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Activist condemns ACT MP’s claims that Palestine solidarity marches are ‘targeting Jewish people’

8 November, 2023

Interview by Rawan Saadi, adapted by Athena Li-Watts

Co-convenor of the pro-Palestine organisation, Justice for Palestine, Samira Zaitoun, has criticised ACT MP, Simon Court, for calling those protesting in solidarity with Palestine "frankly vile."

Over the past few weeks, thousands have attended marches across the country calling for Palestinian liberation and a ceasefire in Gaza.

Co-convenor of the pro-Palestine organisation, Justice for Palestine, Samira Zaitoun, told 95bFM’s The Wire, that these marches have seen many intersections of society, coming together for “peace, justice, and above all humanity.” 

“We had Palestinians, we had some of the Jewish community, we had Tangata Whenua, Pākehā, people of different faiths, backgrounds, and different ages. It was a really strong and representative show of solidarity, from New Zealand to Palestine.”

ACT Party MP, Simon Court, condemned pro-Palestine gatherings across the motu on The Wire, calling them “anti-Semetic”.

“It was really disappointing to see what you described as ‘pro-Palestine’ protests essentially looking like they were targeting Jewish people and Israel.”

“I think we have seen their true colours, particularly some members of the Green Party like Marama Davidson, expressing views that are frankly vile.”

Zaitoun, who has been involved in marches in Wellington, believes Court's views are “irresponsible” and “dangerous”.

“The marches that we had in Pōneke, and all across Aotearoa are peaceful protests. And violence is exactly what we are protesting against.”

She states that anti-Zionism should not be equated with anti-Semitism.

“We have many Jewish people marching in solidarity with the Palestinian people against the genocide Israel is carrying out. They are anti-Zionist and see it within their Jewishness to stand for humanity.”

Court also called the chant “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free”, an “anti-Semitic pronouncement”.

Zaitoun says the phrase refers to the geography in the region; the space between the Jordan River, and the coast of Gaza, and is used to support the freedom of Palestine, not violence against Jewish people.

“It is dangerous to be making statements like that, because when we are talking about freedom, we are talking about liberation. We do not intend for that to mean violence and it does not mean violence.”

“It does not mean the destruction of the Israeli state, it means the liberation of the Palestinian people. And that is very different.”

In the past 24 days, 10,000 Palestinains have been killed, including 4000 children, during Israel’s indiscriminate bombardment of the besieged Gaza Strip and the occupied West Bank. 

Zaitoun says Palestinian New Zealanders are not only having to face the loss of loved ones in Palestine, but are also concerned about the recent change in Aotearoa’s government.

She believes more support is needed for our Palestinian, Arab, and Muslim communities, who are currently feeling anxious in New Zealand.

“To the Palestinians in Aotearoa, I would say salaam, arohanui, and we stand with you, and we are building a movement and a community of people who will support you until Palestine is free.”

Listen to the full interview with Samira Zaiton

Listen to the full interview with Simon Court

Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air