Thursday, January 15, 2009

Leave it behind

Should immigrants be allowed to keep and promote the hatreds and prejudices of their homelands? It seems to me that question is at the heart of an incident at an Invercargill café.

Two Israeli sisters were visiting a local café (one lives in the area with her New Zealand husband and children, the other was visiting). They told the Southland Times (via Stuff) that the café owner overheard them speaking Hebrew, asked where they were from, and when they said “Israel”, he ordered them out.

The café owner, Mustafa Tekinkaya, a Turkish Muslim, told the Southland Times, "I have decided as a protest not to serve Israelis until the war stops." He claimed not to have anything against Israeli people, but he said he’d continue to tell them to leave. The owner of a nearby kebab shop said he was doing the same.

The problem, of course, is that the action is completely illegal under New Zealand law. The Human Rights Act prohibits discrimination in the provision of goods and services on the grounds of religion, ethnic or national origin, or political opinion, among other things. The Race Relations Commissioner, Joris de Bres, said it best: "Whatever the rights and wrongs of the situation in Palestine, it is simply against the law for providers of goods and services in New Zealand to discriminate in this way."

Taking Mr. Tekinkaya at his word that he doesn’t hate Israelis, he should have known better than to break New Zealand law: All immigrants must obey the law. He could’ve lawfully put a protest sign in his window. He could have lawfully named a dish the “Israel out of Gaza” sandwich or something—as long as neither was an attempt to discriminate against anyone. But he cannot break New Zealand law and expect to face no consequence. I think that anyone who does this sort of thing should be prosecuted.

As an immigrant, I feel very strongly that no one has the right to bring the hatreds and prejudices of their homeland to this country—they should be left behind. If a person makes the decision to emigrate to New Zealand, then they also must accept all New Zealand laws and cultural norms. If they can’t or don’t want to for whatever reason, they should choose a different country more in line with their attitudes.

Ultimately, the issue here isn’t the political cause, and it doesn’t matter who discriminated against whom nor the ethnicities or religions of either side. Instead, it’s a simple matter of someone wilfully and deliberately violating the law. And that’s simply not acceptable, no matter how justified the person may feel.

Oh, and the ultimate irony? One of the sisters said she actually shared some of the same views as Mr. Tekinkaya. You set out to discriminate, and you will inevitably end up hurting those on your own side. That’s why discrimination isn’t just illegal, it’s also really, really stupid.

Update 16/01/09: There was a protest demonstration outside the café today. A person that TVNZ identified as a protest organiser said what I think is the main point; to paraphrase: "It's not about what's right or wrong in Gaza, it's about what's right or wrong in New Zealand." I couldn't agree more.

Update 2 (18/01/09): The café has experienced a "global backlash", according to the Sunday Star-Times (via Stuff). The paper reported, "People were leaving up to 25 messages a day on the couple's two business phones and were telephoning them at home and on their cellphones. They were also sending emails." Global backlash? Yes, well, the Star-Times is sometimes given to hyperbole. Turns out the story was posted on a US-based news site for Orthodox Jews, the paper reported, and that led subscribers (who are in several countries) to post the café's phone numbers (as if it would've been hard to find out a business phone number!). Apparently an offer of mediation has now arrived from the Human Rights Commission, and the café may apologise for taking the action they did.


d said...

I agree.

What I don't get is that if I were to go to the Middle East (which actually would never happen), I'd have to follow the misogynistic customs there and cover myself head to toe, among other things.

However, when women from the MIddle East move here, or to any Westernized country, they fully expect to keep their customs. What gives? Is the rule that the most extreme/weird custom trumps all others?

epilonious said...

While I agree that such discrimination is rightly overturned by "our taboo against discrimination is overturned by your taboo to refuse people of a certain heritage..."

The counterpoint is things like religious rites being messed with.

In the US there are some states where it is mandated to embalm corpses. This goes against Jewish religious customs to get the pine-boxed, non-embalmed body into the ground as quickly as possible for a speedy return to the earth from whence we came.

