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Last Updated: Friday, 6 August, 2004, 08:28 GMT 09:28 UK
NZ Jewish graves attacked again
Jewish chapel at cemetery near Wellington
It was the second attack on Jewish gravesites in three weeks
Vandals in New Zealand have burned down a Jewish chapel and smashed dozens of gravestones in a Wellington cemetery.

New Zealand's acting Prime Minister Michael Cullen immediately condemned the attack as "unforgivable".

It comes three weeks after Jewish gravestones were damaged in another cemetery after the government imposed diplomatic sanctions on Israel.

That decision was taken after an Auckland court jailed two alleged Israeli spies for passport fraud.

Wellington police said the chapel, at Makara Cemetery on the western outskirts of the capital, was destroyed in the fire, which was started early on Friday.

Up to 90 headstones at Jewish graves were also pulled out of the ground and smashed, Detective Sergeant Tim Leitch said.

Mr Cullen said the vandalism - believed to be the worst of its kind in New Zealand - was totally unacceptable.

"Racism of any sort is ugly and unforgivable and has no place in New Zealand," Mr Cullen said in a statement.

'Violation of sovereignty'

Police were investigating whether the attack was linked to another, on 16 July, when swastikas and Nazi slogans were gouged into and around nearly 20 Jewish graves on Wellington's Bolton Street Cemetery.

The head of the country's small Jewish community, David Zwartz, said he thought both attacks were directly linked to the government's recent criticism of Israel.

A day before the first attack, New Zealand imposed diplomatic sanctions on Israel over the activities of Uriel Zosha Kelman and Eli Cara.

The two men denied that they were members of Mossad, the Israeli intelligence agency, but pleaded guilty to attempting to gain New Zealand passports illegally and working with organised criminal gangs.

They were sentenced to six months in prison for trying to obtain New Zealand passports illegally.

Prime Minister Helen Clark said that such acts were a violation of New Zealand sovereignty.

She said she had no doubt the two men were Israeli intelligence agents and that the case was "far more than simple criminal behaviour by two individuals".


SEE ALSO:
New Zealand-Israeli row deepens
16 Jul 04  |  Asia-Pacific
New Zealand jails Israeli 'spies'
15 Jul 04  |  Asia-Pacific
Bus driver on Mossad wanted list
24 May 04  |  Middle East
Report slams Israel spy failures
28 Mar 04  |  Middle East


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