New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark announced Sunday she is suspending fellow Labor MP John Tamihere for saying he is “sick and tired of hearing how many Jews got gassed.”
Clark said in statement that party leaders decided Tamihere was to go on “extended leave” and would not participate in upcoming party activities.
She added the statements made by Tamihere were “deeply offensive” and “utterly unacceptable.”
According to a New Zealand Herald report, in response to a question by Investigate Magazine on how the country’s society can focus on the wrongdoings of the past, Tamihere said, "The Wiesenthal Institute is the same. I’m sick and tired of hearing how many Jews got gassed, not because I’m not revolted by it - I am - or I’m not violated by it - I am - but because I already know that.”
"How many times do I have to be told and made to feel guilty?" he said.
The statement evoked harsh responses from Jewish organizations.
Tamihere initially denied remarks
David Zwartz, president of the New Zealand Jewish Council, said Mr. Tamihere’s comment was sickening for New Zealand Jews who suffered in the Holocaust and whose families were gassed.
"It is deeply shocking for all other Jews," he said. “Jews have no desire to make Mr. Tamihere or anyone feel guilty, we only want to have the historic truth known and understood so discrimination and oppression leading to genocide won’t happen again."
Tamihere added some additional derogatory “gems” during the interview, aimed particularly at his fellow politicians.
Investigate Magazine editor Ian Wishart released A recording of the interview Saturday after Tamihere claimed it never took place. However, he later apologized for the comments.
Following the capture and imprisonment in 2004 of two suspected Mossad agents who had allegedly attempted to obtain a New Zealand passports on false grounds, and the ensuing boycott of Israel, a number of anti-Semitic incidents were reported in New Zealand, including two acts of tomb desecration at a Jewish cemetery in Wellington.