Prevarication is no answer

On 23 February, the office of the Minister of Agriculture emailed a response to our open letter, sent on 31 January to the Minister of Agriculture, Damien O’Connor, as well as Minister of Foreign Affairs, Nanaia Mahuta, concerning NZ’s participation in the recent Israel Agritech Seminar. We replied to the Ministry of Agriculture’s email on 28 February.

In its response, the Ministry’s office informed us that the New Zealand Government “remains committed to supporting a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict”.

We wrote back that it should be evident, ever since the illegal annexation of East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights, that Israel’s leaders have been demonstrating their determination to render such a solution impossible. Since 1967, the Occupied Palestinian West Bank has endured relentless land-grabs and population-control measures. If our Government truly supports a two-state solution, why does it not call for sanctions against Israel for its daily undermining of the very possibility of a Palestinian state?

Our reply, with references to comments made in the Ministry’s email, continued as follows:

The US-based Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) has noted that the Western Press recently published a photo, presumably inadvertently, of a night-time bombing in Ukraine. In fact, the photo was of an Israeli bombing of Gaza. As JVP commented: “If these bombing images are moving us to action and sympathy for Ukraine — and provoking the US to impose aggressive sanctions on Russia — they should do the same for Palestine and Israel, respectively.”

New Zealand’s ‘traditional ally’, the US Government, funds Israel’s assaults on Gaza and military Occupation of Palestinian land with a huge $US3.8 billion annual contribution. It is also determined never to impose the kind of sanctions it has vowed to impose on Russia.

Your reply holds that “International law, including international humanitarian law and international human rights law, informs Aotearoa New Zealand’s foreign policy and multilateral engagement, including with Israel and on issues related to Israel.” Yet refusing to sanction Israel can be seen as nothing less than quiet complicity in its acts of apartheid and ethnic cleansing, both of which are violations of the same international law and human rights.

Your email includes the following observation: “As you are aware, Aotearoa New Zealand’s approach to diplomacy is one of engagement including through working together with Israel where we have common interests.”

After so many decades of incremental Israeli land-grabs, night home invasions, restrictions of movement and the imposition of economic and agricultural ruin upon a defenceless people, can the Hon. Damien O’Connor present a single example to show that working together for common interests has ever alleviated the suffering in Palestine? Right now, Israel is holding up vital spare parts needed urgently for Gaza’s water and sewerage. With no indication of condemnation, working together is certainly profitable for Israel.

Last Tuesday, Israeli Occupation forces opened fire towards people in the Jabal Abu Sud area of al-Khadr in the West Bank, killing Mohammed Rizk Shehadeh Salah, a 14-year-old schoolboy. Would you agree that Mohammed would be alive today, had Israel kept its armed forces inside its own borders? How then would the Minister excuse to Mohammed’s parents, his preference to work with and benefit Israel, rather than impose sanctions?

We look forward to the Minister’s responses to these open-email questions.

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