of these was an attempt - which failed - to block the visit, organised by the New Zealand branch of the Australasian Union of Jewish Students (AUJS NZ), of two former IDF soldiers to Victoria University...
But the most widely publicised of these incidents was what became known as the Scott Poynting affair.
Since New Zealand assumed its seat on the United Nations Security Council, Foreign Minister Murray McCully has raised eyebrows with some of his actions and statements regarding Israel.
He has regularly stated his desire to get Israel and the Palestinians back to the negotiating table. But, while doing so, he has repeatedly pointed to Israel's settlement activity as the key item threatening the viability of the two state solution. Conversely, he has generally refrained from giving any specific comment on Palestinian inctitement or recalcitrance.
Building bridges with art and culture is a time-honoured tradition. It could be a partnership between musicians from countries in conflict, or a fine art exhibition aiming to break down the gap between different parts of the world. Whatever the form, the arts can serve to create empathy, understanding and identification in situations where it might not otherwise exist.
Back in 2014, at the height of the Israel-Gaza conflict, I wrote about the extreme nature of anti-Israel protests and public pronouncements. I pondered whether there might perhaps be a stream of antisemitism, disguised as anti-Israel sentiment, growing in New Zealand.
These concerns are shared by other New Zealanders, non-Jewish as well as Jewish.
One prominent example is Sir James McNeish, a critically acclaimed novelist, playwright and biographer.
Sometimes trying to be too many things to too many people in a difficult situation can end up offering nothing to anybody. Or, alternatively, counterproductively sowing confusion and discord. And such seems to be the case with New Zealand's draft Security Council resolution on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Palestinian human rights activist Bassem Eid has been openly vocal in his opposition to, and condemnation of, the BDS movement and all that it represents. This may have played a part in the hostility that greeted his recent visit to New Zealand.
However, that hostility, in turn, exposed some of the ugly hypocrisy which is circulating in some sectors of New Zealand academia.