The Nakba (“catastrophe” in Arabic) refers to the violent expulsion of approximately three quarters of all Palestinians from their homes and homeland by Zionist militias and the new Israeli army during the state of Israel’s establishment (1947-49). It is commemorated on the 15th of May each year.
This year, it is particularly salient marking the 75th anniversary, and one year on from the assassination of Palestinian journalist Shireen Abu-Akleh. It is also particularly salient given the increasing state supported violent attacks on Palestinian people in the West Bank.
This year, Justice for Palestine is organising a series of events to mark the Nakba. Please join them and show you stand for a Free Palestine.
Remember Shireen Join Justice for Palestine’s candlelight vigil to mark the first anniversary of the death of Shireen Abu-Akleh. When an Israeli sniper shot her, Shireen was just doing her job, reporting for Al Jazeera. Journalism is not a crime. Her family, and the whole world, are still waiting for #justiceforshireen. Bring a candle.
Walled Off: Nakba Day Movie Screening When: May 15, 8:15pm Where: Lighthouse Cinema, Cuba Street Facebook event
A secret museum in an art hotel sparks intrigue when it’s revealed to be a creation of controversial artist, Banksy. Using art as a form of political resistance, the hotel highlights the reality of life under Israeli military occupation. The film journeys through the hotel, Palestine, and a relevant past to dismantle the mainstream media’s bias towards the Palestinian struggle for freedom and equality. On the 75th anniversay of the Nakba, Justice for Palestine are screening this important documentary to support our call for Aotearoa New Zealand to stand up for Palestinians right to self-determination by recognising Palestinian statehood.
May 15th marks the 75th anniversary of the Nakba. To commemorate the event, Justice for Palestine are hosting a rally centered around the call for Aotearoa New Zealand to stand up for Palestinian peoples’ right to self-determination by recognising Palestinian statehood. They would love it if you could join! On 16 May at 12.15pm, Justice for Palestine are holding a rally at Parliament to hand over a Palestinian statehood recognition petition to Golriz Ghahraman MP. This is an opportunity to come together with the Palestinian and ally community to affirm your support for Palestinian peoples’ right to self-determination. There will be music, speeches and poetry alongside the petition handover.
ANZAC day is frequently presented as a day of solemn reflection and contemplation of the horrors of war. But in 2022, one service was hijacked by so-called “Sovereign citizens”, far right conspiracy theorists who believe that the only laws that apply to them are the ones that they consent to personally. This invasion prompted a walkout of other attendees and a rebuke by the head of the RSA who said, “It’s just wrong.” The RSA chapters had been warned they could be targeted on Anzac day following the Parliament protest.
Is it surprising that white supremacists feel entitled to speak at ANZAC day services given the country’s history? Perhaps instead of superficial nods to the bravery and honour of those who died in NZ’s past wars at this year’s service, it would be far wiser for all of us reflect on the enlistment of neo-nazis in the NZ Defence Force, the rise of white supremacist nationalism and threats to the “national security” of the country.
Neo-nazis in the military
The NZDF has got a neo-nazi problem on its hands. This is not a problem specific to New Zealand, but to all ‘Five Eyes’ countries. The NZ Herald recently reported that neo-nazi, racist groups now pose the greatest security threat to the US (ahead of Russia and China) and that they are actively recruiting people with military and police experience. The first Australian neo-nazi to have his passport cancelled on national security grounds is a former Australian soldier, raising fears the Australian Defence Force is at risk of infiltration by extremists.
There are multiple specific security concerns that arise from neo-nazis in the military including access to weapons and training, to classified information, and to information about the military’s structure, planning, and location of strategic goods. All of these are in addition to the central problem with having neo-nazis in the military which is the same problem with having them anywhere: their ideology is based upon a belief in racial superiority and a dedication to using violence to exterminate others. The capability to operationalise those beliefs is the particularly terrifying contribution military experience offers.
Published reports correlated with other data suggests that there are a minimum of nine neo-nazis either currently serving or recent former members of NZDF.
The military is in the process of prosecuting one neo-nazi for espionage (he has name suppression). He was an armourer in the Army. He is not being prosecuted for being a member of neo-nazi groups Action Zealandia, the Dominion Movement or Wargus Christi, but rather for giving military information to a foreign government.
