New Zealand MP says he is sick of the Holocaust (& other items)

April 12, 2005

This is an update to previous items on this list, including the articles contained in the dispatch of August 6, 2004 ("Second major anti-Semitic in New Zealand in 3 Weeks and "Who would have imagined New Zealand could change so much?")

Also:

* German court ruling says Dresden was a holocaust
* Hamas brutally murder 22-year-old university student in Gaza whose "crime" was to be seen in public with her fiance

 



CONTENTS:

1. "Tamihere 'sick' of Holocaust" (New Zealand Herald, April 10, 2005)
2. "Backbencher suspended after Holocaust remarks" (Taipei Times, April 11, 2005)
3. "PM indecisive over Tamihere, says Brash" (New Zealand Herald, April 11, 2005)
4. "Tamihere censured by Labour Party caucus" (New Zealand Herald, April 12, 2005)
5. "Helen Clark's comments on John Tamihere's censure" (New Zealand Herald, April 12, 2005)
6. Buchenwald, 60 years on
7. "German ruling says Dresden was a holocaust" (Daily Telegraph, April 12, 2005)
8. "Hamas 'Vice and Virtue Commando' murders Gaza woman" (Jerusalem Post, April 12, 2005)

 

MP SAYS HE IS "SICK" OF THE HOLOCAUST

[Note by Tom Gross]

Left-wing New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark has been strongly criticized by opposition politicians (and by some members of her own party) for not taking effective action against former New Zealand Cabinet minister John Tamihere, who said in an interview published on Sunday that he was "sick and tired" of hearing how many Jews were gassed in the Holocaust.

Tamihere, 45, has long been tipped to become New Zealand's first indigenous Maori prime minister.

Tamihere has publicly apologized today for offence caused by his comments, but has refused to retract their content, angering colleagues.

Prime Minister Clark has asked Tamihere to take sick leave in the wake of his comments – in which he also offended homosexuals and women – but only during the period that parliament would in case be in recess. She said today that he would "probably return to work soon."

PM Clark said of Tamihere's comments: "Sideshows like this are not something I am going to have distracting me." New Zealand will hold a general election soon.

The trivializing of the Holocaust by Turiana Turia (mentioned in one of the articles below), occurred in 2000. It seems politicians playing with anti-Semitism to gain votes is not a new phenomenon in New Zealand.

A number of Holocaust survivors moved to New Zealand at the end of the war.

I attach five articles from today, yesterday and Sunday from the Taipei Times, the New Zealand Herald on Sunday, and the New Zealand Daily Herald.

There are summaries first for those who don't have time to read these articles in full.

[Please note that all these articles derive from original research carried out on behalf of this email list, and people on this list who run weblogs and who use items on it are, as usual, requested to please credit this list as a source of information.]

-- Tom Gross

 

BUCHENWALD, 60 YEARS ON

Tamihere's comments about the gas chambers were published on Sunday, the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Buchenwald.

In what was probably their last such gathering, on Sunday 500 survivors of Buchenwald mourned the tens of thousands killed there and urged the young to remember their suffering and be vigilant against anti-Semitism and far-right violence in today's Europe.

Attending the ceremony, Jerry Hontas, a US veteran who arrived in the camp as a 21-year-old medic, recalled the stacks of bodies and the stench. "We had no concept of such inhumanity... we couldn't talk to each other for days afterwards," he said.

In the three days alone before the American army liberated Buchenwald, 28,000 mainly Jewish inmates were sent on death marches to other camps.

A century earlier, one of Germany's greatest writers, Goethe, walked in the forests where the Buchenwald camp later was built.

-- Tom Gross

 

GERMAN RULING SAYS DRESDEN WAS A HOLOCAUST

[Summary only]

"German ruling says Dresden was a holocaust" (By Hannah Cleaver in Berlin, London Daily Telegraph, April 12, 2005)

German prosecutors have provoked outrage by ruling that the 1945 RAF [British airforce] bombing of Dresden can legally be termed a "holocaust".

