John Minto: Calm down Bob and swap public rancour for open debate

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Sir Bob Jones. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Sir Bob Jones. Photo / Brett Phibbs

I was surprised to read Bob Jones' bilious diatribe against me in the Herald on Tuesday morning, not because I thought he felt differently but because the paper made the decision to print it.

Instead of telling Jones to pull his head in, as I think they should have, the Herald published the contents of his ruptured spleen. I'm sure the Herald's argument will be that they give free rein to their columnists in the interests of free speech but any such defence in this case has more holes than a fishing net.

It won't be a surprise that Jones and I have never seen eye to eye. The first time I saw him was at a protest outside a National Party fundraising event in 1981. It was called A Night With the Joneses, where Bob Jones and National MPs Dail Jones from Helensville and Norman Jones from Invercargill were the drawcards.

A big crowd of well-heeled citizens from Remuera, dressed to the nines, went in to donate some of their unearned income to keeping the Muldoon Government in power.

Bob Jones got out of his car and with a fag hanging out of his mouth gave the protest the fingers in vigorous fashion. It made great TV. Thanks Bob - the flow of donations to Halt All Racist Tours for the campaign to stop the 1981 tour spiked the week after.

A few years later at a Victoria University student forum I debated with Jones who supported maintaining rugby links with apartheid South Africa. A big crowd of students cheered or booed enthusiastically with every point scored. Jones was on the wrong side of history then as he is now.

He's obviously been stewing since and has occasionally taken a few swipes at me. In the Herald last year he said the only cure for me was beheading.

It seems the latest attack on me was spurred by a candlelit vigil I attended outside the Prime Minister's home a couple of weeks back. For the record, I didn't organise the protest, didn't have a loudhailer and wasn't even one of the speakers.

I just held a candle and with the 30 to 40 others remembered a New Zealand citizen, Daryl Jones, who was assassinated by a foreign government overseas. Our Prime Minister did his best to dehumanise Daryl Jones by refusing to even give his name.

There was no evidence Daryl Jones was a terrorist, no trial, no chance of a defence; just death from the sky as "collateral damage". He met the same fate as hundreds more, mostly innocent bystanders, killed in US drone strikes in Yemen, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

I have little idea what Daryl Jones was doing in Yemen and neither does the Prime Minister. All we have is the slur "terrorism" tossed about.

Jones also gets wound up with the claim I protested against "an innocent teenage Israeli lass" at an international tennis tournament. What he doesn't say is that Shahar Peer was the poster girl for the Israeli military and its brutal occupation of Palestinian land. She urged young Israelis into military service saying it was "better than playing Maria Sharapova".

Instead of trading personal abuse I challenge Bob Jones to a public debate on drone strikes, our mass surveillance society or perhaps why Israeli policies are the greatest threat to world peace.

Each of us could each select a couple of others to join, agree on a chair, and contribute to an entertaining evening, even raise some money to feed kids in school. The Herald may even sponsor it. We could call it the Screaming Skull versus the Corporate Bludger.

How about it Bob?

Debate on this article is now closed.

- NZ Herald

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