“Wargus Christi (Outlaws of Christ), a far-right ‘martial-monastic order’ or ‘brotherhood’ of ‘Christian crusader knights’ whose religious purification disciplines include the oppression of the flesh. They have links to military personnel at the Linton military camp, and other members are former service people,” note Paul Spoonley and Paul Morris in the recently released Histories of Hate. Wargus Christi have been documented being antisemitic, Islamophobic and homophobic, and are analogous to the US Oath Keepers.
Another trained neo-nazi soldier is Max Newsome. He was a member of Action Zealandia and the Dominion Movement, both neo-nazi political groups. He is no longer in the army, but the circumstances of his departure are unknown. He attempted to start an accelerationist terrorist group called the Southern Order, and discussed military tactics with the Atomwaffen Division, a US-based group of terrorist cells that work toward civilisational collapse.
Just a fortnight out from Anzac Day, another Action Zealandia member has been revealed to be a staff officer with the NZDF Cadet Forces. Along with holding deeply transphobic and white supremacist beliefs, James Davidson is also tremendously proud of being part of Anzac Day parades and Waiouru training.
But the NZDF does not appear to consider being a member of a neo-nazi group while enlisted enough of a national security threat that it has yet been willing to use provisions available to court martial or discharge them. Section 25 of the Human Rights Act specifically allows discrimination on the basis of political opinion where work involves national security. All members of NZDF are subject to pre-enlistment security vetting. In short, holding neo-nazi beliefs should result in the loss of security clearance, and thus the ability to serve.
Despite OIA requests to NZDF, little of significance has been released save for reference to soldiers’ rights to freedom of expression and association, and the need to maintain a security clearance. There seems to be little consideration of proactive steps that could be taken to ensure that neo-nazis are not in the NZDF, and that once soldiers do leave active duty, that they are not vulnerable to recruitment by such organisations.
Anzac Day: The long arc of white supremacy
The commemoration of Anzac Day is fundamentally about increasing a particular kind of white colonial nationalism through selling superficial and simplistic myths about New Zealanders in World War 1. The Ministry of Culture and Heritage says it is about “celebrating a unique identity” and “central marker of our nationhood,” both evidencing the kind of doublespeak that plagues this whole event. Whose identity? Centrally marking what?
Anzac Day confers honour and legitimacy on a deeply racist and imperial conflict – in which the New Zealand government – and New Zealanders – were very keen and active participants. Atrocities committed by New Zealand soldiers in the war include brutalising Chinese indentured servants in Samoa, repeated rioting in Egypt by thousands of troops who burned houses and possessions, and brutally beat civilians, and in the closing days of the war, the mass murder of Palestinian civilians in the village of Surafend. All of this took place under the structural permissiveness of imperial white supremacy and Islamophobia, as is made clear by this 1914 Special General Order to the New Zealand Forces in Egypt:
“The natives in Egypt have nothing in common with the Maoris. They belong to races lower in the human scale, and cannot be treated in the same manner. The slightest familiarity with them will breed contempt which is certain to have far-reaching and harmful consequences. Every member of the Force in Egypt is charged with the enormous responsibility of maintaining the prestige of the British race.”
It would be easy to ascribe this all to some distant history with little specific relevance for today, but New Zealand has just finished fighting 20 years of war in Afghanistan in which NZDF soldiers also committed war crimes against civilians, and for which the entire Western world was securitised against Muslims. The NZDF and allied forces have been engaged in a collective orgy of militarised anti-Muslim hate in the Middle East and Central Asia for two decades.
The Minister of Defence Andrew Little has just signed a closer cooperation agreement between the New Zealand SAS and its Australian counterpart, and the very moment that the Australian SAS is being investigated for war crimes after a 2020 report by an Australian courtfound “credible information” to implicate 25 current or former personnel in the alleged unlawful killing of 39 people in Afghanistan.
The NZDF has been a place where white supremacy, masquerading as a kind of benevolent ‘kiwi pride,’ has been welcomed. Anzac Day is the apotheosis of this archetype.
This isn’t surprising because the military’s foundations are the same as 100 years ago. It remains in the service of a colonising state against the ‘other,’ whomever it is convenient for that threat to be. This is in spite of its embrace of the signifiers and imagery of a bicultural organisation. There always needs to be a threat, however unlikely, otherwise why maintain an active combat force?
