New Zealanders were shaken by the news that a 4-year-old Jewish boy wearing a kippa was attacked while walking home from pre-school, the New Zealand Herald reported on Sunday.
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The incident has been labeled a racial hate crime, and the race relations commissioner condemned the act as "cowardly," according to the Herald.
A man slapped the boy had on top of his head in front of his mother, sister and a friend in Mt. Eden, a suburb of Auckland, last week. The attacker laughed as he left the scene in a car, leaving the little boy traumatized. His mother notified the police.
"When our Kiwi kids are scared to wear a yarmulke or a head scarf because some adult may abuse and attack them, we have failed," said Dame Susan Devoy, the commissioner, on Sunday. "New Zealand has an excellent international human rights record but it is not worth the paper it is written on if New Zealand children are under attack because of their religion or their ethnicity."
Stephen Goodman, the president of the New Zealand Jewish Council, said the man was in his 20s and appeared to be of Middle Eastern origin, the Herald reported.
"This behavior is so totally unacceptable and intolerable in New Zealand," said Goodman. "The mother was very emotionally upset by the incident – we just hope there [are] no lasting effects on the child."
The Race Relations Commission said that according to leaders of the local Jewish community, anti-Semitic attacks spiked in the wake of the summer war between Israel and militants in the Gaza Strip. It also noted an increase in Islamophobic attacks, following the campaign of terror by the Islamic State group, also known as ISIS or ISIL, in Iraq and Syria.
A spokesperson for the Auckland police said "police are optimistic that the people involved with this incident will be identified."
The attack on the boy was not the first anti-Semitic assault on a Jewish child, according to Goodman. He said in the report that young Middle Eastern-looking men had yelled in Arabic at a young Jewish girl in a train station, while men in a car yelled, "F****n' Jews" at a young boy walking in the Auckland suburb of Remuera.