SYDNEY, Australia (JTA) — A Catholic priest desecrated a memorial to slain Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in New Zealand’s capital.
Father Gerard Burns reportedly smeared red paint and drops of his own blood over the memorial plaque in Wellington Tuesday to mark the deaths of more than 500 Palestinians killed by the Israel Defense Forces in the Gaza Strip, according to the New Zealand Press Association.
Several hundred demonstrators marched from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade in the central business district to the Rabin memorial bearing placards with slogans such as “Zionism is racism” and “Gaza’s Holocaust: Israel’s peace initiative.” The protest was organized by the Wellington Palestine Group.
In a letter delivered to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the group slammed John Key’s Conservative National Party for “taking no side” in the crisis. It also called for the credentials of the Israeli ambassador to New Zealand, Yuval Rotem, to be revoked and for Wellington to sever ties with Jerusalem.
A small counter protest was staged in Wellington at the same time, with several dozen pro-Israel supporters waving placards saying “Peace for Israel” and “Stop the Hamas missiles on Israel.”
David Zwartz, the former honorary Israeli consul in New Zealand, told JTA he went to the Rabin memorial to remove as much of the paint as possible, but said some stains would need to be removed by professionals.