The decision follows the refusal by the Hamburg public prosecutor's office to press charges against a Right-wing politician who compared the bombing raids to "the extermination of the Jews". German law forbids the denial or playing down of the Holocaust as an incitement to hatred.

So delicate is the subject of the slaughter of Jews under Hitler that any use of the word "holocaust", or comparison with it, faces intense scrutiny and sometimes legal action. But prosecutors have declined to pursue further the case of Udo Voigt, the chairman of the far-Right NPD, who likened the RAF's raids to the Nazis' "final solution".

Rudigger Bagger, a spokesman for the Hamburg public prosecutor, said the decision took into account only the criminal, not the moral, aspects of the case.

... Paul Spiegel, the president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, criticised the decision by prosecutors not to take action. He said the statements were incitement and allowing them to stand opened the door to further such comments...

 

HAMAS "VICE AND VIRTUE COMMANDO" MURDERS GAZA WOMAN

[This story is unrelated to other items on this email. I attach it because it has received so little attention in the international media. It was also reported in Ha'aretz and in some Palestinian media.]

"Hamas 'Vice and Virtue Commando' Murders Gaza Woman" (By Khaled Abu Toameh, Palestinian correspondent, Jerusalem Post, April 12, 2005)

[Summary only]

Hamas has begun operating a "vice and virtue commando" in Gaza to safeguard Islamic values, Palestinian security officials said. The new force is believed to be behind the gruesome murder over the weekend of Yusra al-Azzami, a 22-year-old university student whose "crime" was to be seen in public with her fiance.

Hamas's "morality" patrolmen spotted the young couple strolling along the beach in Gaza City, together with Azzami's younger sister. As they drove home, five masked gunmen in another car opened fire at Azzami, who was sitting in the front seat next to her fiance.

The assailants then dragged the young woman's body out of the car, pouncing upon it mercilessly with clubs and iron bars. The fiance and sister were also brutally beaten by the attackers...

 

SUMMARIES

TAMIHERE 'SICK' OF HOLOCAUST

"Tamihere 'sick' of Holocaust" (New Zealand Herald on Sunday, by David Fisher and Jonathan Milne, April 10, 2005)

Labour MP John Tamihere says he is "sick and tired of hearing how many Jews got gassed". The comments – branded yesterday by the Jewish Council as "sickening" and "deeply shocking for all Jews" – were made in the same interview in which Mr Tamihere referred to Cabinet minister Chris Carter as a "tosser" and "queer" and Cabinet minister Steve Maharey as "smarmy". They were released yesterday by Investigate magazine editor Ian Wishart after a spat with Mr Tamihere about the recording of the interview.

... Prime Minister Helen Clark said through a spokesman that while the government understood the pain the comment caused the Jewish community, she was certain Mr Tamihere meant no offence.

... David Zwartz, president of the New Zealand Jewish Council, said Mr Tamihere's comment was sickening for New Zealand Jews who suffered in the Holocaust and whose families were gassed.

... Victoria University political scientist Dr Jon Johansson said he was sure Ms Clark would have been appalled by the comment... "The prime minister and the party are on the horns of a dilemma, where they have to weigh up principle against the practical reality of risking losing the already fragile blue-collar vote...

 

BACKBENCHER SUSPENDED AFTER HOLOCAUST REMARKS

"Backbencher suspended after Holocaust remarks" (Taipei Times, DPA , Wellington, New Zealand, April 11, 2005)

Former New Zealand Cabinet minister John Tamihere was sent on extended stress leave by the government yesterday following comments that he was "sick and tired" of hearing how many Jews were gassed in the Holocaust.

Prime Minister Helen Clark effectively suspended him from her Labor Party and Parliament, saying his statements were "thoughtless, deeply offensive and utterly unacceptable."

She had earlier put him on stress leave for a week after publication of a magazine interview in which he said Clark was emotional and went to pieces, was surrounded by gays and lesbians, her chief adviser was "butch" and her female-dominated government was anti-men and allowed labor unions too much influence.