There have apparently been lots of little city council wars with coroners over this. And I sort of feel sorry for those who aren't allowed to dispose of the their dead in a way they see fit, or that a coroner might get prosecuted over an express wish of the family.

So, I'm afraid I am going to have to file this under "it depends..." and continue to giggle at the prospect of getting an "Israel out of Gaza" platter.

Arthur (AmeriNZ) said...

D: I can understand why immigrants would hold to their cultural heritage, and actually New Zealand encourages that. And I agree that some cultural practices are inappropriate in New Zealand. We don't permit female genital mutilation, for example, nor stoning or any other thing that other cultures or religions have accepted as normal because they're not normal for this society.

But there's a huge difference between allowing foreign cultural expression within the law and turning a blind eye when the laws of this country are broken in the name of that foreign cultural expression.

It seems to me that the laws and culture of any country must take priority over immigrants' cultural expression and when there's a conflict.

Epilonious: Sometimes, as with the burial rites issue, governments make silly rules based on old ideas and prejudices that have no place in the modern world, and they can conflict with other people's cultural expression. Unless there's a compelling state reason to maintain the rules you mention, which I doubt there is, then either the rules should be changed or an accommodation made. But, like I said in answer to D above, when there's a conflict between the laws of a country and cultural expression, the law must triumph.

One can always try to change the laws, but must obey them until they are changed.

Gabriel said...

Well, it's hardly about hatred and prejudice, is it. At the risk of skirting Godwin's Law, let me ask this: what would you have said about a Jewish store owner denying service to a couple of Germans during the Holocaust?

What has been happening, and is happening, in Gaza is every bit as horrific as the Holocaust or Apartheid. Civil disobedience, which is what this is, has been effective and necessary in every major civil rights and social justice movement. Plenty of (horrible) laws were broken in the US Civil rights movement... and, yes, in the struggle for gay rights. To tell this man to sit down and shut up is patronizing and wrongheaded.

Arthur (AmeriNZ) said...

Thank you for your comment, Gabriel. As I often say, I welcome all comments whether they agree with me or not. Not surprisingly, I don't agree with you.

The constant attempt to invoke the Holocaust in relation to Gaza is both fallacious and offensive morally as well as intellectually. What has happened in Gaza is nowhere near the equivalent of the systematic attempt to exterminate an entire race. Six million Jews and millions of others died in camps specifically built to murder them. That is not happening in Gaza.

The comparison to apartheid is also empty: In that case, the minority race attempted to suppress the majority race in the same country. Gaza is part of a quasi-independent state. The closest we could come for comparison would be when a province is in the process of separating from the home country, but even then the current situation is very different.

You are quite right that civil disobedience has been used in civil right struggles; sometimes it has been effective, sometimes not at all. But both America's civil rights movement and gay rights movement are irrelevant to this situation for a simple reason: The cafe owner was in New Zealand and no matter who he did or didn't serve, it would't change a single thing happening in Gaza.

Surely you must agree that anyone who engages in civil disobedience must be prepared to accept the consequences of their actions. In New Zealand, refusing to serve someone because of their race, religion or nationality (among other things) is illegal. By engaging in an illegal act, no matter how noble some believe the motive to be, the cafe owner should have been prepared to face the consequences of breaking New Zealand law.

You're patronising to me to say that I told the cafe owner to sit down and shut up: I did no such thing. In the post, I named two lawful things he could have done. Actually, there are plenty of ways the cafe owner could have acted lawfully and, I would argue, more effectively. Organising his community to lobby the current Government to change policy is an obvious one, and far more relevant than some symbolic act of illegal discrimination.

The issue here was simple: What's right or wrong in New Zealand. People in this country who oppose Israel or Hammas are entitled to their opinions and to express them, including through peaceful protest or civil disobedience—I never argued otherwise. But no one is entitled to break the laws of this country without facing consequences.

Gabriel said...

