SYDNEY, Australia (JTA) – Police removed several activists from the gay pride parade in New Zealand who broke through barricades to protest Israel’s entry.
Saying they were criticizing Israel’s “pinkwashing” of human rights, a handful of protesters dressed in pink and bearing placards protesting “Israeli apartheid” tried to approach the float at the beginning of the parade in Auckland on Saturday night. The float was organized by Israel’s embassy in the capital.
Patricia Deen, the embassy’s spokeswoman, said, “We were just there because we are proud of who we are, the fact that we are the only country in the Middle East where gay people are accepted. We were also there to promote the Tel Aviv gay parade.”
She added, “Their pride parade is one of the biggest parties in the whole wide world. We have a proud Israeli and Jewish gay community in New Zealand and in Israel.”
Deen also told GayNZ.com, “Even though we were being disrupted, it was in the beginning of the parade. But through the whole parade we were being cheered, people were saying ‘shalom.’ ”
The fracas came as a group of 40 activists, led by anti-apartheid campaigner John Minto, traveled from Auckland to Wellington, also on Saturday night, to boycott the Batsheva Dance Company, which was performing at the New Zealand Festival for the first time. They were met by a group of pro-Israel demonstrators led by David Zwartz, the former honorary Israeli consul.
“The counter-demonstration came from the Wellington Jewish community and a strong contingent from Christian supporters of Israel,” Zwartz told JTA. “The main focus of our counter-protest was the falseness of the allegation that Israel is an apartheid state.”
At least five ticket holders decided not to attend the acclaimed dance troupe’s performance, according to local media.
Israel’s ambassador, Yosef Livne, attended the premiere on Friday night. The embassy partially sponsored the troupe’s visit to New Zealand, which has been hailed by critics.