On Saturday, at a rally for the victims of the Christchurch massacre in New Zealand, where 50 people were murdered at a mosque, a well-known mosque leader accused Jews of being responsible for the massacre.
At the rally in Auckland’s Aotea Square, Ahmed Bhamji, chairman of the Mount Roskill Masjid E Umar, which is associated with The Federation of Islamic Associations of New Zealand, stated of the shooter who targeted the victims, “I really want to say one thing today. Do you think this guy was alone? … I want to ask you, where did he get the funding from? I will not mince words. I stand here and I say I have very, very strong suspicion that there is some group behind him and I am not afraid to say I feel that Mossad is behind this.”
An onlooker shouted, “It’s the truth! Israel is behind this. That’s right!”
According to Newshub, Bhamji also said the gunman was funded by “Zionist business.”
Unbelievable that a community leader unashamedly blamed Israel for the Christchurch terror attack in front of 1k people, a crowd member loudly agreed, and there was no challenge to the conspiracy theory.
— David Cumin (@KiwiDaveC) March 25, 2019
Outrage erupted from the local Jewish community. New Zealand Jewish Council spokesperson Juliet Moses told Newshub, “These conspiracy theories are dangerous lies. They put the Jewish community at risk, at a time of heightened security concerns. Conspiracy theories — particularly the idea that Jews (whether through the Jewish state or otherwise) are a malevolent controlling force in the world — are at the very core of anti-Semitism.”
Apparently it’s not obvious that you don’t counter racism, hatred and conspiracy theories by peddling more racism, hatred and conspiracy theories.
There are simply no excuses for this. https://t.co/tF97ic4PkG
— Juliet Moses (@JulietMosesNZ) March 24, 2019
The event was organized by a group calling itself Love Aotearoa Hate Racism; its co-founder, Joe Carolan, protested to Newshub that Bhamji was only one of 30 speakers and different perspectives were offered at the rally. He told Newshub he personally did not believe that Jews were behind the massacre.
Moses said that was no excuse for not publicly denouncing Bhamji’s vitriol, asserting, “It is unfortunate that they did not appear to put its anti-racism message into practice, by challenging or condemning the racism in their midst. We must call out hateful dehumanizing language, whatever the source, target and circumstances, and even when it is not politically expedient to do so.”
When he was queried by Newshub, Bhamji doubled down on his rhetoric and claimed he was being targeted, saying, “I made a statement, a lot of other people made statements,” adding that there should be an investigation of how the gunman financed his action, snapping, “Mossad is up to all these things. When I talk about Mossad, why should the Jews be upset about it? Give me an answer?”
The first mainstream New Zealand news agency to suggest that Israel was connected to the Christchurch massacre was Stuff irresponsibly sharing an Associated Press article with a provocative headline “Christchurch mosque attacks: Alleged gunman Brenton Tarrant visited Israel in 2016.” It is in paragraph six that we learn “Also in late 2016, Tarrant visited Serbia, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Croatia, where he stopped by historic battle sites, before travelling in Western Europe in 2017.” Yet the headline would suggest Israel is somehow special and there is comment from unnamed “Israeli officials” but no other nation’s officials are sought for comment.