'War is over, Israelis welcome back', cafe says

The owner of an Invercargill cafe that banned Israelis in protest at the Gaza offensive says they are are welcome back now that a ceasefire is in place.

Turkish Muslim Mustafa Tekinkaya last Wednesday asked Israeli sisters Natalie Bennie and Tamara Shefa to leave his Mevlana Cafe, in what the Race Relations Commissioner said was a clear human rights breach.

Mr Tekinkaya told the Southland Times he was protesting against Israel because of its role in the death and destruction in the Gaza Strip.

"I have decided as a protest not to serve Israelis until the war stops," he said.

Today he told Cue TV: "The war is over Israelis are welcome back."

In a separate protest, the owner of Kaikoura's Strawberry Tree cafe, Shane Cavanagh, also banned Israelis as long as the Gaza assault continued.

He has since removed the controversial message from his cafe's chalkboard but - like Mr Tekinkaya - has not ruled out putting it back up should the ceasefire in the disputed region break down.

"It depends how things progress," he told the Herald yesterday.

He is still putting up various messages on the chalkboard about the conflict in Gaza, including death tolls of Palestinians.

Since the ceasefire, he had also put up a message "to world peace".

However, he remained unrepentant.

"I haven't broken any laws. And even if I have, I don't care," he said.

"The Israelis have broken a lot of laws too."

Mr Cavanagh had travelled to the region before as a photojournalist "and I think if people believe in something, they should make a stand".

Mr Cavanagh said he had mostly positive feedback, but Kaikoura Mayor Kevin Heays said it had upset the town and caused damage to its reputation overseas.

Some Israelis were calling for a boycott of New Zealand on a website in their homeland, prompting Mr Heays to apologise on behalf of the town.

"Any damage can be big damage."

Mr Cavanagh said there would always be "narrow-minded" people.

"I've got no problem with Israelis...but the fact is children and innocent people shouldn't be subjected to that [Israeli shelling]."

After hearing back on legal opinions about the sign, Mr Heays said he would get in touch with Mr Cavanagh, and look at what other steps could be taken to prevent a repeat.

- JARROD BOOKER AND NZHERALD STAFF

- NZ Herald

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