Tamihere, 45, a controversial politician has long been tipped as likely to be New Zealand's first indigenous Maori prime minister...

 

PM INDECISIVE OVER TAMIHERE, SAYS BRASH

"PM indecisive over Tamihere, says Brash" (By Maggie Tait, New Zealand Herald, April 11, 2005)

National Leader Don Brash would demand maverick MP John Tamihere's resignation if he were in the Prime Minister's position, he said today. Mr Tamihere is on indefinite "stress leave" after he made offensive comments about colleagues in an Investigate magazine interview followed by further comments on the Holocaust, women and another MP which were published yesterday in newspapers.

"It's time for him to resign," Dr Brash told NZPA. "He's offended not only Jewish New Zealanders but also women by the use of language and I'm neither a Jew nor a woman but I am offended by both those comments." ...

... "I think most New Zealanders recognise the Holocaust as arguably the most barbaric event in human history... to complain you've heard it too much and you are sick and tired of it is really very offensive to most people." ...

 

TAMIHERE CENSURED BY LABOUR PARTY CAUCUS

"Tamihere censured by Labour Party caucus" (New Zealand Herald, April 12, 2005)

John Tamihere was apparently thrown a lifeline today after being censured by the Labour Party caucus.

Prime Minister Helen Clark told reporters... "John [Tamihere] at his best is a wonderful colleague and puts 150 per cent in," Helen Clark said.

"John's known to stumble pretty badly and as he said last week he made the biggest mistake of his life which is damaging to him, and our concern is that it doesn't damage our party."

... Mr Tamihere will be on leave for the near future. Parliament goes into a fortnight's recess next week and he would "probably" return to work in Parliament after that, Helen Clark said.

 

HELEN CLARK'S COMMENTS ON JOHN TAMIHERE'S CENSURE

"Helen Clark's comments on John Tamihere's censure" (New Zealand Herald, April 12, 2005)

This is an edited version of Prime Minister Helen Clark's comments after the Labour Party caucus censured MP John Tamihere for his published views on colleagues, women, gays and the holocaust. [The newspaper uses a small h contratry to generally accepted useage of the term Holocaust – Tom Gross]

"John at his best is a wonderful colleague and puts 150 per cent in. John's known to stumble pretty badly and as he said last week he made the biggest mistake of his life which is damaging to him, and our concern is that it doesn't damage our party."

... Helen Clark said the party was focused on the election. "Sideshows like this are not something I am going to have distracting me," she said.

 



FULL ARTICLES

TAMIHERE "SICK" OF HOLOCAUST

Tamihere 'sick' of Holocaust
New Zealand Herald on Sunday
By David Fisher and Jonathan Milne (with additional reporting by Jonathan Dow)
April 10, 2005

www.nzherald.co.nz/index.cfm?c_id=1&ObjectID=10119675

Labour MP John Tamihere says he is "sick and tired of hearing how many Jews got gassed".

The comments – branded yesterday by the Jewish Council as "sickening" and "deeply shocking for all Jews" – were made in the same interview in which Mr Tamihere referred to Cabinet minister Chris Carter as a "tosser" and "queer" and Cabinet minister Steve Maharey as "smarmy". They were released yesterday by Investigate magazine editor Ian Wishart after a spat with Mr Tamihere about the recording of the interview.

Alerted yesterday to the remark, Prime Minister Helen Clark said through a spokesman that while the government understood the pain the comment caused the Jewish community, she was certain Mr Tamihere meant no offence.

In the interview, Mr Tamihere is asked by Mr Wishart about how a society can be focused on injustices of the past.

Mr Tamihere responds: "The Weisenthal Institute is the same. I'm sick and tired of hearing how many Jews got gassed, not because I'm not revolted by it – I am – or I'm not violated by it – I am – but because I already know that.

"How many times do I have to be told and made to feel guilty?"

David Zwartz, president of the New Zealand Jewish Council, said Mr Tamihere’s comment was sickening for New Zealand Jews who suffered in the Holocaust and whose families were gassed.

