Racism, Irony, and the continuing Gaza controversy.

For the second week in a row Michael Laws has written a piece in the Sunday Star Times about Gaza, this time looking at the Kebab Shop owner who threw out two Israelis just because they were Jewish.


Michael Laws: There’s no place for old hatreds in NZ

IF THERE IS one great virtue that our founding fathers gifted New Zealand it was the rejection of a state religion. And the eschewing of all the doctrinal disputes that plagued their old homeland.

This is not to suggest that there was not sectarian conflict in this new land because there was. Nor that God necessarily took a backseat in Godzone.

But they were minor influences compared to the Old Country. As a rule, the distance loosened their old religious prejudices. Faith gradually became a private affair, and was not allowed to intrude upon the daily business of policy-making.

The embodiment of this brilliance was the Education Act of 1877 delivering schooling that was compulsory, free and secular. The latter was crucial.

Sure, there were the extremists. Catholic Bishop Moran who established the separatist Catholic school system was one. So too, the Protestant Political Association of the 1920s with their anti-Papist activity. Even into the 1960s, the idea of a Catholic-Protestant marriage had its societal impediments.

So maybe we could be patient with the outflow of Muslim support for the moronic decision of Turkish cafe owner Mustafa Tekinkaya to refuse service to two Israeli sisters in Invercargill ostensibly because their country is at war with the fundamentalist Hamas organisation. Except that, in this case, tolerance would be weakness.

Because the nature of this culinary discrimination signalled that the immigration doors have admitted more than just different peoples from different lands these past two decades. They have also admitted age-old loathings and ancient animosities which have no place in this new land.

One might also think that Tekinkaya’s refusal was about the conflict in Gaza. It is not. This Turkish Muslim and his fellow kebab shop supporters must have disliked Israelis for a long, long time. You don’t suddenly expel Israelis from your shop because their government has done something you don’t like. Confronted with this country’s human rights legislation, Tekinkaya said that he did not care. Neither did his supporters, who phoned into my radio show last week. All were migrants, all self-identified as Muslims and all loathed Israel. They saw no problem with his actions whatsoever. The dreaded Jews were massacring their Palestinian brothers and sisters in Gaza; ipso facto, all Israelis are bad and must be refused even the most menial of service.

And this is the guts of this issue.

The Herald’s cartoon yesterday had a reversal of this situation, where by a Muslim was refused service because other Muslims are suicide bombers, and the next frame of the cartoon showed how nasty the reaction would be.

This is the same issue as John Minto’s protest the other day, targeting individuals is racism, it is not political protest.

Then let’s consider the women involved. Not Israeli tourists on some grave scouting expedition but one sister married to a Kiwi, with two children aged four and two, and her visiting sister from the home country.

Similarly, the discriminators: Kiwis. Turkish-Kiwis, but Kiwis. Resident in this country, and trying to raise both a business and a family in deepest, darkest Southland.

Meanwhile, Race Relations Commissioner Joris de Bres made all the right noises in declaiming the cafe owners’ actions but his next actions will be the more important. Formal complaints have been laid and a prima facie case established. Given his public utterances, there will be no possibility of a rapprochement between Mustafa and his Israeli clientele. So where next?

Dear lord, the racist cafe owner assembled every Turk and kebab seller within hailing distance in Southland all three of them to be photographed in support. These are not the actions of a contrite man. Unless the law falls on Mustafa from a great height and repeatedly nothing will permeate his thick Turkish skull.

Which is a shame. Because I rather like the Turks. Thoroughly decent at Gallipoli, and founder Ataturk’s words about our war dead was poetry and compassion combined. They’re desperate to be part of Europe rather than part of the Arab world, and equally desperate to resist the deadly embrace of Islamic fundamentalism. And they make lovely desserts.

And this is an important point to note, like Israel’s actions do not represent the views of every Israeli nor do they actions of one Turk represent the views of all Turkey.

But then I suspect Mustafa Tekinkaya and his kebab-mates, including the Friends of Palestine, are not big on compassion. They care not that Hamas loosed no fewer than 6000 (yes, six thousand) rockets on Israel after that country withdrew from the Gaza Strip in 2005. Or that Hamas deliberately hide behind innocents to carry out their outrages. Or that Hamas are Muslim madmen.

The truth is that Islamic fundamentalism exists in this country. It has arrived with the migrants and refugees and it is as evil and myopic here as it was over there.

And this should be of concern to all of NZ. We are an open, free, liberal and democratic country, for the most part we don’t take sides, we remain neutral, and we tolerate a lot. But one thing we will not tolerate is racism, because racism is not tolerating others in the extremist of forms.

And coming away from racism for a few seconds, I found the irony very laughable with yesterdays Global Peace and Justice march against Rakon. If global peace involves hurling paint bombs at Police and Buildings then that is not a peace that I want. I am surprised that only one person was arrested, if I was a cop there I would have taken out every single person throwing things, but good on the police for showing some restraint.