19 | OCT | 2019
Australia and New Zealand: An old history of racism in the Southeastern Pacific
People gather at a vigil to mourn for the victims of the Christchurch mosque attacks in New Zealand - Photo: Mark Makela/REUTERS

Australia and New Zealand: An old history of racism in the Southeastern Pacific

22/03/2019
15:46
Gabriel Moyssen
Mexico City
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A week after the worst terrorist attack in New Zealand, which claimed the lives of 50 Muslim worshippers in the city of Christchurch, a shaken world is admitting the grim reality of right-wing extremists

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Barely a week after the worst terrorist attack in New Zealand, which claimed the lives of 50 Muslim worshippers in the city of Christchurch, a shaken world is admitting the grim reality of right-wing extremists, yet racism and white supremacism are found in the roots of Western colonization in the Southeastern Pacific.
 

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The long period of economic development enjoyed by Australia and New Zealand since the late Nineteenth century—today both countries are among the first regarding social indicators and life quality—virtually hid the widespread massacres and human rights violations committed by the British settlers and the subsequent local governments against the native peoples.

It is well known in history that Australia was incorporated to the British crown as a penitentiary colony, yet there is no official recognition in Canberra, the federal capital of the vast Oceanic island, that Aboriginal children were taken from their families, placed into “homes” and then forced into labor until the 1980s.

Their wages and savings were held in “trust” by the government and then stolen.

The increase of Asian immigration led John HowardPrime Minister from 1996 until 2007—to promote his program of “One Australia,” he restricted access to welfare funds and deploy the army into Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory for electoral purposes, a policy that caused starvation and was considered racist by the United Nations.

The situation did not change after Howard, who was, in fact, an enthusiastic partner of George W. Bush in the 2003 invasion of Iraq, using the same lies about the “weapons of mass destruction” in the hands of Baghdad.

On the contrary, highlights the Australian website New Matilda, the “leftist” labor administrations of Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard labeled people seeking asylum as “illegal immigrants” and blamed aboriginals for their own poverty, while liberal Prime Minister Tony Abbott came to power in 2013 with the election slogan “Stop the boats”.

Abbott’s Immigration Minister and current Australian leader, Scott Morrison, was the architect of the indefinite detention camps in Manus Island (Papua New Guinea) and Nauru, where hundreds intercepted at sea have been interned.

Unsurprisingly, Senator Fraser Anning, egged last Saturday by a young protestor, declared on the aftermath of the Christchurch attack that immigration of “Muslims fanatics” is to blame for the massacre.

Final solution

In his maiden speech to the Senate in 2018, Anning called for a “final solution” on immigration.

He was a member of One Nation, an extremist political party headed by Pauline Hanson who claimed two decades ago that Australia was swamped by Asians, and has declared in her return to Parliament that the country is now being “swamped by Muslims.”

Despite the fact that Islam does not rank in the top five religions in Australia; Rupert Murdoch, the powerful owner of a media empire that includes Fox News, tweeted in 2015 after the deadly attack on Charlie Hebdo magazine in Paris that “maybe most Moslems (using the colonial spelling) peaceful, but until they recognize and destroy their growing Jihadist cancer they must be held responsible”.

The situation is different in New Zealand, informally known as Aotearoa, or “Land of the long white cloud” in Maori, where the existence and resistance of a large native population which survived the early stages of colonial rule—the introduction of diseases and firearms contributed to its declination in the order of 40%—greatly influenced the emergence of a more pluralistic society.

However, the New Zealand Wars of the 1860s and 1870s resulted in the loss and confiscation of Maori land.

During the twentieth century, a Maori protest movement developed, criticizing Eurocentrism and working for greater recognition of Maori culture and of the Treaty of Waitangi, first signed in 1840.

In 1975, a Waitangi Tribunal was set up to investigate alleged breaches of the Treaty, and it was enabled to investigate historic grievances in 1985.

The country’s Human Rights Commission have asserted that there is strong evidence that structural discrimination of Maori, Pasifika and other minorities is a real and ongoing issue.

In this context, Christchurch—the largest city in the South Island, with nearly 400,000 inhabitants—gained prominence in the last 40 years as a hotbed of right-wing groups attracted by its tradition as the “Britain of the South Pacific,” according to local sociologists.

The 2011 earthquake that killed 185 people from 20 countries in Christchurch was the backdrop of the largest “white nationalist march” in New Zealand’s history one year later, and of the appearance of a more overt militant movement exploiting the globalization of the so-called “alt-right,” and neo-nazi groups such as the Atomwaffen Division.

There is no doubt that these groups have found political inspiration in the United States President Donald Trump, who has repeatedly exhibited his sympathy for the “very fine people” that rioted in Charlottesville, Virginia, during the 2017 “Unite the Rightrally and sought to ban Muslims from entering the U.S.

Trump has called Mexican immigrants drug dealers”, “criminals” and “rapists,” and has provoked a constitutional crisis due to his absurd obstinacy with the border wall.

In 2016, the U.S. and client states Ukraine and Palau were the three countries that voted against the U.N. Human Rights Committee resolution condemning glorification of Nazism and other practices that contribute to fueling racism and xenophobia.

Other significant ideological sustenance can be found in activists such as the French writer Renaud Camus, author of “The Great Replacementtheory which the Australian terrorist Brenton Tarrant used as the title of his “manifesto” uploaded to the web before attacking two mosques in Christchurch.

Camus, convicted in 2015 of inciting hatred and violence against Muslims, says that native populations in the West are being replaced with immigrants by political and corporate leaders, robbing European nations of its “cultural heritage” in the process.

Conveniently, he ignores the immense damage caused by centuries of imperialism and colonialism to the underdeveloped African, Asian, and Latin American countries now accused of exporting “illegal immigrants.”
 

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Editing by Sofía Danis

More by Gabriel Moyssen

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