"It is deeply shocking for all other Jews, as was the earlier trivialising of the Holocaust by Mrs Tariana Turia. Jews have no desire to make Mr Tamihere or anyone feel guilty, we only want to have the historic truth known and understood so discrimination and oppression leading to genocide won’t happen again."

Victoria University political scientist Dr Jon Johansson said he was sure Ms Clark would have been appalled by the comment. "The Holocaust aspect – there is no redemptive quality to that thought. It contributes nothing, it pollutes our discourse," he said. "The prime minister and the party are on the horns of a dilemma, where they have to weigh up principle against the practical reality of risking losing the already fragile blue-collar vote.

"It does look like the final straw – and it's tinder dry."

Mr Wishart decided to release the comments after it emerged Mr Tamihere and one other person had returned to Soljans Cafe in West Auckland to talk to staff about the recording of the interview. The Agenda programme was contacted by a "source close to Mr Tamihere" offering tape recordings of staff who apparently said there was no recording device on the table when the MP lunched with Mr Wishart.

Tony Soljan, managing director of Soljans Estate Winery, said yesterday Mr Tamihere and the other person had talked to staff, who had asked that any conversation with them not be recorded. Mr Soljan said his staff felt "let down" when it emerged they had been taped.

Mr Wishart said the attempted "cover-up" by Mr Tamihere meant further excerpts would be released. He would also be lodging a complaint with TVNZ over its handling of the issue on Agenda yesterday.

Last night, Mr Tamihere refused to comment, although confirmed he had returned to the winery and spoken to staff.

He said he believed they were happy to be taped.

In a later conversation, Mr Tamihere said he was glad the comments were out now so Mr Wishart didn’t get another edition out of the interview.

 

BACKBENCHER SUSPENDED AFTER HOLOCAUST REMARKS

Backbencher suspended after Holocaust remarks
Taipei Times
By DPA (German Press Agency, Deutsche Presse-Agentur)
April 11, 2005

www.taipeitimes.com/News/world/archives/2005/04/11/2003250028

Former New Zealand Cabinet minister John Tamihere was sent on extended stress leave by the government yesterday following comments that he was "sick and tired" of hearing how many Jews were gassed in the Holocaust.

Prime Minister Helen Clark effectively suspended him from her Labor Party and Parliament, saying his statements were "thoughtless, deeply offensive and utterly unacceptable."

She had earlier put him on stress leave for a week after publication of a magazine interview in which he said Clark was emotional and went to pieces, was surrounded by gays and lesbians, her chief adviser was "butch" and her female-dominated government was anti-men and allowed labor unions too much influence.

Tamihere, 45, a controversial politician long tipped as likely to be New Zealand's first indigenous Maori prime minister, claimed he thought the interview for the magazine Investigate was off the record and Clark sent him on stress leave.

But she extended this indefinitely after the Herald on Sunday newspaper revealed extracts from the interview which the magazine had not published, including: "I'm sick and tired of hearing how many Jews got gassed, not because I'm not revolted by it – I am – or I'm not violated by it – I am – but because I already know that."

"How many times do I have to be told and made to feel guilty?" he said.

He was making a comparison with historic Maori claims of persecution by New Zealand's European settlers. Although part-Maori himself, Tamihere had won support across racial lines by insisting the indigenous people should move on from past injustices and not dwell on compensation handouts from the state.

Clark promoted him to her Cabinet but he quit a year ago pending inquiries into allegations of tax evasion and fraud which eventually cleared him.

She had made it clear he was rehabilitating himself as a backbencher when the interview in which he criticized her and their colleagues appeared last week.

Enraged at the apparent disunity in the government which will seek a third three-year term at a general election later this year, she sent him away from Parliament on stress leave on April 4. He was due to return to a parliamentary caucus meeting next Tuesday.

 

PM INDECISIVE OVER TAMIHERE, SAYS BRASH

PM indecisive over Tamihere, says Brash
By Maggie Tait
New Zealand Herald
April 11, 2005

www.nzherald.co.nz/index.cfm?c_id=1&ObjectID=10119858

National Leader Don Brash would demand maverick MP John Tamihere's resignation if he were in the Prime Minister's position, he said today.

