Southland Times on how New Zealand deals with restaurant exclusions


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Hi Blog. As another template about “what to do if…” (or rather, a model for what the GOJ should be more proactive about) when you get a restaurant refusing customers on the basis of race, ethnicity, national background, etc., here’s an article on what would happen in New Zealand.  Here’s a Human Rights Commission and a media that actually does some follow-up, unlike the Japanese example.  Then again, I guess Old Bigoted Gregory would rail against this as some sort of violation of locals’ “rights to discriminate”.  Or that it isn’t Japan, therefore not special enough to warrant exceptionalism.  But I beg to disagree, and point to this as an example of how to handle this sort of situation. Anyway, courtesy of JL. Arudou Debito in Sapporo


Cafe owner ‘breached ‘human rights’ kicking out Israelis

By EVAN HARDING – The Southland Times (New Zealand) | Thursday, 15 January 2009

An Invercargill cafe owner’s refusal to serve Israelis on the basis of their nationality is a clear human rights breach, Race Relations Commissioner Joris de Bres says.

Sisters Natalie Bennie and Tamara Shefa were upset after being booted out of the Mevlana Cafe in Esk St yesterday by owner Mustafa Tekinkaya.

They chose to eat at Mevlana Cafe because it had a play area for Mrs Bennie’s two children, but they were told to leave before they had ordered any food, Mrs Bennie said.

“He heard us speaking Hebrew and he asked us where we were from. I said Israel and he said ‘get out, I am not serving you’. It was shocking.”

Mr Tekinkaya, who is Muslim and from Turkey, said he was making his own protest against Israel because it was killing innocent babies and women in the Gaza Strip.

“I have decided as a protest not to serve Israelis until the war stops.”

He said he had nothing against Israeli people but if any more came into his shop they would also be told to leave, and he was not concerned if he lost business.

Mr de Bres said the Human Rights Act prohibited discrimination in the provision of goods and services on the grounds of ethnic or national origin, or of political opinion.

“Whatever the rights and wrongs of the situation in Palestine, it is simply against the law for providers of goods and services in New Zealand to discriminate in this way,” he said.

Mr Tekinkaya’s stance was supported by neighbouring Turkish Kebabs shop owner Ali Uzun, who said he was also refusing to serve Israelis.

Mrs Bennie said she did not disagree that Israel was committing crimes against children.

“I just don’t think I should be declined service because I am from Israel.”

She had rung the Human Rights Commission and was told the cafe owner’s actions were against the law because he was discriminating on the basis of ethnicity.

“I wouldn’t mind having a chat to him. Someone has to put him in his place,” Mrs Bennie said.

Ms Shefa is visiting Mrs Bennie at her Makarewa home, on the outskirts of Invercargill, where she lives with her New Zealand husband and two children.

Both women said they had travelled widely, and to places much more hostile than New Zealand, but had never been treated in such a way.

Invercargill Mayor Tim Shadbolt was shocked when told of the incident.

“Oh my god, the Gaza Strip has come to Invercargill. Hell’s bells.”

He said he was bewildered.

“Generally speaking I am against all wars and I suppose people have got a right to protest. I couldn’t really deny that. It would have been upsetting for the women and I feel sympathy for them.”


JOHN HAWKINS/Southland Times

SHOCKED AND HURT: Israeli nationals Natalie Bennie, left, and Tamara Shefa, with Mrs Bennie’s two children Noah, 2, and Ella, 4, were told to leave Mevlana Cafe in Invercargill because they were from Israel.

JOHN HAWKINS/Southland Times

TAKING A STAND: Mevlana Cafe owner Mustafa Tekinkaya, left, with family and friends.


6 comments on “Southland Times on how New Zealand deals with restaurant exclusions

  • Would a Japanese business owner, as a form of protest, have the right to refuse services to an American servicemen staying in Japan (i.e. Yokosuka, Okinawa…) on the grounds that he served or could serve in the illegal (yes, illegal) invasion of Irak ?

