Monday May 15th marks Nakba Day (Nakba is Arabic for “catastrophe”) which remembers the ethnic cleansing of more than 700,000 Palestinians from their land and homes by Israeli militias in 1947-49.
The Nakba continues today with evictions, house demolitions and theft of Palestinian land a regular occurrence.
Nakba Day is a hugely important day for Palestinians and Palestinian New Zealanders and yet it rarely receives any acknowledgement from mainstream media here.
To mark this day, we are encouraging mainstream media to report on the experiences of Palestinian New Zealanders and their families in relation to the Nakba.
For example, a new organisation of Palestinian New Zealanders, (PACC) the Palestine Aotearoa Co-ordinating Committee), has been formed to raise the profile of Palestinian New Zealanders and would be happy to help facilitate media contacting local members of the Palestinian community.
Every year since 1949 New Zealand governments have voted at the United Nations (UNGA 194) to demand Palestinian refugees be allowed to return to their land and homes in historic Palestine but Israel has steadfastly refused.
The typical symbol for Nakba Day day is a key – Palestinian families packed whatever they could carry, locked the doors of their houses, and fled. They keep their keys for the day they will return.
Meanwhile Palestinians continue their struggle for human rights and self-determination despite on-going theft of their land, bulldozing of their homes and widespread suffering under Israeli military occupation (The Israeli military has occupied all of historic Palestine since 1967)
There is widespread misinformation amongst the general public about Palestinian New Zealanders and it is very rare to find local Palestinian voices in our mainstream media. On the other hand, voices from the pro-Israel lobby here are dominant in news coverage relating to the Middle East.
Many Palestinian New Zealanders face Islamophobia and although the majority of Palestinian New Zealanders are Muslims, a sizeable minority are Christian – amongst the oldest Christian communities in the world.
Six Palestinian New Zealanders were killed in the March 15, 2019 Christchurch mosque attacks.
The Royal Commission of Inquiry report into the Mosque attacks included the following points which relate directly to how media reporting affects Palestinian New Zealanders:
We were also told that there are some general misunderstandings about Islam. Some people in Muslim communities believe they are subject to guilt by association with Islamist extremist terrorism. We heard of increased harassment and discrimination faced by some New Zealand Muslim individuals and communities when Islamist extremist terrorist attacks occurred overseas.
The lack of awareness in New Zealand about ethnic and religious communities is considered by many to be a barrier to embracing diversity. The Muslim Community Reference Group noted that in New Zealand, people learn about Muslim culture and beliefs primarily through the media.
Members of the Muslim Community Reference Group and some submissions also expressed concerns about the way that local and international media reporting has contributed to increased anti-Muslim views in New Zealand and around the world. They believe that this occurs through inaccurate reporting, and a general failure to challenge racist and extremist remarks. Many people we talked to or heard from shared this belief. Many people commented that biased reporting had increased significantly since the terrorist attacks on 11 September 2001 in the United States of America. We were presented with research and statistics on the representation of Islam in New Zealand media to support this view.
We heard similar sentiments from many people that the way that New Zealand Public sector agencies and politicians talk about national security issues adds to anti-Muslim rhetoric. We heard that what people say really matters, particularly people in leadership positions. One person told us that:
We think too often about minorities – “they are us” – emphasising their difference even if that was not the intent. Language is critical.
To help address these issues, Palestinian New Zealanders deserve to have their national narratives covered in mainstream media reporting in a similar way to those of other groups of New Zealanders. We hope the 75th anniversary of the Nakba in 2023 will mark a significant change to this.