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 Mevlana said Mustafa Tekinkaya, a Turkish Muslim, yesterday asked them to leave his cafe before they had even ordered.
"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," Mrs Bennie told the Southland Times.
Mr Tekinkaya told the paper he was making his own protest 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.
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.
Debate among New Zealanders about the situation in the Gaza Strip, with demonstrations and protests supporting both the Palestinians and the Israelis, was the sign of a healthy democracy - and lawful - but the rights of people needed to be respected, he said.
The owner of a Turkish kebab shop near Mr Tekinkaya's cafe had also said he was taking the same stance against Israelis.