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      Pro-Arabs Trying to Ban Israel Embassy in New Zealand

      A pro-Arab coalition is trying to prevent Israel from reopening its embassy in New Zealand, where diplomatic affairs are conducted via Australia.
      By Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu
      First Publish: 4/7/2010, 9:31 AM / Last Update: 4/7/2010, 9:45 AM

      Israel news photo

      A pro-Arab coalition is trying to prevent Israel from re-opening its embassy in New Zealand later this month. Diplomatic affairs there have been conducted through Australia since 2002, when Israel closed its Wellington embassy in 2002 due to budget restrictions.

      Two years later, relations were chilly following charges that two alleged Mossad agents tried to get local passports illegally. Israel apologized for the incident, and relations have improved since then.

      Prime Minister John Key, who has family in Israel and is the son a Jewish refugee from Austria, told local media, “There's no reason why New Zealand can't enjoy good diplomatic relations with Israel.”

      However, a coalition of pro-Arab and anti-Zionist groups called No Israeli Embassy in Wellington (NIEW) has vowed to stop the embassy from re-opening. NIEW spokesperson Alistair Reith told the New Zealand web site voxy.co.nz, "Wherever the embassy goes, it'll be a noisy neighborhood. We can't make it as bad as Israel makes it for the people under military siege in Gaza, but everyone will know we will be laying protest siege to wherever they finally locate the Embassy."

      NIEW originally was established to back anti-Israeli boycotts and divestment and is backed by approximately 70 pro-Arab groups.

      "New Zealanders protested for boycotts, divestment and sanctions against South Africa during the apartheid era, and we now need to do the same for Israel, the world's last race-based state.” according to Reith. "Israel doesn't allow half the Palestinian population to live in historical Palestine, and most other Palestinians have been under occupation for more than 40 years without the vote.”

      Shemi Tzur, former ambassador to Finland, is expected take the post at the embassy, later this month, although no exact date has been published.