OPINION: A few months ago, Green MP Golriz Ghahraman​ took part in a protest in support of the Palestinian people living in Gaza and, more pointedly, Israel’s treatment of those individuals.

At the protest, there was much rhetoric around the perspective that Israel’s treatment of the Palestinian people is akin to the way the Nazis treated the Jews during the Holocaust. [Editor’s note: This statement has been disputed by the rally organisers; please refer to footnote.]

More recently, coverage of the Voices of Freedom anti-vaccination, anti-lockdown and anti-Covid control protests have shown people wearing yellow stars and carrying placards likening Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to Nazi leader Adolf Hitler and our current government to the Nazi Party.

I’ve been thinking of those two events recently as a result of some concerns expressed by a colleague of mine around my public criticism of Ghahraman’s actions.

By way of context, my comments sought to remind , she has an obligation to ensure messages she is aligned with are proportional, fair and, above all else, not offensive to any one individual or group of individuals.

Now while I understand the concerns that my colleague raised, I forcefully pushed back and articulated my right, indeed my feeling that I have an obligation, to shine a light on behaviours like this.

Notwithstanding the fact that Ghahraman is an elected representative, and hence in a position of power and influence, my right and/or obligation, necessitated my comment.

For me this is a subject that is personal – my grandfather was murdered by the Nazis in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp.

My mother, aunt and grandmother spent time in Bergen-Belsen and were passengers on a train that the Nazis had planned to dynamite over the River Elbe – taking out an important transportation line and a few more thousand untermenschen (the Nazi term for Jews, literally translated as sub-humans) at the same time.

The train and its passengers were liberated by the American military, an incident that has been captured in a harrowing, but beautiful read.

Let me be clear for those who didn’t do Year 9 history: The Holocaust was a specific event in which the German Nazi party, under the leadership of Adolf Hitler, sought to permanently eradicate the entire Jewish people from the face of the earth.

Alongside this, other classes that the Nazis regarded as subhuman – homosexuals, Gypsies, the disabled – were targeted. Roughly 11 million human beings where slaughtered in this time, six million of them Jews.

While I absolutely agree that Israel continues to treat Palestinians in Gaza poorly, there is no genocide going on – it is correct to contend that they are subjugated, but words matter. Genocide has a very specific meaning, and it doesn’t apply in this case.

And in the case of those anti-vaxxers using the Star of David as part of their protest, Jews were forced by the Nazis to wear the Star of David across Europe. Failure to do so could, and often did, result in execution.

Likening the vaccine passport to this is a hugely false equivalency – the vaccine pass is fundamentally aimed to keep citizens safe.

Resorting to highly emotive, over-dramatic and, frankly, false equivalency arguments to try and lend weight to a particular viewpoint might gain some attention, but it does little to further the interests of credible and coherent debate.

As a society we need to rail against those trends. Unless we do so, we risk reprising the mistakes of the past in the future, and undoing the lessons that countless millions have paid the ultimate price for historically.

Ben Kepes is a Canterbury-based entrepreneur and professional board member. The fact that he was born is a proof point of the Nazis’ failure and that’s a fact he’s very sensitive about.

Ben Kepes

Ben Kepes is a technology evangelist, an investor, a commentator and a business adviser. Ben covers the convergence of technology, mobile, ubiquity and agility, all enabled by the Cloud. His areas of interest extend to enterprise software, software integration, financial/accounting software, platforms and infrastructure as well as articulating technology simply for everyday users.

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