Israeli flag-burning defended

MICHAEL FOX
Last updated 16:54 23/07/2014
John Minto at anti-Israel protest in Auckland

ANGRY: John Minto spoke at an anti-Israel protest in Auckland this month.

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Mana activist John Minto is defending the defacing of Israeli flags at an anti-Israel march in Auckland, saying it was an appropriate form of protest due to the "massacre".

Hundreds of people turned out during the weekend march to protest the Israeli offensive in Gaza, which has resulted in more than 600 Palestinians being killed as Israel bombards the Gaza Strip.

Right-wing blog Whale Oil has posted images showing protesters, including Mana members, burning a US and an Israeli flag as well as one of an Israeli flag with a Nazi swastika imposed upon it.

These actions have been condemned by Labour, NZ First and the Greens.

Minto said he was not aware of the burning, but did not believe it was inappropriate.

"I can't see what the problem is," Minto said. "Flags have been burnt in demonstrations and protests for hundreds of years so it's no big deal."

It was not an organised part of the protest and someone must have taken it upon themselves to do it, he said.

"I think in the context of what I would call the massacre of hundreds of Palestinians I think nobody should show the slightest surprise that an Israeli flag was burned."

Minto called on the Government to close the Israeli embassy in New Zealand.

It should condemn the offensive and demand an immediate cessation of the bombardment, he said.

National was "on the wrong side of history again" because of its failure to do so.

NZ First leader Winston Peters slammed the burning, saying "we're not going to tolerate from a NZ First point of view, them bringing their problems here and fighting them out on the streets".

"NZ First for 21 years has always maintained that when people come here we expect them to abide by our law salute our flag ... and to abide by peaceful behaviour in our society.

"We do not want people to import their problems from far-off lands into this country and cause any disruption and disharmony in the streets of New Zealand."

Of the swastika, he said, it was "just outright provocation and there will be a reaction if that's allowed to happen".

"Don't come from a hell hole and bring it to this country and think we're going to tolerate it."

Labour's foreign affairs spokesman David Shearer said that while he understood the sentiment, defacing the flags was inappropriate.

"I completely condemn what they've done. I completely understand why they want to march but let's march in a way that respects everybody but at the same time makes the point," Shearer said.

"I think what we have in New Zealand is a society where we all actually get on very well irrespective of what culture and what ethnicity we come from.

"We should not want to see this sort of thing that I don't think does us any good and it takes it to a new level in New Zealand which I don't think is appropriate."

Green Party foreign affairs spokesman Kennedy Graham said he was at the protest and saw the swastika, but not the burning.

"Obviously, it's not appropriate nor is having a swastika on an Israeli flag appropriate," Graham said.

"I did see that, that is hugely inappropriate and should not be at that kind of rally."

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He did not know who had the flag with the swastika.

- Stuff

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