Damien O’Connor moves from “keep politics out of sport” to “keep politics out of agriculture”

Minister of Agriculture Damien O’Connor is scheduled to speak at an online summit this week helping to develop “strategic partnerships with Israel in Agriculture.

Here is the Open letter to Damien O’Connor from the Palestine Solidarity Network Aotearoa in response.


Open letter to a minister ignoring war crimes, ethnic cleansing and human rights abuses

Writing this letter to you reminds me of the letters the anti-apartheid movement wrote to the New Zealand Rugby Union and governments in the 1970s and 1980s in the campaign against apartheid in South Africa.

Back then the rugby union and most politicians refused to recognise the appeals from South Africa’s black majority for support and solidarity. They arrogantly ignored the suffering and human rights abuses which went with apartheid and wanted to “keep politics out of sport”.

Today another anti-apartheid struggle is being waged against the racist, apartheid policies of Israel and its unbridled brutality against the Palestinian people. Your letter pays lip service to Palestinians but expresses solidarity with Israel and its desire to “keep politics out of agriculture”.

And Israeli apartheid – a Crime against Humanity – is no longer in question. It is an established fact as outlined in these reports from respected human rights groups:

Just like the rugby union and governments in the late 20th century your response tells us the government has chosen the side of the oppressor rather than standing with the Palestinian people.

Your 10 February response to our arguments calling on the government to withdraw from next weeks Agritech summit “building strategic partnerships in agriculture with Israel” was obviously written for you by foreign affairs staff who are long practiced at avoiding arguments challenging their views and simply trotting out timeworn space fillers which are all but irrelevant today.

Only Foreign Affairs could say “the New Zealand Government expects and calls on Israel to comply with its obligations under international law” and keep a straight face. For over 70 years New Zealand governments have been appeasing Israel with these same shabby comments trotted out in public while this racist state continues its systematic human rights abuses against the indigenous people of Palestine.

Appeasement has NEVER worked with Israel – just as it hasn’t worked with rogue states anywhere in history.

Between the time we wrote and the time you replied, Amnesty International, the largest and most respected human rights organisation in the world declared Israel to be an apartheid state (see the link above) Were you aware of this?

We have pointed out to you before that Aotearoa New Zealand should have nothing to do with Israel’s agriculture sector which is based on:

With this in mind the New Zealand Superfund recently took the principled step of withdrawing investments from Israeli bankswhich are funding illegal settlement building on Palestinian land on “responsible investment grounds”. Agritech and the New Zealand government however have decided to do the irresponsible opposite – give active assistance to Israel in its exploitation of stolen Palestinian land. The Israeli Agriculture Ministry, which will take part in your summit, has the specific goal of supporting and assisting illegal Jewish settlements with water supplies and the establishment of agriculture ventures.

Your letter shows you are not up to date. It is uninformed and ignorant of what goes on in Palestine but there is still time for you to get up to date – the summit is not on till next week.

Please read the Amnesty International report over the weekend so you are informed and have time to withdraw from this event. We expect nothing less.

By pulling out you will upset racist Israelis who will use false smears of anti-semitism against you but this is a small price to pay for standing on the right side of history with Palestinians.

Playing sport with apartheid South African was wrong just as helping Israel exploit stolen Palestinian land is ethically and morally wrong.

Please respond urgently and in your response please indicate you have read this letter and the Amnesty International report.


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