I must have missed the exact reason why Gaza is not roughly comparable to the Holocaust; is it simply a number game? One million, OK, six million, awful? A people, in this case the Palestinians, have been locked into a small area and illegally blockaded, an action that, according to the UN, is a legitimate Casus Belli. They have been denied food, health care, and other necessities. They have been attacked without cause (see via Israel's own records how many rockets were fired between the start of the Hamas ceasefire and the point at which Israel broke the ceasefire on November 4th), attacked brutally and without reasonable measure. Civilians have been targeted intentionally - the actions Israel takes, and admits taking, is the very definition of state terrorism.

So. They have locked in a cage, starved, and bombed. Denied the most basic of human rights. It is difficult to see the practical difference between this and genocide.

I'm not certain what you are on about when you say "quasi-independent state". The two-state solution is dead, and has been dead for some time. Gaza would be happy either being their own independent country or being a a part of Israel. It is Israel that insists Gaza is a part of Israel, but then treats the Palestinians thus. It is Israel which has recently outlawed all Arab political parties within its own borders, an action which, admits Livni, was conducted to ensure "that Israel remains a Jewish state."

A theocracy is making illegal, reprehensible war on the only actual democracy in the Middle East.

The shop owner in question took what small action he could to raise awareness about an ongoing atrocity. You and I are speaking about it because he took that action. He succeeded. Bravo.

Lastly: negative consequence is often a result of civil disobedience, but let's not glorify it. I'm sure protesters during the civil rights movement would have been just as happy, all in all, not being jailed, much less beaten and worse.

Arthur (AmeriNZ) said...

Whether I agree with you or not, Gabriel, I appreciate the intelligent discussion without ad hominem attacks. Quite frankly, it's unusual among blogs.

First, some things I see differently. No, it's not the numbers that makes the Holocaust comparison wrong, it's the fact that Nazi Germany was engaged in an attempt to exterminate an entire race. That simply isn't happening in Gaza.

But if numbers don't matter, then it surely doesn't matter whether Hamas fired 10 or 10,000 missiles into Israel. They fired them without any knowledge or concern about where they'd land, or how many innocent people—including children—might be killed. That's a despicable thing to do.

I have heard the things you said about the treatment of Palestinians, and I've heard other independent, reputable sources who say that claim is exaggerated. I don't know who to believe.

The two-state solution is certainly not dead. However, we have three states: Israel, Gaza controlled by Hamas and the West Bank controlled by the Palestinian Authority. You cannot be serious in saying that "Gaza would be happy either being their own independent country or being a a part of Israel". Hamas has always had as a central tenet—and still has—a dedication to the destruction of Israel. They'd only be willing to be part of Israel if, in fact, Israel no longer existed.

Hamas is a terrorist organisation and to pretend otherwise is plain silly. To say that Israel wasn't provoked is nonsense. It's dishonest to say that Israel attacked poor, innocent civilians without mentioning that Hamas stockpiled weapons in civilian districts, including mosques and housing blocks, and that they were happy to endanger civilians by firing rockets into Israel from civilian areas.

Having said all that, I'm not a big fan of Israel. It's often anti-democratic and—as other blog posts make clear—I am no fan of theocracy. The right wing politicians who dominate Israel are not people I'd be likely to support for anything. What I react to is the hypocrisy of the left in particular criticising Israel without acknowledging any sin whatsoever by Hamas. As I've also said before, there are NO saints in that mess. And it's debatable whether Gaza is a real democracy.

The cafe owner in New Zealand—judging by his own words—was not trying to "raise awareness about an ongoing atrocity", but was instead simply protesting the Gaza conflict. His actions were not well received by the general public in New Zealand who saw it in New Zealand terms, as I did. I've probably given it more attention than other New Zealand-based bloggers.

As for consequences of civil disobedience, I would never support or condone beatings or worse, but that wouldn't happen in New Zealand. I was simply referring to the lawful consequences of unlawful action in New Zealand and, by the way, those consequences are probably quite mild by US standards; the cafe owner probably risked little more than a small fine, not jail, for having broken the law. My larger point was, and is, that he claimed to have no idea his actions were illegal, while I believe he had an obligation to learn about the laws and customs of the country he was moving to.

