MELBOURNE (JTA) – Israel’s ambassador to New Zealand is slamming as “outrageous” a recent article in a New Zealand newspaper that called Israel a terrorist state and suggested the Israeli government might adopt Nazi genocidal policies to crush the Palestinians in Gaza.
Yuval Rotem, who is also Israel’s envoy to Australia, said the Jan. 26 column in the Herald on Sunday newspaper by Matt McCarten, a former left-wing political activist, was the most pernicious he’d read in his 21-year diplomatic career.
“We have every intention to pursue it in the highest possible manner, including with the owners of the newspaper,” Rotem told JTA. “The fact that the newspaper is giving a platform to someone to spread hatred and incitement of anti-Jewish and anti-Israel feeling is outrageous.”
A book released late last year by three Jewish academics accuses the mainstream press in New Zealand of “almost daily anti-Semitic and anti-Israel diatribes.”
In “Worlds Apart,” Colin Tatz, Peter Arnold and Gillian Heller cite evidence that leads them to a “reasonable conclusion” that there is “chronic, endemic anti-Semitism in the academe and its intellectual world” in New Zealand.
In his Jan. 26 column, McCarten, who has been involved in several leftist political parties in New Zealand, wrote: “After this week, does anyone doubt that Israel is a terrorist state?”
He compared what Israel was doing to Gaza’s Palestinians to Nazi policies against Jews in the Warsaw ghetto, who were subjected to collective punishment when a few tried to revolt against the Nazis.
“What’s the next move for Israeli leaders? They could have to follow the example of the Nazis who in the end massacred everyone inside the compound,” McCarten wrote. “The truth is Israel is a terrorist state and is able to wage crimes on an innocent people because it is funded and abetted by the world’s only superpower.”
In a rebuttal published in the Herald this Sunday, Rotem wrote, “To draw parallels between Nazi Germany and Israel’s current actions is offensive and undermines the indignity that the Jewish people suffered.”
Explaining that Israel’s West Bank security fence was built in self-defense, Rotem said McCarten failed to understand “the horror caused by these extremists using themselves as human bomb carriers; of climbing on buses, seeing innocent children and still pulling the trigger.”
“Would New Zealanders ask their government to sit idly by while a terrorist organization fires missiles on the towns of Tauranga or Hamilton?” Rotem asked.
David Zwartz, a former president of the New Zealand Jewish Council, described McCarten’s article as “vicious” and said his group was consulting with the Israeli Embassy in Canberra, Australia, to coordinate a response.
“Matt McCarten is representing what is now the standard political dogma of the left. Unfortunately, this is a view unrelated to the facts,” said New Zealand Jewish Council president Stephen Goodman.
Jewish leaders are also upset about another recent New Zealand newspaper article, in The Press in Christchurch, which called Israel an apartheid state.
Arguing the case for a single-state solution, John Minto, also a left-wing political activist, wrote on Dec. 24: “It is apartheid which is here today – alive and well in the land of Jesus Christ’s birth.”
“Any solution in the Middle East which formalizes apartheid (as the two-state solution would) would cement in place racism and inequality,” he wrote.
Israel’s diplomatic relations with New Zealand were frozen for 18 months when, in 2004, two alleged Mossad spies were caught in the country with fraudulent passports. At the time, Prime Minister Helen Clark blasted Israel, which later apologized for the incident.
Not long after the two Israelis were arrested, about 100 gravestones were desecrated at a New Zealand Jewish cemetery and a prayer hall was razed to the ground in what local leaders of the 7,000-person Jewish community in the country described as the worst act of anti-Semitism in New Zealand’s history.