SYDNEY, Australia (Dec. 3)
The fight against hate crime has spread to New Zealand.
The country’s Jewish community, spurred by a large increase in racist attacks, hosted a rally Monday in the capital of Wellington with the aim of developing a strategy to stop racist groups.
Among those addressing the rally were three members of Parliament and a national race relations official.
David Zwartz, president of the New Zealand Jewish Council, said in an interview, “Our historical experience has led us to believe that it is important to take early action so as to stop something small from developing into something much more dangerous.”
He added that “New Zealanders are not generally racist, but have little real idea of what to do when racism is developing.”
In recent weeks, a number of attacks on refugees and immigrants from Asia, Africa and the Middle East — along with the emergence of a neo-Nazi group known as Unit 88 — have gained prominent coverage in the media and focused attention on skinheads groups.
The reference to “88″ is a common international neo-Nazi code for the repetition of the eighth letter in the alphabet. It stands for “Heil Hitler.”
Zwartz said Unit 88 “distributes anti-Semitic literature,” but that at this stage there was nothing to suggest that it was “acting on its propaganda.”
There are some 5,000 Jews living in New Zealand.