Get thee glass eyes and, like a scurvy politician, seem to see the things thou dost not. — Shakespeare: King Lear: Act IV, Scene 6.
An announcement by the New Zealand Government on its NZUN website states:
“New Zealand’s term on the Security Council will place us at the heart of international decision-making for the next two years. We are committed to being independent and providing a voice for small states. We aim to achieve practical results and to make a positive impact on international peace and security.”
In Parliament on 30 June 2015, Dr Kennedy Graham asked the Prime Minister, John Key,
“Will the Prime Minister condemn Israel’s actions last year on the basis of the recent UN report on war crimes in Gaza, which criticises both sides — but especially Israel — for its excessive use of force in using ‘huge fire-power of 6,000 air strikes and 50,000 artillery shells’?”
“I do not think that it would be terribly conducive to the good relationship that New Zealand enjoys with Israel and Palestine to start throwing stones on either side in particular. I think the report underlines, as I am sure the member knows, yet again, the inescapable reality that reaching a negotiated and lasting peace agreement is vital for the future well-being and prosperity of the people of that region.”
Dr Graham then asked the Prime Minister,
“How can New Zealand even attempt to bring peace to the region, as the Minister of Foreign Affairs has indicated it will, when the Prime Minister is unwilling to condemn Israel’s war crimes and illegal blockade of Gaza — a clear indication that New Zealand has surrendered its impartiality?”
“I think it is the opposite. I mean, New Zealand enjoys a good relationship with both Israel and Palestine. We are one of a relatively small number of countries that do. We are not going to resort to megaphone diplomacy, but we do encourage both sides to find a credible and constructive way through the issues, and we do think a two-state solution is the right long-term answer to the issues between Israel and Palestine.”
John Key’s shallow response to Kennedy Graham failed to give any recognition of the enormous and criminal imbalance of explosive power unleashed by Israel’s Operation Protective Edge blitz upon the captive civilian population of the Gaza Strip. The lightly-armed Palestinian resistance movement was incapable of mounting any meaningful defence against such an attack. The disparity in casualty figures and amounts of material damage suffered by each side is proof of criminal intent on the part of the perpetrator – Israel. Key’s answer to the first question deliberately avoided comment on the statistics provided by Dr Graham because they were undeniable and because acknowledging them would weaken his position. Instead of condemning Israel’s action, Key resorted to the habitual method of covering for Israel by simply diverting the question away from the war crimes it commits.
Our Prime Minister could demonstrate his claim to be friends with both Israel and Palestine by raising New Zealand’s voice at the Security Council and speaking in defence of the captive Palestinian people. Arguing strongly for urgent sanctions to hold the Israeli regime responsible for its actions would fit well with the NZ Government’s pronounced commitment to “. . . achieve practical results and to make a positive impact on international peace and security.” The alternative, continued inaction, would amount to complicity in Israel’s violations of the relevant provisions of the Fourth Geneva Convention.
Nine days of hope lost to one-sided violence
Israel’s apologists have succeeded in persuading the mainstream news media to report Operation Protective Edge as a justifiable Israeli response to intolerable provocation by Hamas. The record actually shows that Israel has done its best to provoke Palestinian retaliation by continually attacking the Gaza Strip, even when no Palestinian missiles have been fired. In the lead-up to the 2014 carnage that began with serious escalations in June 2014, the record of violence over the territory that occurred in the preceding month of May is revealing. For nine days, from the 14-22 May 2014, inclusive, no Palestinian missiles were fired from the Strip, in accordance with the ceasefire agreement. On those nine days, Israel continued to enforce its economically crippling fishing zone on Gaza’s coastal waters. Fishing boasts were hijacked and Israeli Army and Navy gunfire and missiles wounded Palestinian fisherman and residents on farmland. After nine days, Israel finally achieved its objective and on the evening of 23 May, a number of missiles were fired towards the Green Line, causing no damage. But there were more Israeli attacks to come, many more, but none of them were reported in the mainstream news media. The events in May (see full account) laid the foundation for the spiralling escalation in June that, in turn, resulted in the wanton death and destruction being visited by Israel upon the people of Gaza, known as Operation Protective Edge. Had Israel used the nine days of Palestinian ceasefire to reinforce the suspension of violence it could then have gone on to end the blockade of Gaza altogether.
“The good relationship that New Zealand enjoys with Israel and Palestine”
So what is the world to make of John Key’s reply to Dr Kennedy Graham: “I do not think that it would be terribly conducive to the good relationship that New Zealand enjoys with Israel and Palestine to start throwing stones on either side in particular.”? It would seem to many people like a shrugging-off of all responsibility. Our Prime Minister simply wriggled away from the question while weakly implying that there existed some sort of parity, according to which condemnation might justifiably be levelled at “either side”. Key went on to lecture Kennedy Graham on what he saw as “the inescapable reality that reaching a negotiated and lasting peace agreement is vital for the future well-being and prosperity of the people of that region.” This constantly repeated retreat from reality has only ever benefited Israel by allowing time for more Israeli land grabs and repeated Gaza blitzes. The Palestinian people have no defence capability against overwhelming Israeli military might – their only hope is for the international community to, at last, shoulder its responsibility for having placed them in this impossible and tragic situation.
