Iranian diplomat Hormoz Ghahremani.
Foreign Minister Winston Peters should expel a “hateful” Iranian diplomat who delivered an “anti-semitic hate speech” at a mosque in Auckland, says Opposition spokesman Gerry Brownlee.
Peters has returned fire, asking why Brownlee had not expelled him when he was Foreign Minister: “It happened in June”.
However his department has hauled in first secretary of the Iranian Embassy Hormoz Ghahremani to express New Zealand’s disappointment.
Jewish community leaders want Ghahremani to be expelled after he appeared alongside speakers who denied the Holocaust and called for the “surgical removal” of Israel.
In his speech, Ghahremani said Israel was trying to “deceive the world” by pretending to be an advocate of peace when in fact it was fuelling terrorism and extremism in the Middle East to divert attention from the Palestine issue.
The contents of the speech came to light on Sunday, when it was also reported a visiting Iranian cleric at the same event, Hojatoleslam Shafie, said Israel “hides behind a fake phenomenon” of the Holocaust and that it was a conspiracy to infiltrate Islamic countries.
“Diplomats have a privileged position in most societies, allowing them to best represent the relationship between the country they’re from and the country they’re posted to,” Brownlee said.
“Inciting racial tension by making anti-Semitic statements is the antithesis of that important role, regardless of the context or setting in which the comments were made.
“Racial disharmony offences under the Human Rights Act are quite clear, and a complaint has already been made to the Human Rights Commission over these offensive comments.
“As Foreign Minister Mr Peters should act without hesitation by requiring the offending diplomat to leave the country,” said Brownlee.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has condemned the diplomat’s speech in a statement, but it appears no moves have been made to expel Ghahremani.
Peters said Brownlee could have acted some time ago, “and don’t tell me he only found out about this last week”.
“Why didn’t Gerry do it? This speech was made in June, so why didn’t Gerry do his job – if that’s what he thinks the job was,” he said.
“I know I’ll have to spend a lot of time correcting this previous Government’s errors and I’m doing that. But I’m not picking up every historical mistake they made to try and correct things in the past, when I’m trying to focus on things in the future.
“Since I have learnt about it, my department has put out a statement on it.”
A spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade confirmed they were aware of the reported comments.
“Clearly, we do not agree. These comments will be deeply offensive to many people in New Zealand and elsewhere.
“Following the publication, we called in the Iranian Ambassador to express our disappointment at the participation in the event by a diplomat from the Iranian Embassy.
“Although the diplomat’s remarks focused on Iranian government policy, we have made it clear to the Ambassador that we do not expect foreign representatives to New Zealand to participate in events where hate speech could be used,” the spokesperson said.
“New Zealand continues to encourage a constructive dialogue between Iran and the international community.”