Gabriel said...

I don't see any reason for ad hominem attacks, and I'm glad you agree.

1. As I tried to intimate, the number of rocket attacks during the ceasefire was zero. None. Hamas kept the ceasefire until Israel broke it on November 4th, a date cynically chosen because Obama's victory would drown out any international protest. And as I said, you need not take my word for it - check Israel's own statistics.

2. This despite the fact that Palestine is undergoing a vicious and illegal blockade, which the UN specifically states is legally a cause for war.

3. Of course, Israel was planning to break the ceasefire all along. Lizni recently admitted on record that the current military action had been planned for months. So, while the ceasefire was being held by Hamas, Israel was planning to break it. This is part and parcel of Israel's policy toward Palestine.

4. There is only one legitimate government in Gaza. Hamas was elected democratically, and, surprise surprise, continues to gain in popularity as the brutality continues. You say Hamas wants Israel destroyed, and I say, wouldn't you? I imagine the Poles in 1938 felt pretty similarly about Germany.

Yes, rockets have been fired. This is the extent of armed resistance in Gaza. A few WW2 rockets are fired, eight people die. Israel, with arms provided by the US, attacks Gaza, and 3,000 people die. Entire population centers are annihilated. Attacks are planned to coincide with children coming home from school. Ambulances are intentionally targetted. Hell, *UN schools filled with refugees* are intentionally targetted!

Let's look at this last bit. Three UN schools filled with refugees were targetted in Operation Cast Lead. The IDF's initial justification for the attack on the Al-Fakhura school was that Hamas had used the building to fire mortars from, and its tanks had responded. This is always the first lie - it's convenient, because it sounds ever so plausible, and seems to justify anything, even though that pesky international law states that this doesn't actually justify attacking civilians. This is a war crime. Implicit in this was an admission that they had targeted the school on purpose. Israel admits it had GPS coords for all of the schools, and that the IDF had, in fact, knowingly driven 350 refugees into those three schools.

When pressed on how, exactly, Hamas had invaded the school and placed mortars in the basement (?) of the complex, Mark Regev responded that it was a "very extreme example of how Hamas operates". More of the same. They are crazy, death to Israel, no respect for human life, etc etc. Then, Israel actually files a complain with the UN that Hamas used their buildings to attack the IDF from!

It doesn't matter, of course. After what little heat died down, Israel admitted that it wasn't true.


So it was just one of those old-fashioned war crimes, where hundreds of refugees and attendent UN workers, mostly women and children, were slaughtered, and many more injured.

You are right in saying that both sides use terror as a weapon. That does not, and should not be used to, imply equivalency. Palestine is occupied; Israel is not. Palestine is blockaded; Israel is blockading. Palestine has no army; Israel has a vast intelligence network and the most advanced military technology. Palestine kills ten, Israel kills 3,000.

The standard liberal response to Israel/Palestine is to make soft, weak noises about how "it's all sad" and "there are no saints over there" and "it's all very complicated." This has to stop. That you, an intelligent and educated human being, have no idea of the current conditions of Palestine - that food and medicine can only enter through smugglers tunnels, that UN and humanitarian aid is purposefully blocked, that inspectors and human rights advocates are barred from entering Palestine and even targetted intentionally by the IDF - is a sign that more people need to speak up. And, it appears, more people are.

Palestine was invaded, is occupied and blockaded. Until those situations end, they have a right to resistance, as would any country, as would any people.

Now, Mr. Cafe Owner. I'm glad he was protesting. I agree that awareness of the law is a good and necessary thing. But you are implying with comments about "customs" and "the majority of New Zealanders" that the it is the immigrant's responsibility to meekly going along with the dominant culture, and to that I say: hogwash. In a pluralistic society, the main advantage of the immigrant is that he or she represents a challenge to the staus quo. A good citizen challenges, and questions, and, yes, occasionally refuses to go with the grain. To assert some sort of monolithic culture to which people must be assimilated is wrongheaded.

Arthur (AmeriNZ) said...

This is a refreshing discussion, Gabriel. Thanks.

