Open Response to Nanaia Mahuta

On 3 December, New Zealand’s Foreign Affairs Minister, Nanaia Mahuta, replied to our Open Letter questions published in The Daily Blog’s Awaiting response to questions. Below is our response to the Minister, emailed to her office on 6 December 2021:

Dear Minister Nanaia Mahuta,

Thank you for replying to our Open Letter dated 14 November 2021 and your appreciation of our presentation of the work of Combatants for Peace and the United Nations regarding the realisation of a just peace in Israel/Palestine. Unfortunately, the remainder of your reply appeared to be out-of-tune with your own understanding and concern for the rights of indigenous people. We therefore direct the following criticism not at yourself, personally, but at your Ministry and whoever directed the assertions and comments which followed your opening greeting.

In your reply, three Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFAT) online links exemplifying New Zealand’s official approach to Israel’s military Occupation, are presented. MFAT, it would appear, regards Israel’s military Occupation and theft of Palestinian land as well as Palestinian Resistance to it, as a dispute between two equal parties. Thus, the first link claims in a Security Council debate that: “All sides have a responsibility to de-escalate, stop the violence and prevent further suffering and loss of life.” In this debate, while New Zealand recognised Israel’s “destruction of homes and damage to vital infrastructure, including electricity networks and water installations, particularly in Gaza”, the spokesman went on to say, “international law, including international humanitarian law must be respected by both sides.” Apart from minor acts of Resistance, when have the overrun Palestinians ever regularly destroyed Israeli homes or damaged vital infrastructure, including electricity networks and water installations? Palestinians do not invade and impose settlements on land in Israel.

The second link was to a speech at the UN, in which New Zealand’s voice was heard warning: “Mr President, the Council is today considering a situation that is teetering on the brink of a full-scale war.” Full-scale war? Oh really, how many military aircraft, warships, tanks and troops could the Palestinian people be able to deploy? A nuclear-weapons arsenal, such as Israel’s, is also somewhat beyond the reach or even desire of the Palestinian people, struggling as they are merely to survive foreign conquest and domination. But New Zealand, nevertheless, told the world: “We condemn the actions of both sides.”

The third link tells us: “Aotearoa New Zealand welcomes the announcement that the parties have agreed to a ceasefire.” Our UN Representative then called for the re-launch of what she called “a genuine political process towards a negotiated two state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.” Negotiated? Surely, until the Israeli Occupation and repression ceases, any ‘negotiation’ could only ever be conducted under duress.

MFAT’s response to our Open Letter coldly concluded that the implementation of “sanctions or embargoes is not in line with Aotearoa New Zealand’s principled and balanced approach to supporting the Middle East Peace Process.” Why is that so? Where there is a threat to international peace and security, according to MFAT, “New Zealand implements sanctions imposed by the Security Council under the United Nations Act 1946. New Zealand has implemented UN sanctions consistent with recent Security Council mandates in respect of North Korea, Iran and Libya, among others.” Why should our country not call for sanctions to curb Israel’s extreme violations of international law and human rights? We ask MFAT and the New Zealand Government to consider the following facts – and to then either dispute by rational argument or accept their incontestability.

Crimes that urgently call for sanctions

The belligerent presence of Israeli military personnel in Occupied Palestine is entirely without respect for the rights and well-being of the native population. Its purpose is to impose the invading state’s settlers on ever-more stolen land beyond Israel’s borders. This unequal conflict makes nonsense of the ‘principled and balanced’ approach to ending the suffering. There is a vast difference between the violations of international law, perpetrated by the powerful Israeli military, and the opposition that this injustice generates among the defenceless native population. International law recognises the legitimacy of armed struggle in resistance to foreign domination. Treating all Palestinian acts of Resistance as equal to the aggression they are forced to live under is grossly misleading. It makes no distinction between attacks on civilians and acts of Resistance against armed Occupation forces, yet still supports the right of Occupation forces to use violence against the victims they oppress. History has left us with an international consensus that, clearly, occupied and colonised peoples do indeed have a right to resist.

UN General Assembly resolutions, for example resolution 3246 of 29 November 1974, strongly condemns those governments that do not recognise “the right to self-determination and independence of peoples under colonial and foreign domination and alien subjugation” and specifically names the Palestinian people in this regard. The resolution reminds us of “the legitimacy of the peoples’ struggle for liberation from colonial and foreign domination and alien subjugation by all available means, including armed struggle.”

How could there be a sovereign Palestinian state?

