Iranian Diplomat’s Anti-Semitic speech causes ire

Venkat Raman

Iranian Diplomat Hormoz Ghahremani, Councillor at the Iranian Embassy in Wellington could have raised a diplomatic incident with the speech that he delivered in June this year at the Pakuranga Mosque in East Auckland.

According to Newshub, the Israel Institute of New Zealand complained to the Human Rights Commission and Foreign Minister Winston Peters after a video surfaced online of the speech.

Institute Director Professor Paul Moon said that New Zealand cannot allow the incident to go unchallenged. He said that the diplomat and Sayed Taghi Derhami, a New Zealand Muslim Leader had used “very strong language” and were “talking about Jewish conspiracies, describing Israel as a cancer that needs to be removed, denying the holocaust.”

He said the event began with Mr Ghahremani talking about terrorism in the Middle East, and his speech then turned to “accusations that there was some sort of Zionist conspiracy behind what was going on, that somehow the Jews were responsible for terrorism in the Middle East”.

Mr Moon said another speaker, Sayed Taghi Derhami, called Israel a “cancerous tumour” and said it has to be “surgically removed” and Iranian cleric Sheik Shafie denied the Holocaust.

Race Relations Commission Susan Devoy sent us the following response.

There is no place for hate speeches and racists

Dame Susan Devoy

People who deny that the Holocaust took place are many things, but most of all, they are liars. Whether they are a representative of the Iranian Government like Hormoz Gharemani or whether they are members of a ‘White Pride’ group – they are all liars.

True Kiwi warriors

Holocaust survivors are some of the bravest New Zealanders I have ever met.

They have seen the very worst of humanity, they have looked evil in the eye and survived anyway. They embody the very best of humanity; they are true Kiwi battlers.

The Islamic Ahlulbyt Foundation Centre which hosted the event at which Mr Gharemani and others spoke need to let the rest of us know whether they will continue to tolerate this kind of hateful korero at their events.

They need to make a stand and let New Zealand know that they will not help spread hate and lies.

Other incidents

But they are not the only ones. The hatred directed at Jewish New Zealanders did not begin with this YouTube clip. A few years ago, an Auckland pre-schooler was attacked by strangers who ripped his yarmulke off his head because he was a Jew. Israeli flags have been burned on our streets and Jews were blamed for the actions of a government thousands of miles away from Queen Street in Auckland.

For many years, our synagogues and Jewish cemeteries have been consistently vandalised and attacked by cowards who come in the dead of the night to destroy headstones and spray paint hate.

That this happens here in Aotearoa makes me incredibly sad, angry and ashamed.

Liberation Anniversary

Few Kiwis know that on the 70th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz Concentration Camp, the war memorial in a New Zealand city was tagged with racist hate speech.

In the early hours of that morning, city officials, community leaders, we at the Human Rights Commission, police and others gathered to remove those words of hate.

Why? Because leaving them there was exactly what those people wanted: they wanted to be famous, they wanted their hate to go viral.

But leaving them there was not an option.

Day of solidarity and respect

We are the first country in the world to mark Holocaust Remembrance Day and we were not going to let their racist words of hate dominate our ceremonies.

We wanted that day to focus on celebrating New Zealanders who had survived the Holocaust, to give thanks for their lives and to make sure the rest of us never, ever forgot the horrors they survived.

Throughout that day we thought about those few, hateful individuals who would have been constantly refreshing their browsers hoping to see their handiwork trending. But they never did.

If we are to learn anything from the Holocaust, it is that racism and hatred start small.

But we ignore it at our peril.

All of us are responsible to ensure that we live in a country where hate is never normalised. We can never let our country become one where racism goes unquestioned. And if we have to use glitter bombs to make our point – as some did at Parliament recently, so be it.

It is up to all of us to decide what kind of country we live in. While there are formal complaint processes that can and have been taken place, just because something is not illegal, does not make it OK.

Our religious leaders should be using their considerably powerful platforms to promote tolerance and peace across our communities.

Whether it is a Mosque giving Holocaust deniers a platform or whether it is an Evangelical Church spewing hatred about gay New Zealanders: this is not how we roll here.

This is not who we are.

This is who we do not want to ever become.

Dame Susan Devoy is Race Relations Commissioner of New Zealand. See related report on reactions by the former and current Foreign Ministers on this issue in this Section.

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