Mr Tamihere is on indefinite "stress leave" after he made offensive comments about colleagues in an Investigate magazine interview followed by further comments on the Holocaust, women and another MP which were published yesterday in newspapers.

"It's time for him to resign," Dr Brash told NZPA.

"He's offended not only Jewish New Zealanders but also women by the use of language and I'm neither a Jew nor a woman but I am offended by both those comments."

Sunday newspapers reported Mr Tamihere saying he was sick of hearing about the Holocaust, that ally Clayton Cosgrove in caucus was being held back because he ran a "nasty" campaign against Prime Minister Helen Clark, and abused women in top jobs calling them "front-bums".

"Last week he was obviously in great difficulty in the Labour Party because he was effectively revealing the nature of the Labour Government," Dr Brash said.

Comments that Labour was driven by minority groups, unionists, and feminists and that it was duplicitous in dealing with minority coalition partners did not impact on the public.

"That was up to the Prime Minister to deal with or not deal with. She chose not to deal with it. I think the latest revelations – making remarks about both the Holocaust and women in a highly derogatory way offends not just the Labour Party but all New Zealanders."

Mr Tamihere's comments about the Holocaust were beyond the pale.

"I think most New Zealanders recognise the Holocaust as arguably the most barbaric event in human history... to complain you've heard it too much and you are sick and tired of it is really very offensive to most people."

Miss Clark declined to say on television this morning whether she would accept Mr Tamihere's resignation if offered.

"She's clearly playing for time and is revealing an indecisive side of her nature that has been largely hidden until John Tamihere revealed the truth," Dr Brash said.

"If I had a member of my caucus who made remarks like that I would seeking their resignation."

Dr Brash said he saw no parallels between Mr Tamihere's situation and the two weeks in October/November 2003 that National MP Nick Smith spent on stress leave.

Dr Smith had been National deputy leader until he made accusations against chief whip John Carter of conspiring and voting against former leader Bill English.

"There are no parallels at all. Nick Smith was away for two weeks, it was a finite period. He made no remarks to the public which were in any sense offensive and indeed he made no remarks outside the caucus at all."

 

TAMIHERE CENSURED BY LABOUR PARTY CAUCUS

Tamihere censured by Labour Party caucus
New Zealand Haerald
NZPA, Herald Online Staff
April 12, 2005

www.nzherald.co.nz/index.cfm?c_id=1&ObjectID=10120042

John Tamihere was apparently thrown a lifeline today after being censured by the Labour Party caucus.

Prime Minister Helen Clark told reporters that caucus has passed a resolution severely censuring Mr Tamihere for grossly offensive comments but everyone in the caucus liked Mr Tamihere.

"John at his best is a wonderful colleague and puts 150 per cent in," Helen Clark said.

"John's known to stumble pretty badly and as he said last week he made the biggest mistake of his life which is damaging to him, and our concern is that it doesn't damage our party."

Mr Tamihere appeared with the Prime Minister after the meeting. He said: "This gives me a chance of rehabilitating myself and I am grateful for that."

Asked questions by reporters he said he should not comment further, to which Helen Clark said: "I think so."

Mr Tamihere will be on leave for the near future. Parliament goes into a fortnight's recess next week and he would "probably" return to work in Parliament after that, Helen Clark said.

Mr Tamihere was unlikely to put his name up for a Cabinet vacancy if one became available, she said.

Labour leaders had advised Mr Tamihere to take some leave and stay away from caucus, after comments that he was sick of hearing about the holocaust were revealed at the weekend. But Mr Tamihere has insisted on attending.

He entered the caucus meeting without saying anything to journalists 15 minutes after other MPs began their meeting.

He was flanked by Maori Affairs Minister Parekura Horomia and appeared to be very nervous and distressed.

Mr Tamihere has publicly apologised for offence caused by his comments, but has refused to retract their content, inflaming colleagues.