1. You must be aware that the mainstream news media (no, not Fox—I never pay attention to what they say) has reported that hundreds of rockets were fired by Hamas into Israel after the ceasefire, and that the number of rockets increased dramatically after Hamas unilaterally declared an end to the ceasefire. I agree that Israel chose the date to coincide with American politics, partly for the reason you suggest, but also to try and dictate policy in what they perceived as a less friendly president than the departing one.

2. I doubt very much that the UN would ever state that anything is a legal cause for war since the whole reason the UN exists is to end war, not to sanction them. Saying blockades are illegal isn't the same thing as saying war is legal. The Security Council would never approved such a thing (the US would have vetoed it), and I certainly have never heard of the UN General Assembly giving the UN's blessing for a war anywhere at anytime.

3. Planning an attack on Gaza doesn't necessarily mean that Israel was planning on breaking the ceasefire; it could mean they saw that a resumption of war was inevitable. Hamas declared the ceasefire was over before Israel attacked.

4. If I were a Gazan Palestinian, I may very well want Israel destroyed. I can't possibly know either way. However, it's Hamas that had the goal well before the elections where Gazans chose Hamas. Hamas provided social services that the Palestinian Authority couldn't, and that was more of a persuader to voters than Hamas' stated intention to destroy Israel.

The Palestinian Authority, which governs in the West Bank, hasn't had the same problems with Israel that Hamas has had. In fairness, you could say that they have it less bad than Hamas, but the point is that they don't suffer the military attacks because they no longer mount assaults on Israel. Remember that whatever you may think of it, Israel considers their action a matter of self-defence.

Your discussion of the attacks on UN compounds is, of course, quite inflammatory and many of the specifics aren't proven. Much of what you say has been reported in leftist media which—to be blunt—I don't trust any more than right wing media (like Fox, but also some newspapers). My own left-of-centre source is primarily Democracy Now!, but even some of that I take with a grain of salt. The problem for me is that so much of what passes for news these days is propaganda from one end of the spectrum or the others, and it's difficult for an average person to know what's true and what isn't. The old adage "if your mother tells you she loves you, get a second source" ought to apply to reporting of divisive issues such as this one, but it seldom does.

However, I think that in one sense, this is irrelevant: One doesn't need to be convinced that an event occurred in order to demand peace with justice—that's a human right even if no bad thing had ever happened to Palestinian people (or Israelis, for that matter).

I actually am aware of the problems getting food and humanitarian aide into Gaza and, to a much lesser extent, the West Bank. That doesn't change the fact that the situation IS complicated and that there are NO saints. I have great sympathy for the suffering of the people of Gaza, but none whatsoever for Hamas. If they truly wanted peace, they could work toward it, but they remain committed to the destruction of Israel—how can Israel and Hamas ever make peace?

It is entirely possible that the new US Administration can create progress in a way that was impossible for the old crew. I'm at least hopeful now, where I didn't even have that when Bush-Cheney were in charge.

What I've said about immigrants is that they have a duty to learn the laws and customs of the country they're moving into. Native-born citizens can't get away with not knowing the law, so why should immigrants? As an immigrant myself, I made it my business to learn as much as possible about the history and culture of my new home and I made sure I learned the laws. I expect all other immigrants to do the same, especially if they come from a place that has much different background or culture.

I also don't think the "main advantage" of immigrants is that they stir up the status quo. Instead, I see the advantage is that they bring new ideas, new energies, maybe new skills (even simple things like new ways of cooking). All of this may be done loudly or quietly and while that may have the effect of stirring up the status quo, I feel it's less confrontational than your comment made it sound, though I may have misinterpreted you.

One thing I think you may agree with me on, is that I feel the first duty of any citizen is to question—especially what governments do and say, but also even "conventional wisdom" or "community standards". Neither challenging nor refusing to go with the grain are always necessary, thank goodness, but questioning always is.

