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Holocaust comparison to NZ Colonisation “Unacceptable”

The President of the New Zealand Jewish Council has slammed a Maori academic for trivialising the Holocaust.

Keri Opai is a Taranaki Maunga academic who participated in a Radio New Zealand special panel discussion as part of Waitangi Day which commemorates the 1840 treaty which represented the founding of New Zealand.

He told the the panel that the effect of colonisation on the Maori could “forgiven but not forgotten”. Media reports him saying:

If you really knew what went on, that really does break it down to a holocaust. I know we might get in trouble for saying those words but it is absolutely true.

Stephen Goodman, the president of the New Zealand Jewish Council told J-Wire: “It is totally unacceptable for anyone to attempt associating European colonisation of New Zealand with the Holocaust.  This is not the first time that Maori have trivialised the Holocaust by trying to associate it with their own perceived grievances.  There is absolutely no valid comparison between the settlement of the country and the organised, state sponsored, genocide that was the Holocaust.  As a language lecturer Mr Opai is obviously totally ignorant of world history; as an “academic” he should know better.

His words are extremely offensive to the Jewish and other communities that were the target of the Shoah.”

(16) Comments

  1. JohnC

    Jews do not have a monopoly on the word "holocaust". What Keri Opai said is quite right. Furthermore the effect of colonisation on Maori was probably greater than the effect on Jews of the Jewish holocaust.

  2. C Burrell

    Having a Native American (Chippewa) father and a Jewish mother... I am SO sorry to be associated with this man in any way. He is wrong. Dead wrong and his words are vile. Please do not believe for a moment all Jews think like him.

  3. Ralph WaiWai

    I am of Tuhoe, My Tipuna declined the Maori kingship to sign the treaty of Waitangi to end internal warfare and unite Maori and Brittish. In spite of the dual efforts of our ruling class the colonisers of NZ ran a scorched earth campaign against my people killing men women and children. To this day racism and anti Maori propaganda abounds in NZ. As for the Holocaust comment being anti semitic when applied to the Maori, Maori are from the same common ancestor SHEM son of Noah. We too were unjustly treated as a lower class of human being like the Jews. As for the holy outcry for use of the word holocaust, read and learn who we are then talk because this outcry is the ranting of fools.

  4. bro

    What about he native NZers who were all eaten by the Maoris? This shit is all in the past. Noone alive today is responsible for it.

  5. Lexie

    Keri Opai is correct and uses the term 'holocaust' (small h) appropriately. He makes no comparison with the genocide of the Jewish people but merely uses a word that has been around since the 14th century and which has always described mass destruction. First used in 1939 to describe Hitler's policies, the holocaust, the word, has been high-jacked and, as such, has gained some popular though limited acceptance when used to describe a certain event. Hypersensitivity rather than logic rules it would seem.

  6. papa soli

    Genocide is Genocide is Genocide, The destruction of peoples whether it be Aboriginal, Maori, Tahitian, Chamoro, Kanaka Maoli(Hawaiians), Native American Indians and others are inhumane. Are the Jews so special a race that they can define Holocust only as they see it. Stop blaming the victims. Blame the British expansionist, the american ruling class, the french colonist, the spanish colonist, the portugese colonist, the vatican, and off course Hitler and his band of Nazi cut throats. And further more, be ever so grateful that you are allowed to remain in the Land of the Long White Cloud

  7. Claire Hall

    The Taranaki Daily News published the following apology to Keri Opai this morning for misrepresenting his use of the word holocaust. I was present at the Radio NZ panel discussion, and at no stage did Keri Opai compare the Jewish experience to that of Taranaki iwi Maori. From page 3 of today’s paper: “The Taranaki Daily News reported yesterday that Maori academic Keri Opai compared the European colonisation of New Zealand with the killing of six million Jews by the Nazi regime during World War II. In fact, Mr Opai described colonisation as “a holocaust” for the Maori people. The Macquarie Dictionary defines holocaust as great or wholesale destruction of life, especially by fire. It was in this manner that Mr Opai used the word holocaust. The Taranaki Daily news apologises for the error.” Unfortunately the newspaper’s apology hasn’t been as widely circulated as the original article (ie, it hasn’t been posted on the Stuff website), so please distribute this news to your networks. Nga mihi ki a koutou katoa.

  8. Claire Hall

    The Taranaki Daily News published the following apology to Keri ?pai this morning for misrepresenting his use of the word holocaust. I was present at the Radio NZ panel discussion, and at no stage did Keri ?pai compare the Jewish experience to that of Taranaki iwi M?ori. From page 3 of today's paper: "The Taranaki Daily News reported yesterday that M?ori academic Keri ?pai compared the European colonisation of New Zealand with the killing of six million Jews by the Nazi regime during World War II. In fact, Mr ?pai described colonisation as “a holocaust” for the M?ori people. The Macquarie Dictionary defines holocaust as great or wholesale destruction of life, especially by fire. It was in this manner that Mr ?pai used the word holocaust. The Taranaki Daily news apologises for the error." Unfortunately the newspaper's apology hasn't been as widely circulated as the original article (ie, it hasn't been posted on the Stuff website), so please distribute this news to your networks. Ng? mihi ki a koutou katoa.

  9. Carl

    Keri Opai's and Janniot's comments are fine examples of ignorance and hypocrisy. When ignoring or discounting the fact that many 19th Century European invaders killed Maori in order to steal their land, the supporters of the National and ACT Parties are (at best) guilty of institutionalized cultural ignorance. When this occurs, the Maori people are well justified in calling out such cultural ignorance. But when he compared the plight of the Maori people to the plight of the Jewish People under Nazi Occupation, then Keri Opai is guilty of his own form of institutionalized cultural ignorance. Worse still, as a previous victim of such politically inspired ignorance, Keri Opai is now guilty of the worst form of political hypocrisy. The Nazis devoted massive amounts of resources in order to build an industrialized system which was designed to transport ALL the Jewish People to factories that were specifically built to kill them and then dispose of their remains. While the European invaders committed many heinous crimes against the Maori people, nothing they did came close to systematic, mechanized horror of the Holocaust. Keri Opai should be ashamed of himself and he should apologize for his ignorant and culturally insensitive comments. If he fails to do so, then he is no better than the Rodney Hides and the Richard Prebbles.

    1. Wahanui

      What ever now what do you think since the paper apologises all this rant for what. Maybe Carl you might need to apologise to him for ranting and putting both your feet and your proverbial in your mouth and others like you.

  10. Char

    Stephen Goodman is right in voicing his outrage at such an insensitive use of the word "holocaust" Out of all the possible words that a supposed academic could use to emphasize a point, Keri Opai chooses to sensationalize with his choice of holocaust. Now why on earth would somebody do that? I would be inclined to think that Stephen Goodman is correct in saying it was ignorance, because I would be loath to think that Keri chose that word simply to draw media attention to his person.

  11. Janniot

    my ancestors.. gave land to soldiers.. and fought in the first world war. They also fought in the second world war to free Jews.. I believe.. Maori are entitled to say or compare.. with an extreme amount of accuracy.. this is not about diminishing.. the Jewish Race.. but an expression of emmotion tied.. to the colonisation process. Shalom

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