  • Philip M. Adamek says:

    Until “the war” stops he vowed not to serve Israelis? Putting aside the obvious folly in this measure, which seeks to punish people for their government’s actions and thus embraces a notion of totalitarianism which it is presumably aimed to contest, if Mr. Tekinkaya wanted to make a statement against the violence being heaped upon the Palestinians in such sinister lawlessness, he would maintain his ban until the occupation of stolen Palestinian lands comes to an end, and not just the rain of bullets and white phosphorous. The theft of land and continued occupation are also an inadmissible form of violence, and virtually the entire international community has for years and years recognized so. Only the U.S., Israel, at times Australia, and a few Pacific atolls have braved common sense in pretending that this is not the case.

    A friend of mine here in Kagoshima told me a related story just this afternoon. Some of his friends organized a party for him in a local bar and gave him the appointed place and time to be there. Well, upon arriving, he was told point-blank by the doorman that the establishment doesn’t take foreigners. “Japanese only”… the familiar refrain. He explained that his friends were inside and if he could only talk to them… and that the party was, after all, for him… to no avail. He was actually not allowed to attend his own party on account of being white. He then returned home alone and had to explain to his friends the following Monday why it had seemed that he had blown them off. He recounted this to me without bitterness, taking the “philosophical” view that the yakuza run most of the clubs in town and that the police likely don’t want to ruffle their feathers over such small matters.

    But is there a lesson to draw from this? At least one. If you are Japanese and are thinking of inviting a foreigner out one day, be sure you call all establishments ahead of time and kindly inquire whether the establishment practices racism! And maybe another: in case you become a victim of exclusionary racism in Japan, when heading out on the town to meet Japanese friends, be sure you have a back-up plan and a cell phone with relevant contact information.

  • I don’t think that was the best analogy. Whether the war was illegal or not? We don’t need to debate that here. History can decide that. I think the problem here is that the hate runs so deep on both sides. Who is right, who is wrong. Is Israel using excessive force? Should the Israelis let the Palestinians continue firing bombs and mortars into the civilian population? Depends who’s side you take on this issue, the bottom-line is: the hate is really destroying both sides which will scare the children of the next generation, fostering and festering deeper hate and resentment.
    THis is such a sad story and as a person of color, I know what it’s like to have someone say something like that to you. We need to fight this social injustice of hate and intolerance. Sadly, that could happen in Japan too and what kind of recourse can one take if one is put in that type of situation? Do you take action and follow the proper chain of command and fight for your right as a human being? Do you slug it out with the owner of the restaurant or do you just say, “kiss my a**” smile and just walk away? Which option would be the most logical one?

    — You can see what happens when you take it up with the proper authorities here. Other than that, see suggestions in HANDBOOK Chapter 4 and also here.

  • Philip M. Adamek says:

    To respond to the tangent as pursued by Charles: I am surprised to see that people are still in a fog as to whether Bush’s illegal invasion of Iraq was, in fact, illegal. It is not something we need to debate here not because “history can decide” — history itself decides nothing — but because the matter has already been thought out thoroughly and judgments have been rendered by both the highest authorities (opinion of the head of the U.N. at the time of the invasion) and the world’s leading experts on such questions. In the American Society of International Law Newsletter, March-April 2004, which summarizes the overwhelming consensus reached by its legal scholars, the judgment is plain and simple, and is not dependent upon the opinions of successive generations: “the invasion was both illegal and illegitimate.” End of tangent.

    — Agreed. End of tangent. Any more posts not relating this issue back to Japan or the issues raised on in some way will not be approved.

  • I remember going into a fish ‘n’ chip shop in Wales and ordering a cheese and potato pie. “Are you English?” roared the proprietor. “Er… yes…” I replied. “WELL GET OUT!!!!”

    Just as many Japanese can’t see prejudice against NJ as anything other than natural, many peope seem to assume that racism against the English isn’t really racism 🙁 Still, at least his behaviour was technically illegal! Although the local Welsh bobbies would’ve just laughed at me had I complained.


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