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Killing Babies in Gaza

The current violence in Gaza has resulted in a lot of quite animated discussion, supporting both the Israeli and Palestinian sides. But there has been a lot of nonsense spoken, a lot of hypocritical political posturing, and a lot of apparently fake outrage as well.

Here in New Zealand a protest during the weekend included burning and defacing of the Israeli and US flags and that seems to have caused some rather extreme reactions. I know many more nationalist cultures (the US for example) than ours take their flags very seriously but I think flag burning is a legitimate form of protest for that specific reason. Maybe drawing swastikas on the Israeli flag might be going a bit too far, but all of these things are symbolic and I think many people have over-sensationalised the whole incident.

There were members of some political parties identified at the protest, and members of the Mana party seem to have been particularly implicated in the flag burning, and although I’ve heard of no proof that it was them who did it, they probably approved. There seems to be less evidence that they approved of the swastika incident.

The reaction of various politicians was all too predictable, of course. Since the Mana party and Internet party combined and started gaining a lot of support, opposing politicians have taken any opportunity available to denigrate them, and this was no exception.

A Green MP was also at the protest and spoke to the crowd (reported to be in the hundreds). In an interview he said defacing the Israeli flag with a Swastika was inappropriate. Yeah, I can see his point, but just how inappropriate?

Winston Peters also made some incoherent commentary which I couldn’t really make sense of so I’ll move on.

A Labour representative said we shouldn’t support this sort of behaviour, and it steps over an important line, and he condemns what the protestors have done. I guess where that line is depends on the person. As I said, burning a flag is fine with me but I’m a bit uncomfortable with the swastika thing.

A final negative comment came from Pita Sharples of the Maori Party. He seemed to be particularly incensed about it, possibly because his party faces political oblivion largely because of Harawira’s activities. He said that taking sides doesn’t help to solve the problem, and that the protest is not proper NZ behaviour, it is out of place, and there are enough crises without this rubbish. He doesn’t support it, and found it disgusting, really disgusting.

He does have a point about taking sides because there is clearly blame which can be assigned to both sides of this conflict. But it is the Israelis who are responsible for the atrocities happening right now so protesting against them does seem reasonable. Sometimes we have to take sides and I’m sure Sharples has on many occasions when it suits him.

He also has a point about protests not being typical New Zealand behaviour – that is apart from pro-Maori protests which he fully supports I guess. What a hypocrite. That’s what happens when you’re in government with John Key for too long apparently.

Mana party leader, Hone Harawira defended his followers’ actions and said he was proud that they were there protesting against the actions of Israelis. When questioned he didn’t actually give full support to the burning of the flags, but he seemed to imply it was OK. And he has a point: flag burning is a valid method of protest and in the past was used to protest other issues such as the Vietnam war.

When asked whether voters will be put off by such extreme behaviour Harawira asked if burning a flag is really extreme, what about killing babies in Gaza? It’s obscene and murderous. Someone should take steps to stop those bastards from doing it. Honestly we have to look at what’s happening. The burning of a flag does not compare with whats going on in Gaza.

So maybe Hone has a fair perspective on this. He’s quite right that a few symbolic actions, even some rather offensive ones like drawing swastikas on the Israeli flag, harm no one, unlike the murder going on in Gaza.

When asked if he would be disappointed if someone burned his (Maori sovereignty) flag he said yes, but he would want to know why. Good answer.

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