new zealand 224.88.
(photo credit: New Zealand Jewish Chronicle)
For the third time in as many years, Jewish graves in Wellington have been defaced with anti-Semitic and anti-Israel graffiti.
Karori Cemetery, previously untouched, was the target in an attack discovered on October 7 that was evidently set off by a front page article in Wellington's Dominion Post two days earlier. Six graves were desecrated - some with stencils and some in freehand - and all in vivid blue paint.
Together with the usual anti-Semitic phrases such as "Hitler RIP," "Rot you filth" and "Juden swine," the vandals wrote phrases such as "Terror State Israel Burn," "Schouten - Rotem is ZIONIST PIG" and "DE BRES YOU SWINE - OUT," leaving no doubt that the perpetrators' ire had been set off by Hank Schouten's front-page article about new, Australia-based Israeli Ambassador Yuval Rotem under the banner headline "I need a Maori."
Rotem ended a long interview with Schouten by saying he would like to employ a Maori in his Canberra office to improve relations and understanding. Schouten focused his story on this politically-incorrect indiscretion, taking Rotem to task for being unaware of New Zealand law relating to discrimination, especially in employment, even bringing in Race Relations Commissioner Joris de Bres to provide an authoritative opinion.
While previous desecrations focused on Jews alone, this latest attack also targeted Schouten, de Bres and Israel - showing a direct connection to the Dominion Post article, said Wellington Regional Jewish Council chairman David Zwartz.
"In my mind there is no doubt about the connection," he said. "I was disappointed that Hank Schouten picked up on a throwaway line at the end of a one and half hour interview and made it the focus of his article, but to my mind there is no doubt that someone read it with malicious interest and acted."
He added that it was ironic that Schouten and de Bress were attacked.
"It shows a low level of understanding by the desecraters that they apparently associated Joris de Bres with Jews and the Israeli ambassador, when in fact his comments criticized the ambassador," said Zwartz.
"It is symptomatic of a general negative New Zealand media attitude toward Israel, that what was an unwittingly inappropriate suggestion by the ambassador became a calculatedly critical article from the Dominion Post," Zwartz added.
The day after the damage to the cemetery was discovered, the Wellington City Council's anti-graffiti response team was on the job, with almost all evidence of the attack gone by lunchtime.
The desecration was discovered by the friend of a Jewish community member during a morning stroll. He told his friend, who immediately reported it to the Wellington Hebrew Congregation Chevra Kadisha. They decided not to publicize the attack for fear of prompting copy-cat incidents or gratifying the perpetrators.
In a discussion at the Wellington Regional Jewish Council involving this reporter two weeks later, it was decided that because of the clear links between the Dominion Post article, the vandalism warranted wider attention.
Three years ago, Jewish graves at the Bolton Street and Makara cemeteries were desecrated, with more than 80 graves overturned and vandalized and the Tahara House burnt down at Makara, and historic gravestones smashed at Bolton Street. The attacks took place within a period of two weeks.
The perpetrators have not been found.
This article appears courtesy of the New Zealand Jewish Chronicle.