Israelis Find Strong Support in an Unexpected Corner of the World, New Zealand, From an Unexpected Source, the Māoris
Māoris are now pushing back against one of their own leaders, Debbie Ngarewa-Packer, who echoed the likes of Prime Minister Trudeau, saying she was ‘more saddened’ by the suffering of Gazans than by the October 7 atrocities.
What do the aboriginals of New Zealand know that the European-descendant prime minister of Canada doesn’t? It’s a question that underlines the growing global split between the shallowness of the anti-Israel crowd and those with deeper understanding.
As in other Western democracies in the aftermath of the October 7 Hamas-launched war, New Zealand’s streets were filled with anti-Israel protesters. Unlike in Washington, where Jews organized a large counter-protest, in New Zealand the pushback was mainly Māori.
Carrying Israeli flags while performing the traditional Haka war dance, the Māoris continuously drown out the fashionable pro-Hamas “from the river to the sea” chants by young New Zealanders. An anti-Israel crowd was forced to postpone a planned protest last week after Maori Haka dancers scared them off.
Relations between Auckland and Jerusalem have at times been tense. In 2016 Israel recalled its ambassador from New Zealand after the Pacific island sponsored a UN Security Council resolution that called the ancient capital of the Jews an “occupied territory,” and was tacitly approved by President Obama.
“I want to be your friend,” the late Maori tribal elder, Pat Ruka, told the Israeli ambassador, Yitzhak Gerberg. Ruka, a strong Israel supporter, apologized for his country’s snub of Israel. “Our ancestors have cried for the day that they could meet with the sons of Abraham, because you were the people of hope, the people of light. Welcome to my whare,” or meeting house, he told Mr. Gerberg.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the ocean, Ottawa’s relations with Israel are marked by diplomatic confusion. “We’re hearing the testimonies of doctors, family members, survivors, kids who’ve lost their parents” in Gaza, Prime Minister Trudeau said last week. The world is witnessing “killing of women and children, of babies,” he added. “This has to stop.”
Yet, at the UN, Canada joined just a handful of countries, including Israel, America, and several island states in the Pacific, in opposing a non-binding General Assembly resolution that called for a sustained “humanitarian truce” in Gaza.
The Canadian foreign minister, Melanie Joly, displayed an even deeper misunderstanding than her premier’s confusion about the war in Gaza. The sides should advance negotiations toward a ceasefire, she said last week. “I hope, even more negotiations at a negotiating table where there are Israelis, Hamas, and Qatar, which is present as a moderator,” she added.
Negotiation with Hamas? “So one problem will be that the last time Hamas terrorists sat around a table with Israelis they were forcing parents to watch as the terrorists tortured and murdered their babies,” a senior Senate aide, Omri Ceren, remarked on X.
Even deeper thinkers than Ottawa’s zig-zagging, facts-challenged politicians display some fuzzy ignorance about who’s who in the Mideast. One is a mega pop star, Alecia Beth Moore Hart, better known as Pink, who is also confused about which side the New Zealanders she claims to idolize are on.
During her ongoing concert tour, Pink’s backup dancers wave blue and white banners. Since October 7, some of the singer’s young fans have been seeing red in those colors, accusing their idol of siding with Israel. No wonder: According to a recent Quinnipiac poll, 52 percent of Americans aged 19-35 support the Palestinians, while 29 percent favor Israel.
“I am getting many threats because people mistakenly believe I am flying Israeli flags in my show,” Pink said in a statement posted recently on social media. “I am not. I have been using Poi flags since the beginning of this tour” — flags that were used “many years ago by the Māori people in New Zealand, and because they and the Māori people are beautiful to me, we use them,” she said.
She is apparently unaware that the people she sees as “beautiful” proudly carry Israeli flags even as a pro-Hamas world movement is becoming ever louder. The Maori Haka dancers do so in the face of protesters who mistakenly believe that all Mideast wars are between “indigenous, colored” Arabs and “white, colonialist” Jews.
“Framing the Israel situation as colonialism lacks even a rudimentary understanding of the situation,” a New Zealand Maori scholar, Ben Kepes, writes. “Jewish migration to Israel is rooted in the Jewish psyche as ‘return’, not ‘colonization.’”
While visiting ancient Jewish sites in Israel, Mr. Kepes adds, he notes how “the area has its own version of ahi kā, a shared concept of connection to the land.” The connection has deep roots, an Auckland University scholar, Sheree Trotter, adds: “On a spiritual and historical plane, Maori in the 19th century identified with the suffering of the Israelites.”
Māoris are now pushing back against one of their own leaders, Debbie Ngarewa-Packer, who echoed the likes of Mr. Trudeau, saying she was “more saddened” by the suffering of Gazans than by the October 7 atrocities.
“I found that very disappointing because I don’t think they understand what we are facing here,” Ms. Trotter said. “Hamas is a radical Islamist organization. It has, in its charter, it wants to annihilate Israel.”