In law, a contract is unenforceable where the terms are so extremely unjust, or overwhelmingly one-sided in favour of the party who has the superior bargaining power that they are contrary to good conscience. What is there about belligerent military occupation that could possibly demonstrate ‘good conscience’? It would appear that politicians who avoid answering such questions of principle also have difficulty themselves in demonstrating good conscience.
The requirement that a people, who are living and dying under belligerent military occupation, should have to negotiate directly with the occupying power to achieve their liberty is an indefensible injustice. The insistence upon the inviolability of the so-called ‘peace process’ not only ignores glaring historical realities but also turns a blind eye to the ideological objectives of the occupying power – Israel. The fact that New Zealand aligns itself in this regard with the more powerful permanent members of the Security Council makes the promise that “we are committed to being independent” ring hollow to the majority of world opinion. Whether this is the result of ignorance or a desire to be good members of ‘the club’, the result is depressingly predictable – worsening misery for the Palestinian people, with ever more lives, limbs, land and liberty lost.
Israel’s reservations (some preconditions)
In 2003 the Government of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon approved the “road map” negotiations but with 14 reservations. Reservation 6 insists that “declared references must be made to Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state and to the waiver of any right of return for Palestinian refugees to the State of Israel.” Even more significant, Reservation 13 proclaims that “no reference will be made to the Bertini Report as a binding source document within the framework of the humanitarian issue.”
United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan appointed Catherine Bertini as his Personal Humanitarian Envoy to assess the nature and scale of the humanitarian needs, and to clarify the respective responsibilities of all actors involved. The report monitors the humanitarian commitments made by the government of Israel to Ms Bertini during a mission to the region from 12-19 August 2002. The mission concluded that there were serious humanitarian problems caused by such measures as curfews, closures and roadblocks that led to:
“a crisis of access and mobility, instigating a drastic decline in the Palestinian economy. A large part of the Palestinian population has difficulty accessing basic services such as health and education. Humanitarian service providers, such as UN agencies, non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs), the Palestine Red Crescent Society (PRCS) and Palestinian Ministry of Health (MoH) ambulances, have experienced problems providing assistance and services to beneficiaries.”
Israel, it appears, objected to the Bertini Report because it reminded it of the commitments that it had made to the UN. Here are two of those commitments:
- “Ambulances will wait no more than 30 minutes at checkpoints.”
- “Mechanisms will be set in place to ensure patients seeking critical medical services (such as child delivery, dialysis and chemotherapy) can pass all checkpoints quickly.”
In 2011 (eight years later), the United Kingdom medical journal The Lancet published its findings on the effects on Palestinians of stressful living — coping with economic difficulties and shortages, restrictions on movement, political tensions and fear of outside attack. A year earlier The Lancet reported on the terror of women waiting to give birth during Israeli bombing raids on Gaza in early 2009. This year, another one of their researchers has looked at what happens to women already in labour who are caught at Israeli checkpoints. Halla Shoaibi of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor estimated that in the period she studied (2000-2007), “10 per cent of pregnant Palestinian women were delayed at checkpoints while travelling to hospital to give birth. One result was a dramatic increase in the number of home births, with women preferring to avoid road trips while in labour for fear of not being able to reach the hospital in time.” She found that 69 babies were born at checkpoints during those seven years. Thirty-five babies and five of the mothers died, an outcome which she considered amounted to a crime against humanity. No wonder Israel did not want to be reminded of its commitments! And then there is water:
“Problems relating to water deliveries in Palestinian towns and villages will be addressed to ensure that daily provision of adequate amounts of water can be supplied by Palestinian water tankers.”
Water cut off in Qalqiliya – 5 August 2015 Palestinian residents of the West Bank village of Kafr Qaddum (which has already lost large swathes of its land to the illegal Israeli Occupation) staged a sit-in to protest against Mekerot, the Israeli national water company’s cutting off of water to the village that coincided with extremely high temperatures; thousands of poultry died as a result. Mekerot refused to give any reason for cutting off the water supply. The company also supplies local illegal Israeli settlements, which were not affected. The settlers consume as much as 300 litres of water per day, according to EWASH, while the captive West Bank Palestinian community is restricted to around 70 litres per day, well below the World Health Organisation’s recommended minimum of 100 litres per day. Where is the good conscience in depriving Palestinians of their water? There are also additional commitments on the part of Israel:
“On previous occasions, the government of Israel has made the following commitments, which were confirmed to the mission:
• The fishing zone for Palestinian boats off the Gaza Strip coast will be extended to 12 nautical miles.
• Olive farmers will be allowed access to their fields.”
