Answers to Newsroom’s questions for their “hate speech” article

A Newsroom journalist who intends to write an article about “hate speech” contacted Auckland Peace Action. The journalist asked the questions used as the headings of this post. These questions suggest that the journalist may argue that:

(a) disruption by Auckland Peace Action at the Auckland screening of Ben-Gurion, Epilogue (a film about the final years of Israel’s founder) may
(b) constitute “hate speech” against our Jewish whānau on the basis of their race/ethnicity/national origins.

Alternatively, the journalist may argue that:

(a) disruption by Auckland Peace Action at the Auckland screening of Ben-Gurion, Epilogue may
(b) constitute “hate speech” against our Jewish whānau on the basis of their religion if
(c) “hate speech” laws are expanded to cover, inter alia, religious minorities as advocated by Green Party MP Golriz Ghahraman (https://twitter.com/golrizghahraman/status/1113531761474977792), therefore
(d) “the left” is hypocritical.

Auckland Peace Action welcomes discussions about the content of New Zealand’s laws. We are posting our replies publicly to progress the “hate speech” debate and to ensure that our responses are accurately reported. Auckland Peace Action emphasises the distinction between antisemitism and criticisms of the State of Israel. Our criticisms of the State of Israel co-exist with our relentless opposition to antisemitism. As a comparison, criticisms of the Republic of South Africa during apartheid were not hostility to, prejudice, or discrimination against South Africans.
(1)“What’s your stance on antisemitism and hate speech?”

As indicated in our introduction, Auckland Peace Action condemns antisemitism, Islamophobia and racism strongly and regularly. We do not tolerate “hate speech” and welcome public debate about the scope of our current laws.

You can read our statements condemning antisemitism here:

Auckland Peace Action notes that New Zealand’s “hate speech” laws are currently restricted to the promotion of racial disharmony per s 61 of the Human Rights Act 1993. Spoken words or publications violate s 61 if they are (per Wall v Fairfax New Zealand Ltd [2017] NZHRRT 17 at [234]–[235], upheld in Wall v Fairfax New Zealand Ltd [2018] NZHC 104.):
(a) threatening, abusive or insulting; and
(b) likely to excite hostility against or bring into contempt any group of persons on the ground of their colour, race, or ethnic or national origins of that group of persons.
Section 61, therefore, focuses on the effects of the speech or publication on persons outside the targeted group (per Wall v Fairfax New Zealand Ltd [2018] NZHC 104 at [50]–[51].)
(2) Could you please describe your connections to the Green Party?
Auckland Peace Action has no formal connection to the Green Party. Members of the Green Party caucus occasionally speak at our events. For example, Marama Davidson spoke at Jummah Remembrance: Vigil for lives taken in Christchurch (https://www.facebook.com/events/629860010801929/), an event co-hosted by Auckland Peace Action.
(3) Are you associated with Peace Action Wellington?
No. Auckland Peace Action and Peace Action Wellington are separate groups — Auckland Peace Action is not involved in Peace Action Wellington’s decision-making. The groups are not subsets of a parent group. We do, however, have similar goals and principles, and for that reason Auckland Peace Action considers Peace Action Wellington to be its sister organisation.

(4) What’s your official response to the beeping black box that was planted at the [Wellington] screening of an Israeli documentary last year?

This question refers to a protest by Peace Action Wellington at the 2018 Wellington screening of Ben-Gurion, Epilogue (a film about the final years of Israel’s founder). As discussed, Peace Action Wellington is distinct from Auckland Peace Action.

We understand that the noisemaker inside a box was not “planted”, but rather it was with two members of Peace Action Wellington inside the screening room. To our knowledge, the box was locked so the noisemaker could not be silenced easily. No Peace Action Wellington demonstrators were arrested as a result of this protest.

(5) How might you respond to the claim that your group has caused fear within the Jewish community?

We assume that this question relates to a protest by Auckland Peace Action at the 2018 Auckland screening of Ben-Gurion, Epilogue.

Auckland Peace Action would express our sincere apologies if such fear was caused and if fear remains. We opposed the Auckland screening of Ben-Gurion, Epilogue as it is subject to an international boycott on behalf of Palestinian civil society organisations. Our criticisms of the State of Israel co-exists with our relentless opposition to antisemitism.
We refer you to a video of our action, which suggests that the audience was angered rather than fearful: https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=2027453114182534 . Two people from Auckland Peace Action were arrested at this protest for disorderly conduct. We do not, however, purport to erase the experiences of those who were, or who remain, genuinely fearful.
We note that, even if s 61 of the Human Rights Act 1993 was expanded to cover religion in addition to race/ethnicity/national origins, the purported incitement of fear by Auckland Peace Action would not, on its own, constitute “hate speech”. As noted, s 61 focuses on the effects of speech or publications on persons outside the targeted group (per Wall v Fairfax New Zealand Ltd [2018] NZHC 104 at [50]–[51].)
(6)Do your Facebook page’s administrators moderate comments or prevent people from commenting?”
Freedom of expression is affirmed in s 14 of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990. However, s 3 limits the Acts application. The rights and freedoms affirmed in the Act imply corresponding duties upon the state, not private citizens. The state has a duty to refrain from interfering with a person’s freedom of expression. This freedom is subject to “justified limitations” per s 5.
Private citizens are not obliged to accommodate the harmful opinions of others, even if such views are honestly held. Auckland Peace Action’s Facebook page is a place for reasoned and factual debate. Therefore, we moderate comments and delete objectionable material. Our Facebook page is not an open forum for anyone to say whatever they want.
(7)“Anything more would be greatly appreciated”
Please note that we have an existing complaint under the Broadcasting Standards Authority about Mediaworks’ coverage of Auckland Peace Action. This complaint concerns Mediaworks’ claims about the screening of Ben-Gurion, Epilogue.
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