Israel has stated clearly that it will not allow Palestinian sovereignty over its air and sea space, or even its borders. The Zionist movement has always aimed to establish a Greater Israel in Palestine. Today, Israeli settlements have already caused economic and social losses that are much more serious than it is conventional to admit. Just to make it clear, the Israeli Prime Minister, Naftali Bennett, has said that he will not allow a Palestinian state to be created. He goes further, announcing, in an interview with The New York Times, that he would continue the growth of existing illegal Israeli settlements on Occupied Palestinian land. In everyday practise the Zionist intention is abundantly clear :

annexation of East Jerusalem and the blockade of Gaza

the splitting of Palestinian land into non-contiguous units

constant population-control to prevent protest

checkpoint disruption of everyday travel needs

economic and agricultural sabotage and destruction of homes

Such behaviour is utterly unacceptable and should end immediately. The very idea of negotiations, in this context, could only be seen as giving a degree of legitimacy to war crimes. The same is true of the following Israeli Occupation practices outlined below:

Administrative Detention

Administrative Detention (imprisonment without charge or trial) orders are issued by Israeli military courts against captive Palestinians, held prisoner on ‘evidence’ that is kept secret from both prisoners and their defence lawyers. While the orders are issued for periods of up to six months, they are infinitely renewable against those incarcerated, including children (minors under the age of 18 years), who can find themselves imprisoned for years without charge or trial.

The Palestinian olive harvest

Year by year, Israeli Occupation settlers and the Israeli Army hamper the olive harvest, with settlers setting fire to and uprooting the trees, as well as Israeli troops barring access to the olive harvest. The Army even assaults harvesters, at work in the groves, and drives them off the land.

Gaza ceasefire violations and blockade

Much is made in the mainstream news media about the threat from Hamas Israel faces. News bulletins report fire balloons launched by protesters in Gaza, as though they had some sought of equivalence with the deadly, massively-destructive air strikes that Israel carries out in Gaza. The Israeli Navy constantly opens fire on, and pursues, Palestinian fishing boats, occasionally either sinking or hijacking the vessels and even seizing possession of the catch. In between the periodic major Israeli assaults on Gaza, there are so-called ‘ceasefire’ arrangements, during which the mainstream news media loses interest in reporting on Gaza altogether. The most that is ever said is that the ceasefire is for the most part “holding up”! During these times it is rather like ‘seconds out – stand back blue, box-on red’, with constant Israeli ceasefire violations and no Palestinian response.

Last month, for example, up to and including 26 November, there were no Palestinian ceasefire violations – in fact, there have been none since September. In November alone, Israel committed 43 ceasefire violations. The Israeli Navy fired on and pursued Palestinian fishing boats on 18 occasions. On 26 November, off Rafah, the Israeli Navy fired on and pursued Palestinian fishing boats, taking prisoner two fishermen, Mohammed Nihad al-Hissi and Ahmad Rashad al-Hissi, after hijacking their vessel and stealing the catch. During November, the Israeli Army made two incursions into Gaza with Israeli forces, accompanied by reconnaissance aircraft, invading and laying waste to the land. The defenceless Gaza border remains open to Israeli forces at all times. Altogether, Israel committed 20 acts of agricultural sabotage in Gaza during the period, with farmers and agricultural areas coming under fire. There is nothing the people in the enclave can do about all this aggression but appeal to the world to make Israel stop.

Negotiation and the ‘raising of issues

MFAT replied: “The New Zealand Government condemns the actions of both sides” and elsewhere has stated that “all sides have a responsibility to de-escalate, stop the violence.” This policy of equating the victims of war crimes and violations of international human rights law, for territorial and material gain with the oppressor that commits them, buys Israel valuable time. It also convinces Israel of its immunity and invincibility. Hardly a recipe for reform!

Young Israeli voices

There are young Israelis, so shocked by the crimes they have witnessed while serving the Israeli military Occupation, who choose to face imprisonment and ill-treatment, rather than continue to serve. As one of them explains: “The occupation is undeniable, and it is a political choice: there is no justification for an endless, limitless foreign rule over millions of innocent people.” He declares that, “I will not serve in an army that uses its resources to control the Palestinian civic population, which has virtually no basic human rights.” Another, Yuval, says refusers willingly face going to jail for their “belief in a truly democratic society, that treats all people as equals and provides human rights to everyone between the Jordan river and the Mediterranean sea.” She says they will not “silently accept the atrocities that are happening in the West Bank and Gaza and we will not let them go unnoticed by the Israeli public!”

If you accept the evidence presented in our reply as true and incontestable, then please do act accordingly by demanding that Israel be called to account!

We look forward to a more positive role for New Zealand.

Yours sincerely

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