‘Different Perspectives on Israel: leaders discussion in Auckland

October 7, 2019 by J-Wire
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Dr David Cumin (Israel Institute of New Zealand) v  John Minto (anti-Israel protestor) faced off recently in their ‘Different Perspectives on Israel’ discussion held in Auckland.

Dr David Cumins with John Minto [right]

Rob Berg reports:

With Rosh Hashanah having just finished, you’d think that most people in the Jewish community would be focusing their attentions to Yom Kippur. Not in New Zealand, not this year. For this year on the 4th Tishri, we had what will fondly be remembered hereon in as Yom David! 

The scene was set for a discussion on Israel for which John Minto had challenged Dr David Cumin.

 140 supporters packed the event held at the University of Auckland. With half an hour to go, the place was full of members of the Jewish community. Yes, Jewish people showed they can not only get somewhere on time, but can actually be early! And it set the tone for the rest of the evening’s ‘discussion’. 

Dr Cumin went first and noted the absurdity of a NZ government official telling him that they “believe Israel has the right to exist”. Cumin pointed out that no other country would be subjected to an official needing to give such reassurance! Cumin then went onto to highlight the hypocrisy of the trade union movement in condemning and calling for a boycott of Israel, whilst not seeing any problem with having relationships with countries such as Indonesia, China and Turkey where there are clear human rights abuses and the occupation of lands.  

Cumin’s main thread throughout his argument was that there are only two real perspectives on Israel. One that believes that Israel has the right to exist and that the Jewish people have a right to self-determination in their indigenous land while the other that denies Israel’s right to exist and therefore only denies Jewish self-determination. This double standard and delegitimisation have a word to describe them. Antisemitism.

Cumin challenged the notion that Israel is a ‘colonialist’ and/or ‘apartheid’ state, and pointed out why the Boycott Disinvestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel is the latest in centuries-old antisemitism, and why countries like the USA and Germany have banned BDS activities, due them having the same discriminatory behaviour such as sexism, racism and homophobia.  

Finally, after noting the negative role UNWRA plays in resolving the Arab Palestinian-Israeli conflict and the Arab Palestinian refugee problem, as well as the Arabs continual refusal to say yes to any peace offer, it was Minto’s turn to take to the floor. 

Minto, who still clings to his five minutes of fame as one of the key figures in getting the 1981 Springbok tour of New Zealand cancelled, began by attempting to explain that the creation of Israel was a “colonialist” construct so that “Imperialist” Britain and the US could have a “client state in the Middle East” for oil purposes. 

Minto told us that Israel was a result of the Shoah (Holocaust) in Europe, despite the fact that the push for the re-birth of an independent Jewish State in our homeland beginning way before the second world war even began. But why let facts get in the way? Facts such as the original Mandate of Palestine including what is today Jordan being originally promised to the Jews and then suddenly withdrawn to create the Hashemite kingdom of (then) Trans-Jordan, were completely ignored. Instead, Minto tried to convince the audience that the ‘Jewish minority population’ received the majority share of the land. A usual tactic for those wanting to delegitimise the world’s only Jewish state.  

There were the usual and predictable statements and lies that Israel is an apartheid state solely responsible for the Arab Palestinian refugee problem, intentionally shoots children and is not a democracy. There were the usual fabrications such as life between Jews and Muslims before Zionism being all hugs and kisses, or that the good Jews are those who are against Israel. There was also the more recent assertion that Zionists use the antisemitism “trick” to shut down any criticism of Israel. Clearly, Minto has never spent any time with Israelis!  

Minto believes that only a single secular state is the solution to the Arab Palestinian – Israeli conflict, despite knowing that this ‘utopia’ of his is as likely to happen in the Middle East, as the Vatican is in returning the Temple relics to the Jewish people! But the biggest laugh of the evening came when Minto, with a straight face, told the audience that the War of Independence was a “token military operation” by the five Arab nations who faced “30,000 highly trained Israeli soldiers”. Highly trained with hope and determination maybe, but with very little else! 

But the worst was yet to come. Minto rounded off his speech by having the gall to tell the Jewish community that Israel has turned the Star of David from a “symbol of the deep, rich family and community values” to one of “military aggression and occupation, a symbol of apartheid, a symbol of racism and a symbol of brutal oppression”. He then felt he had the right to tell us to “reclaim the Star of David from the Zionists’ ideology and rehabilitate it as a symbol of Jewish values, a symbol of religious and ethnic tolerance, a symbol of compassion and a symbol of pride”. 

Minto concluded by suggesting the New Zealand Jewish Council should rename itself the New Zealand Zionist Council, so that a new council could be born that supports “freedom and justice for all peoples – beginning with freedom for Palestinians”. Minto’s chutzpah clearly knows no ends.  

The floor was then opened to questions and the evening came to a conclusion, but the debate continued. It is unlikely that anyone’s views were changed on the evening but it showed that we, the pro-Israel advocates, are not afraid to debate these issues in public, as in truth, it does not take much to dismantle and expose the lies of the Israel-haters. Cumin clearly won the evening (watch the event here to form your own conclusions). However, nothing much will change in bringing the conflict to a resolution until the Palestinians accept the rights of the Jewish people to self-determination in our indigenous, historic and spiritual land. Then, and possibly only them, will there be any chance of a real and lasting peace. 

A final thank you must go to both Dr David Cumin who took a courageous decision to publicly debate Minto, and to a Jewish community for arriving en masse to somewhere early.

Rob Berg is the President Zionist Federation of New Zealand

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