You may be interested to know that while New Zealand expects a certain level of assimilation—like English language ability, for example—the country actively encourages immigrants to retain their original cultural links. For example, when an immigrant becomes a citizen, they swear an oath of allegiance to the Queen but they do not renounce their original citizenship (unlike the US). So, when one becomes a citizen of New Zealand, one also automatically becomes a dual national (unless the original country refuses to allow that as, for example, Germany doesn't).

I mention all that because I don't expect immigrants to completely assimilate (though in most Western societies, most original ethnicities tend to become subsumed by the second or third generation). What I do expect, however, is that immigrants leave their prejudices and hatreds behind in their old country.

Obviously there are things on which we have fundamental disagreements. But I appreciate the opportunity to disagree without being disagreeable. In fact, I try and practice that with people all over the political spectrum—sometimes successfully, sometimes not. But as glib and facile as this sounds, I do truly believe that if more people did this, we might just make some progress on some of these seemingly intractable issues. Progress begins with understanding, and that requires communication, which is impossible if people are too busy screaming at each other.

You may very well be right that the cafe owner has played a part in getting people to think and talk about the issues behind his protest and, if so, that's got to be a good thing. I just wish he had done it knowing he was breaking the law and chose to break it to make his protest.

Gabriel said...

First, let me say I misspoke: NATO considers blockades a legitimate Casus Belli, not the UN. Similar, but not the same. You are correct in pointing out that the UN would never give Palestine the go-ahead for war; the US has been pretty successful as the lone figure keeping multiple condemnations of Israel from actually seeing the light of day.

Now, rocket attacks. Fortunately, we have facts to quickly disprove things like "hundreds of rockets were fired during the ceasefire".


(yes, yes, it's wiki, but it's sourced from the IDF's own statistics)

Notice that the attacks drop from 153 to 5 (!) during the ceasefire, slowing to a veritable trickle until Israel breaks the ceasefire on November 4th. This is, of course, accepting Israel's statistics as accurate; their methodology sometimes leaves much to be desired.

So. Israel accepted a truce, then planned an attack, then broke the truce when it was being held by Hamas, then attacked, comitting warcrimes in the process. Sure any attempt to explain how "planning an attack doesn't mean they were going to even though they did" is breaking Occam's Razor to little pieces.

You fail to say exactly what I wrote about the school attack is "inflammatory and unproven". I can't respond until I know what you think is debated. Israel knew the GPS coords of the schools, as did the IDF commanders. They drove refugees there. They shelled the place, then claimed something which they have since admitted was not true. After they shelled the place, they sent tanks and engineering vehicles to demolish what was left. None of this is being challenged right now. Of course, you are right - it IS inflammatory. And rightly so. People should be inflamed against the actions of Israel! War crimes are war crimes; we haven't even spoken about Israel's use of human shields, something they do much more often than Hamas. Luckily, I think, more and more people are realizing this.

The problem with vague statements that "Hamas should walk toward peace" is that those staements often provide a cover for the oppressors to continue victimizing the oppressed. You seem reluctant to admit the basic facts of the matter - that Israel invaded Gaza, that Israel is illegally starving Palestinians to death, that Israel continues to commit war crimes and illegally use collective punishment), I think, because those facts lead one down a pretty clear and reasonable path. When a people are invaded, brutalized, denied food and medicine, and given no recourse to action within the system, they have a right to resistance.

Of course Hamas wanted Israel destroyed well before the elections. The latest round of atrocities aside, Israel was still an invading and occupying force. And I'm honestly not certain why you keep bringing the Palestinian Authority up. They were ousted via election (and despite your claims, you and I have no idea why the Palestinians voted thus, only that they did), and attempted a coup (supported by Israel and the US, a sure indicator of how good they are for Palestine), only to fail. Hamas is the legal, democratically-elected government of Palestine, though lots of people may wish otherwise.

Let me close by saying that I think we agree, or are close to agreeing, about the cafe owner, even if you continue to inaccurately use the words "hatred" and "prejudice" when talking about him. It isn't prejudice to object to current action and current reality; on a personal note, I would be disappointed to be denied access to his cafe because of the US's current wars, but I wouldn't feel as if I had been singled out personally.

