Welligton Protests

NZ Herald – OpEd – 23 February – Juliet Moses

There has been talk recently about the anti-Semitism present at the Wellington protest. Experts in extremism, media, and politicians have discussed it.

I have not been to the protest and even if I had, I am not sure if I, or anyone else, would be able to get an accurate understanding of how prevalent it is, except to say that there is clearly a pernicious element there.

I have seen the “Jewcinda” ute, the swastika graffiti, some of the social media chat, the speech referring to “Soros”, “Rothschilds” and “cabal” – all, in this context, anti-Semitic dog-whistles.

This is all disgusting, yet sadly unsurprising.

Anti-Semitism is, unlike other forms of racism, “punching up” racism. At heart, it is itself a conspiracy theory, the premise being that a cabal of shadowy Jews is using its outsized, almost supernatural powers to manipulate world events for its own nefarious ends.

Dig deep enough in many, if not most conspiracy theories, and you will find this mythical Jew at the bottom – or perhaps more appropriately at the top – of it.

Of course, the word “Jew” is often not uttered. Instead, it may well be a dog whistle as I just mentioned. Often these days it is “Zionist” or the collective Jew, being the Jewish nation-state, Israel – like when Israel is accused of being behind 9/11, a pervasive belief in parts of the Middle East.

Anti-Semitic conspiracy theories and intimidation are nothing new at protests and rallies in Aotearoa, but it is not always from the far-right or white supremacists.

A week after the barbaric mosque attacks in 2019, a speaker at a “Love Aotearoa Hate Racism” rally for the victims said he believed the gunman got his funding from “Mossad” (Israel’s renowned spy agency) and “Zionist business”. This occurred in Auckland’s Aotea Square, just down the road from the country’s largest Jewish community centre, which contains its only Jewish school – under armed police guard, for fear of a copycat attack. No one at the rally spoke out against it – in fact, there was some support.