SYDNEY, Australia (JTA) — Campaign billboards in New Zealand were defaced with anti-Semitic slurs about Prime Minister John Key, the son of a Jewish refugee from Europe.
Ahead of the election on Sept. 20, several billboards were daubed earlier this week, local media reported. One billboard was scrawled with the words “Lying Jew c—-sucker” and defaced the image of Key with a black hat and sidelocks.
Key, the leader of the conservative National Party, is seeking a third term in office.
“I just find it disappointing for the Jewish community,” Key, who acknowledges his Jewish ancestry but is not a practicing Jew, told local media. “I have a Jewish past, which is extremely well known. My mother was Jewish, and some of my mother’s family went to the concentration camps. But for the Jewish community in New Zealand, they are hard-working, decent people and they don’t deserve to be brought into some sort of personal campaign that’s directed at me.”
Stephen Goodman, the president of the New Zealand Jewish Council — a body representing the country’s 7,000 Jews — was quoted by the J-Wire local Jewish blog as saying: “The New Zealand Jewish community is concerned about the rise in anti-Semitic acts and statements being made at present.” He also said: “Recent activity, such as the defacing of John Key’s billboards and actions associated with political rallies, is unacceptable.”
The incident comes days after Steve Gibson, a candidate for the opposition Labor Party, apologized for posting a message on Facebook describing Key as “Shonky Jonkey Shylock … nasty little creep with a nasty evil and vindictive sneer.”
The post has since been deleted, and Gibson was censured by the Labor leader.