And I appreciate the forum on which to debate; you could just as easily (I believe; I'm not a blog man, per se) have deleted my posts or simply ignored me. I came across the blog while poking around for info about NZ, as my wife and I will be moving there in a couple of weeks. I've enjoyed reading. And congratulations on the wedding!

Arthur (AmeriNZ) said...

Let me be the first to say "Welcome to New Zealand!" It's a great country, and even after 13 years I still find out new things about it. I hope you both will be very happy here.

I've enjoyed this discussion. When I started my blog (and later, my podcast), I said they were intended as a conversations. I welcome and encourage discussion and debate both because of that commitment to conversation, but also because the only idea that's not worth having is the idea that remains unexamined.

Over the years, I've discussed issues (here and on other sites) with people on the left and right alike and have always tried to encourage people to say what they think. I'm glad you felt welcome to participate, and more so that you did. As a rule, I won't delete comments; the only exceptions would be if I felt that someone crossed a line by being defamatory or been blatantly racist, sexist, homophobic, whatever. It's entirely at my discretion, of course, but I usually err on the side of free expression. Actually, there have been only a few comments I've deleted, and most of them have been spam comments!

Similarly, I try and answer anyone who comments on a post, even a very old one (as happens sometimes). I feel that if they take the time to comment, I owe it to them to at least acknowledge the comment.

I mention all this because I hope that you or anyone else who reads this thread will feel free to comment at any time. Agreeing with me is not a prerequisite (okay, it is nice when someone does!).

Thank you for providing the specific information for what you were saying (and, I might add, I think that Wikipedia is often unfairly criticised, especially when they provide links to the original source material).

About the attacks, what I meant was that most of the mainstream media hasn't accepted all of the things you were saying. But, even without that or any independent research, I frankly have a hard time believing that the IDF—so obviously well-equipped—could've made a "mistake" so, while I may not fully accept all you said, that doesn't mean I deny it, either. For people like me, it's a journey, after all.

As for the Palestinian Authority, you may have better information than I have, but my impression was that Hamas won Gaza and the PA won elsewhere. I am one of those people, however, who wishes Hamas had lost the last election in a landslide because I simply can't see how Hamas and Israel will ever make peace.

When I mentioned hatred and prejudice in discussing the cafe owner, I wasn't clear enough in saying that I was referring to immigrants generally, not him personally. He said he doesn't hate Isrealis and I take him at his word (and I can't remember hearing of Turks and Israelis hating each other).

What I had in mind were incidents in which immigrants have brought those hatreds and prejudices with them. We've been fortunate not to have many violent incidents in New Zealand, but Australia has had many. One that immediately comes to mind is riots between different ethnic groups from the former Yugoslavia who rioted after a soccer match. Another was when Muslims rioted because Australian women were wearing skimpy bathing costumes to the beach, and another beach where different immigrants from Europe were fighting their same old ethnic conflicts.

These are the sorts of "old world" conflicts that have no place in a new country. During World War 2, American soldiers were stationed in New Zealand and went to local pubs. There, they found people of European and Maori descent happily drinking together, but the American soldiers—especially those from the South, the record shows—objected to being in the same room with "niggers". The American soldiers were wrong to impose their hatreds and prejudices here, the people causing trouble in Australia were also wrong to bring the prejudices of their homelands to to the new country. That's all I meant.

The cafe owner was clearly breaking New Zealand's anti-discrimination laws. That's the only thing I xcan say for certain.

Had I ever faced discrimination because of my American ethnicity, I may very well have filed a complaint, too. In fact, however, I've been lucky in some ways: Over the time of the Bush-Cheney regime I was often mistaken for Canadian, and I usually didn't bother to correct them. But, I digress.

So you see, we started out pretty much poles apart, or nearly so, and we end up far closer than might have seemed possible. Which reinforces what I've always said about the value of these conversations.

I hope that you'll always feel free to continue posting your comments. You're certainly welcome here. And, feel free to email me if I can be of any help in your upcoming relocation.