Today, in the current context of ascendant white nationalism and against the backdrop of the accelerating climate change, failure to give urgent attention to the very specific issue of neo-nazis in the Defence Force is a recipe for more state-sanctioned racialised violence to come. This is particularly so as the government pulls ever closer to AUKUS and NATO, and extreme weather events mount with untold, and unequal, devastation.
There are options for addressing both the immediately pressing issue of neo-nazis in the NZDF along with addressing the wider issues of an institutionally, historically white supremacist military.
There is a deep appetite across the country for a well-organised, trained and resourced disaster and climate response organisation. At present, the NZDF does do some of that work, but really only as an ancillary function to its main role, combat readiness, which is costing the country in excess of six billion a year that is primarily funnelled to weapons companies. Yet it is this combat role that continues to envelope the country in racist wars and occupations with concomitant horrific crimes, and which continues to train up neo-nazis that enlist specifically to learn to kill. A purely civilian organisation that responds to the coming storms and societal upheaval of climate change, based on climate justice and Te Tiriti as its founding principles would be a phenomenally positive and inviting place for young people.
A strong and vibrant peace and climate justice movement must push for decolonisation and demilitarisation – starting with our own defence force. The radical challenges we face now require a radical rethink away from old Western alliances and more weapons.
Lest we forget the true horrors of the two world wars: genocide and mass human misery. At least 50 million people died in World War II from nazism and its handmaidens Italian and Japanese fascism. This Anzac Day the conversation must include real hard discussions of the NZDF history and culture that has made it a place where neo-nazis are now in its ranks.
“The roots of the movement are racist and antisemitic. It was founded by William Potter Gale, former member of the John Birch Society. Potter formed a group of antigovernment Christian Identity adherents who mistrusted state and federal officials. They believed that non-white people were not human, and that Jews possessed a satanic plot to take over the world. They identified themselves as Posse Comitatus, which is Latin for “power of the county” and centers on the idea that county sheriffs are the highest governmental authority.”
Here, sovereign citizen ideas have taken on a local flavour and local appeal, particularly to some Māori, who have very valid reasons for rejecting the Crown’s legitimacy. Anti-fascist researcher Te Rangikaiwhiria Kemara noted in 2022 that, “The movement that follows the Sovereign Citizen manifesto has some Maori as a part of it as well. That is because the latest iteration of the movement has been crafted to sound similar to haputanga.” He later notes, “…appropriation of the ‘he whakaputanga’ imagery, and beliefs from the Whakaminenga movement being merged into this US imported Sovereign Citizen common law horseshittery.”
The Sovereign Citizen movement is regarded as a major domestic terrorist threat in the US, with multiple adherents linked to the execution of police during routine traffic stops.
We are horrified to learn of the newly announced cooperation deal between New Zealand and Australian militaries focusing on Special Forces units. The Australian Special Forces are currently under investigation for war crimes in Afghanistan. The NZDF has hardly dealt with the fallout from its own crimes in Operation Burnham. These units should be disbanded, not strengthened,” said Auckland Peace Action spokesperson Eliana Darroch.
“A 2020 report by an Australian court found “credible information” to implicate 25 current or former Australian Defence Force personnel in the alleged unlawful killing of 39 people in Afghanistan. Last month, former Australian SAS trooper Oliver Jordan Schulz was arrested and charged with the war crime of murder, over the alleged shooting of an unarmed Afghan civilian, captured on camera.”
“War crimes by the Australian SAS are a live issue right now. The NZDF is about to get an Inspector-General of Defence to try to keep the military accountable after its cover-up of the murder of civilians in Operation Burnham. There is no public confidence in the operation of this unit. The military remains largely unrepentant, unresponsive to media transparency and dismissive of democratic process.”
“Minister of Defence Andrew Little needs to dismantle the SAS, not reward it with more opportunities to train and deploy to foreign wars.”
“The Hipkins Labour Government is quickly abandoning New Zealand’s independent foreign policy and signing up to be part of US-led wars. This deal is bad for peace and security.”
Peace groups have written to Minister of Transport Michael Wood seeking the cancellation of a contract with Cubic Corporation for the provision of a public transport ticketing system. Cubic provides weapons training systems, including training on the notorious Predator and Reaper drone systems.
“We are calling on the Minister to intervene and cancel this contract. Overwhelmingly New Zealanders do not want their money invested in weapons companies, yet the government continues to sign large contracts with global weapons dealers handing over tax dollars that strengthen these very companies,” said Valerie Morse, member of Peace Action Wellington.
