Anti-Semitism has reached a new low in New Zealand, where attackers are now targeting little Jewish children. Jewish adults are considering whether to teach their young to hide their identity.
Last week a small child wearing a yarmulka was attacked by a grown man in the Auckland suburb of Mt. Eden.
The little boy, age 4, was walking home from preschool with his mother, a brother and another friend – also wearing yarmulkas — when a man walked up and slapped him hard on his head. The attacker reportedly laughed and then fled in a car with four other men. He was described as being of “Middle Eastern appearance,” and in his 20s, according to a report published in the New Zealand Herald.
Jewish Council President Stephen Goodman was quoted as saying he believed that news of the attack would come as a shock to residents of the country.
“A small Jewish community has lived here, well integrated, contributing to the wider society and in exceptional peace since the earliest days of New Zealand’s settlement,” Goodman told the newspaper.
But that peace seems to have evaporated in recent months – and the attackers are targeting children dressed in traditional Jewish clothing.
Young Middle Eastern men yelled insults in Arabic at a young Jewish girl who was walking through the Britomart train station recently.
Last month men riding in a car yelled a curse at a little Jewish boy walking in Remuera.
In October 2012, a 19-year-old was part of a group of three who were charged with painting swastikas and other anti-Semitic symbols on historic tombstones in the city’s Symonds Street cemetery.
In May 2005, the Right Wing Resistance movement, an openly White Pride skinhead organization, began activities in all major cities in the country and has since introduced black uniforms along the lines of Fascist Italy.
“It’s really very worrying that [this] seems to have elevated things one level higher. This behavior is so totally unacceptable and intolerable in New Zealand,” Goodman said.
But only a bare six thousand Jews were willing to identify themselves during a 2006 census, although the New Zealand Herald reported “the number of people who are Jewish is more likely to be around 20,000.”
Given the rising anti-Semitism, perhaps it is no surprise that Jews in New Zealand are now discussing ways to protect their children – among them, advising their young not to dress as Jews when they go out in public.
“If an adult is verbally abused, they will know how to handle it. When these sort of things happen against children, it is quite a different story,” Goodman explained. “The mother was very emotionally upset by the incident,” he added. “We just hope there [are] no lasting effects on the child.”
Some 14 percent of Australia and New Zealand’s population is considered to be actively anti-Semitic, according to the most recent survey by the New York-based Anti-Defamation League (ADL) which said the region was one of the “least anti-Semitic” in the world.
One Chabad House exists in the country, headed by Israeli Chabad-Lubavitch emissary Rabbi Shmuel Koppel, located in the city of Christchurch.
New Zealand’s current Prime Minister John Key is, as a matter of fact, the son of an Austrian-Jewish immigrant mother who narrowly escaped from the Holocaust. The prime minister considers himself Anglican but his government has been sympathetic towards Israel. The Key administration narrowly won its third term this past September with 61 out of 121 seats in the nation’s parliament.
Hana Levi Julian