Jewish org in New Zealand reports sharp rise in antisemitism online

What do most New Zealanders really think about Jewish people? Since they make up just 0.2% of New Zealanders – fewer than 10,000 people according to the 2018 Census.

The current New Zealand flag flies on Parliament buildings in Wellington's Central Cusiness District on March 24, 2016. (photo credit: AFP PHOTO)
The current New Zealand flag flies on Parliament buildings in Wellington's Central Cusiness District on March 24, 2016.
(photo credit: AFP PHOTO)

A Jewish organization in New Zealand has reported a rise in the country’s online antisemitism, according to a report by 1News.

“The organization has collated content from New Zealand users and platforms over the past year and says there is a risk it will cause real-world harm,” the local news site said.

New Zealand Jewish Council representative Juliet Moses told 1News that many of the comments online refer to the Holocaust – such as “Hitler was right,” “Hitler should have finished the job” – and that she found swastikas and caricatures straight out of Nazi propaganda.

“I’ve never seen so much antisemitism,” Massey University Sociology Prof. Paul Spoonley told 1News. “A lot of it is fueled by far Right conspiracy groups in the United States, in particular QAnon.”

What do most New Zealanders really think about Jews? Because Jews make up just 0.2% of New Zealanders, one of the questions asked in a new survey was if most New Zealanders even knew a Jew.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern during a news conference in Christchurch, New Zealand, March 13, 2020. (credit: REUTERS/MARTIN HUNTER)New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern during a news conference in Christchurch, New Zealand, March 13, 2020. (credit: REUTERS/MARTIN HUNTER)

The survey

In the survey, 1,017 people over age 18 were questioned, and had 18 internationally recognized statements presented to them to measure the level of their antisemitic views. For the purpose of the survey, antisemitism was defined in accordance with the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) working definition.

The Survey of Antisemitism in New Zealand 2021 found concerning levels of antisemitic sentiment, which may be influenced to a greater or lesser degree by one of the following forms of antisemitism.

First is classical antisemitism, which has a deep historical basis in religious discrimination and victimization. Second is the right-wing and nationalistic antisemitism, which is based on racial theory (such as white supremacy) and involves a variety of antisemitic conspiracy theories and tropes. Next is the jihad-inspired antisemitism. And finally, left-wing antisemitism, which has emerged more recently and often manifests as Zionophobia – hatred for the idea of a homeland for the Jewish people.

Although one negative view does not identify the core values of an individual, the survey reported that a significant number hold multiple negative views, which has concerning implications.

Twenty-one percent of New Zealanders held two or more classical antisemitic views (out of eight questions), and 25% held two or more Zionophobic views (out of seven). The survey found a clear correlation between those holding Zionophobic views and those who hold classical antisemitic views. If a person believes in either Zionophobia or classical antisemitism, they will undoubtedly latch onto the others as well.

In general, 63% of those surveyed agreed with at least one antisemitic view and 6% agreed with nine or more.

There is only a 25% chance that someone who holds four classical antisemitic views will hold neither anti-Israel nor antisemitic ones. In the same vein, there is only a 29% chance that someone who holds four anti-Israel antisemitic views will hold no classical ones. This is consistent with a United Kingdom study that also showed a clear empirical link between the two forms of antisemitism.

Many New Zealanders do not admit to having an opinion on Israel. Of those who do, most respect the view that Israel has the right to exist as a majority Jewish state and do not support trade boycotts. However, Nazi, apartheid and mass-murder memes have been much more pervasive.

According to the survey, the highest number of Zionophobic views was held by Green Party voters. New Zealanders who voted for NZ First and those with no political slant – or who refused to say who they voted for – were significantly less likely to hold as many classical antisemitic views as the Labor and Green voters.

“The recent global emergence of left-wing associated antisemitism creates a particular paradox,” the survey summary stated. “While most forms of discrimination are unacceptable in ‘progressive’ thinking, antisemitism does not seem to count as racism because Jews can be accused of ‘white privilege,’ despite Jews being indigenous to the Levant and often of color, and latent hatred can be hidden under a cloak of Zionophobia.”

While there is a significant proportion of New Zealanders holding antisemitic views, there is also generally a high level of warmth toward Jews. A surprising result was that almost a third (32%) said they knew a Jewish person. This compares with 88% who knew an Asian, almost half (47%) who knew a Muslim, and just over one-quarter (28%) who knew a Buddhist.

"While most forms of discrimination are unacceptable in 'progressive' thinking, antisemitism does not seem to count as racism because Jews can be accused of 'white privilege,' despite Jews being indigenous to the Levant and often of color, and latent hatred can be hidden under a cloak of Zionophobia"

The Survey of Antisemitism in New Zealand 2021

Of those surveyed, only 42% could correctly identify the number of Jewish people killed in the Holocaust, and more than a sixth (17%) said they knew virtually nothing about the Holocaust. These results mirror a 2019 poll by the Auckland Holocaust Memorial Trust, which found that only 43% of New Zealanders knew six million Jewish people were murdered in World War II.

“This shows the importance of Holocaust education in New Zealand,” the survey summary noted.

New Zealanders were last surveyed about antisemitic views in 2014, the NZJC said.