Thursday, June 12, 2008

Israel 'dismayed' by Kiwi anti-Semitism

Friday, 13 June 2008

The Israeli embassy has accused New Zealand of accepting anti-Semitic behaviour.

The Canberra-based embassy's criticism of New Zealand's race relations follows an advertising campaign that drew complaints from the Jewish community.

The campaign was withdrawn hours after New Zealand Jewish Council chairman Geoff Levy complained.

The billboards that sparked the comments were for a Prime Television show, Madmen: The Glory Years of Advertising.

The billboards, created by advertising agency Draft FCB, said: "Advertising Agency Seeks: Clients. All business considered, even from Jews."

Embassy spokesman Dor Shapira said Prime's apology should be backed by a strong response from politicians, academics, religious groups and the public.

The billboards - and publication of the advertisement in Time magazine - reflected "acceptance of anti-Semitic behaviour in New Zealand".

"We have been shocked and dismayed by the wrongful action of people using Jewish stereotypes to pursue an advertising and commercial agenda," Mr Shapira said.

"It is our hope that an apology will only be the start of an entire campaign to remove this repugnant and negative mindset from the culture and political environment in New Zealand."

Communication Agencies Association chief executive Rick Osborne said the suggestion Kiwi advertising agencies set out to offend particular groups was unfair.

The quick removal of the billboards "reflected favourably" on self-regulation.

The agency may, however, have misinterpreted advertising codes of ethics.

"[An ad] should no way be reflective of any slur or any slant on any particular racial or cultural group."

Mr Levy said apologies had been received, including one from Draft FCB, and the matter was resolved.

He hoped a parliamentary resolution in 2006 condemning anti-Semitism expressed the will of the people.

Victoria University religious studies professor Paul Morris said there should be a reasoned and sober academic debate "distant from these events" about advertisers pushing acceptable limits to get coverage.

"There is a real issue about responsible marketing. In that way I agree with the [embassy]."

Race Relations Commissioner Joris de Bres said the public response to instances of anti-Semitism was usually strong and immediate.

Prime spokesman Tony O'Brien said the channel had a healthy relationship with the agency.

"We're very sorry for what happened." (

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