“Cubic Corporation is a US-based weapons company. They make their money by promoting Islamophobic images where Muslim men are identified as targets.”
“Given the Christchurch massacre and growing Islamophobia in Aotearoa NZ, it is obscene that a government department is signing contracts with a company that directly profits from promoting religious and ethnic violence.”
“The NZ government needs to institute some ethical investment parameters for government contracts. It does not make sense to talk about addressing violent extremism and the growth of militarism on one hand, as the government has done just this year, and on the other hand, sign state contracts with companies that are actively engaged in those things.”
“Aside from Cubic’s Islamophobic war profiteering, the company’s New Zealand subsidiary has a history of evading export controls for military goods. It is not a good look for the government to be doing business with a company that has such a background.”
“The quick and easy way to solve this problem is to make public transport free across the whole country. Then we don’t need a ticketing system, and we don’t need to deal with a weapons company. It would also go a long way to easing the soaring cost of transport and climate emissions at the same time.”
“We call on the Minister to take urgent action and stop this contract now.”
The letter was authored by Peace Action Wellington, Auckland Peace Action, the Foundation Against Islamophobia & Racism, and the Director of the National Centre for Peace & Conflict Studies at Otago University.
Here is the letter in full:
Honourable Michael Wood Minister of Transport Parliament Wellington
1 November 2022
Tēnā koe Minister,
We are alarmed at news that Waka Kotahi is intending to partner with global weapons dealer Cubic Corporation on a new national ticketing system. You need to take immediate action to stop this contract.
You should be particularly alarmed that Cubic promotes its weapons-training systems by showing the targeting of men dressed in robes. This is a clear illustration of its institutional Islamophobia. It is totally unacceptable. The New Zealand Government should not deal with companies that specifically use Islamophobic imagery.
As part of the reckoning of the country following the massacre of 15 March 2019, it is imperative that the NZG take real and practical steps to eliminate opportunities for anyone to profit from Islamophobia. This is such a situation.
Quite aside from the company’s Islamophobia, we are concerned about Cubic NZ’s historical violations of New Zealand’s rules regarding export permits for trade in strategic military goods, and the provision to the Israeli Defence Force of military use training gear despite a permit being declined by MFAT.
Cubic is involved in sales of high tech defence programmes to countries like Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Israel. The human rights record of these participating countries seems to be no barrier to Cubic’s support for the global arms race in these outposts of global militarism, which may be expected to fall into line with the US Global Alliance in the event of future international conflicts.
For the integrity of our information privacy and independence of the functioning of New Zealand’s civilian population, we strongly disapprove of Cubic being awarded the contract of managing our public transport payment system. We ask you to review this decision and apply ethical standards in awarding the contract to a non-military aligned provider, as is within your power to do so.
The quick and easy way to solve this problem is to make public transport free across the whole country. Then we don’t need a ticketing system, and we don’t need to deal with a weapons company. It would also go a long way to easing the soaring cost of transport and climate emissions at the same time.
We expect you, a Labour MP who is well respected in the movements we align with, will take steps to ensure our transport system is not part of the military industrial complex that profits from Islamophobia and the evasion of export controls on military goods.
Ngā mihi nui,
Valerie Morse, Peace Action Wellington
Eliana Darroch, Auckland Peace Action
Azad Khan, Foundation Against Islamophobia and Racism
Dr Richard Jackson, National Centre for Peace & Conflict Studies
Join Tuhi-Ao Bailey and Tihikura Hohaia, Parihaka kaitiaki to discuss Parihaka Invasion Day, dairy cows and climate justice.
The history of the dairy industry in Taranaki is deeply implicated in the history of raupatu (confiscation) and Parihaka.
Millions of acres of the most fertile land was confiscated after the invasion of the Waikato and Taranaki in the 1860s, But Māori resistance continued. Through the 1870s Te Whiti’s kaupapa of peaceful resistance at Parihaka effectively stopped the government’s plans for the Waimate plains.
It is only after the invasion of Parihaka and the imprisonment without trial of hundreds of supporters including Te Whiti and Tohu can the land theft continue.By the 1890s, this stolen land is the foundation of an intensive dairy industry.
As we approach Parihaka Invasion Day 5th November, join Toin Tuhi-Ao Bailey and Tihikura Hohaia in a webinar to discuss climate justice and solutions to agricultural emissions through lens of this history.