SYDNEY, Australia (JTA) – A Muslim cafe owner in New Zealand evicted two customers because they were Israeli.
Mustafa Tekinkaya, a Muslim from Turkey, heard Natalie Bennie and Tamara Shefa speaking Hebrew at his cafe in Invercargill on the South Island earlier this week and ordered them out.
“He heard us speaking Hebrew and he asked us where we were from,” Mrs Bennie told the local newspaper. “I said Israel and he said ‘get out, I am not serving you’. It was shocking.”
Tekinkaya said he was protesting Israel’s action in the Gaza Strip.
“I have decided as a protest not to serve Israelis until the war stops,” he said.
A complaint was lodged with the Human Rights Commission. New Zealand’s race relations commissioner said Tekinkaya was in breach of the law.
Israel’s ambassador to New Zealand Yuval Rotem was scathing. “This anti-Israeli and anti-Jewish sentiment needs to be stopped,” he told The Southland Times.
“At this moment you don’t need to bring the Middle East into New Zealand … you need to take the spirit of New Zealand into the Middle East.” New Zealand is iconic among Israelis as being an outpost of civility.
Also this week, more than 100 pro-Israel supporters rallied on the steps of Parliament in Wellington, the capital. Holding olive branches, they held a minute’s silence for the 1,000-plus people who have been killed in the conflict.
Meanwhile, Father Gerard Burns, the Catholic priest who defaced a memorial to Yitzhak Rabin last week with paint and drops of blood, appears to have emerged unscathed from the incident. He has not apologized, and Wellington’s Catholic Church has not censured him, although Archbishop John Dew has apologized for father Burns’ actions.
Police have yet to decide whether they will lay charges.