Helen Clark said after the meeting that the comments Mr Tamihere made in a recent Investigate magazine article and further remarks released to Sunday newspapers by journalist Ian Wishart were "grossly offensive".

She said they ran counter to the Labour Party's principles, policies of inclusion and respect for all.

In his comments Mr Tamihere offended women, Jews, and colleagues. Helen Clark said the resolution of censure condemned those comments.

"We have rejected the views he expressed and we have disassociated ourselves from them, we deplore the ill-disciplined behaviour," she said.

The Prime Minister said the caucus noted Mr Tamihere's statement "that in the run up to the general election he will be putting all his efforts into winning the Maori electorates for Labour".

Mr Tamihere's decision to attend today's caucus came after he received strong support at a meeting in his Tamaki Makaurau electorate last night.

Te Tai Tokerau Labour MP Dover Samuels said he spoke to his friend Mr Tamihere this morning confirming he would apologise to colleagues.

"I said it's better late than never. At the end of the day he's going to make his own decision but he's decided to front up to his caucus and he's rung leaders of the Jewish community," Mr Samuels said

"He must apologise unconditionally and from the heart." Mr Samuels said Mr Tamihere has "a hell of a lot to offer" the country and the comments were a terrible error made because of stress.

"He's needed his own space, he should have taken a break after he was cleared by the SFO over the other allegations. He's been under tremendous stress – I can relate to that."

Mr Tamihere covered stress up by different ways, Mr Samuels said.

"Attitude and sometimes smart jokes. But he's just made a grave error of judgment and he recognises that and the only way he can redeem himself is to show humility and humbleness to the people that he has wounded and hurt, including his very good personal friend Clayton Cosgrove."

Mr Tamihere had told Mr Samuels he regretted not apologising more fully after the comments were published in Investigate magazine.

 

HELEN CLARK'S COMMENTS ON JOHN TAMIHERE'S CENSURE

Helen Clark's comments on John Tamihere's censure
New Zealand Herald
NZPA
April 12, 2005

www.nzherald.co.nz/index.cfm?c_id=1&ObjectID=10120064

This is an edited version of Prime Minister Helen Clark's comments after the Labour Party caucus censured MP John Tamihere for his published views on colleagues, women, gays and the holocaust.

"John at his best is a wonderful colleague and puts 150 per cent in. John's known to stumble pretty badly and as he said last week he made the biggest mistake of his life which is damaging to him, and our concern is that it doesn't damage our party."

Helen Clark said the comments Mr Tamihere were "grossly offensive".

"We have rejected the views he expressed and we have disassociated ourselves from them, we deplore the ill-disciplined behaviour."

She said the caucus noted Mr Tamihere's statement "that in the run up to the general election he will be putting all his efforts into winning the Maori electorates for Labour, and we've noted this is consistent with his duty as a Labour member of Parliament to campaign strongly for the re-election of a Labour Government".

Helen Clark said Mr Tamihere understood it would take a long time to recover from his comments.

"I have said to him the challenge for him is to show he has the self-discipline to make that work.

"I believe he presented himself today in a very humble way to the caucus. There was no beating about the bush, there was no attempt to make excuses, there was an acceptance that what had happened should not have happened.

"What I said to the caucus is not only that most people like John at his best but most people know that John at his best has a lot of talent and has contributed a lot to us.

"What we also know is that he is capable of big stumbles, such as the interview with Investigate."

The challenge was for Mr Tamihere to operate at the level the party expected: "And when people operate at the level we expect they have a future".

Asked if she forgave Mr Tamihere Helen Clark said she was "capable of infinite forgiveness, but I like to see reciprocation and if someone presents themself in a humble fashion and says they are going to turn over a chapter then we move on".

Asked if it had been an emotional meeting, Helen Clark said: "It's not emotional. It is simply setting out that people approach this with a mixture of feelings. People like John at his best, at his worst people think what on earth is going on here?"

Helen Clark said the party was focused on the election.

"Sideshows like this are not something I am going to have distracting me," she said.

All notes and summaries copyright © Tom Gross. All rights reserved.