Israel continues to violate the Gaza ceasefire agreement with attacks on Palestinian fishing boats, well inside the agreed limit. This year alone, to the end of July, there have been over 200 Israeli Navy attacks and hijackings against Palestinian vessels, some causing death and injury.
Olive farmers will be allowed access to their fields!? The reality is that, too often, they are not allowed access and settlers set fire to and uproot Palestinian olive trees with Israeli Army connivance and, often, direct support.
Following the Six-Day War, the UN Security Council passed Resolution 242 on 22 November 1967. The Resolution emphasised “the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war” but failed then to demand that Israel withdraw from all occupied territory without conditions. An early draft of Resolution 242 required Israel to withdraw from “the territories” occupied in the recent conflict. The Zionists were able to get the definite article removed from the final Resolution so that the term “territories” could lack precision and be used to describe any area, or areas, that suited Israel from time to time. This paved the way for the continuing expansion of settlements and the transfer of ever more settlers into more and more occupied areas. Alan Hart, former Middle East Chief Correspondent for Independent Television News and BBC Panorama presenter, was the unofficial linkman in a secret exploratory dialogue between Arafat and Shimon Peres in 1980. Hart recalls what Peres said to him: 
“I fear it is already too late (for peace). Every day that passes sees new bricks on new settlements. Begin knows exactly what he’s doing.”
Murray McCully – New Zealand Foreign Affairs Minister
In a letter to the Palestine Human Rights Campaign (PHRC) dated 4 May 2011, McCully stated that, “New Zealand, and the international community, continue to urge both sides to re-engage in direct negotiations to reach an agreement by September 2011.” Regarding sanctions, the Minister observed, “The imposition of UN sanctions against Israel would be counter-productive to this process.” That may be convenient for Israel but it is blatantly one-sided. Palestinians have effectively suffered under sanctions for decades. The acquisition of territory by war is a war crime, as is the transfer of population to such territory. The Fourth Geneva Convention, Article 49, states that, “The Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.”
As the daily news from the West Bank increasingly demonstrates, a growing number of settler crimes against Palestinian residents are committed with Israeli Army complicity. Many of the Army’s officers are themselves settlers and members of extremist Zionist movements. In 2011, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz quoted Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak acknowledging the unsustainable nature of Israeli Occupation by saying, “We have been ruling over another nation for 43 years . . .”
It is now 48 years since the longest, by far, military occupation in modern history began; and our politicians, blind to their humanitarian duty, continue to hide behind the discredited negotiations myth.
McCully and the National Government supported sanctions against Iran, which occupies no other territory and has invaded nobody, on unproven accusations of intending to acquire nuclear weapons. On the other hand, Israel does have a nuclear weapons arsenal, does occupy neighbouring territories and does defy the world community by, unlike Iran, refusing to co-operate with IAEA and by failing to sign the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty. But blind National Government politicians continue to insist that sanctions against the Zionist state would be “counter-productive”. Does Murray McCully really believe that the victims of occupation should be required to negotiate away, under duress, their rights under the provisions of Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention in order to accommodate Israel’s desire for territorial expansion? It would appear so.
It has to be asked: what is there to negotiate? There was a time when the Zionists accepted (for the time being) the UN partition plan granting 55% of Palestine for their state of Israel, while at the same time both the UN and the Zionists were ignoring the protests of the Palestinian people. Since then, Israel has spent 72% of its existence occupying the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The so-called peace process has proved itself to be a fantasy; a counter-productive and tragic failure. It has been obstinately adhered to by political leaders who refuse to recognise that the realisation of a just and rational end to ideologically-driven discrimination in Palestine/Israel necessitates a total rejection of political Zionism. While feigning friendship with Israel’s victims, Western policy simply affords impunity for Israel while doing nothing to end the injustice.
Israel’s occupation vandalism – is it self-defence or intimidation?
Israel constantly tells the world that its violence against the Palestinian people is nothing other than self-defence, carried out in the name of ‘security’. Leaving aside incursions, air strikes, shelling, fishing boat hijackings, etc., there is another aspect to Israeli oppression that is hardly ever reported in the mainstream news media and not mentioned at all by our politicians. On 18 August 2015, UN officials called for an immediate freeze on Israel’s destruction of Palestinian homes in the West Bank. According to UN records, there had occurred the largest displacement of Palestinians in the West Bank in one day in nearly three years. One official, Robert Piper, said: “The scale of displacement is particularly concerning – nearly 50 children lost their homes yesterday.” Another UN official, Felipe Sanchez, said: “Many of these refugee families have now been displaced four times in the last four years.” The demolitions were conducted in parallel with illegal occupation settlement expansion.
Here are just some of Israel’s violations of this nature in the Occupied West Bank since the middle of the month of August 2015:
- Raid – tent dwellings and livestock shelters destroyed: Jerusalem – 10:00, 17 August, Israeli troops invaded the al-Khan al-Hamra area and destroyed tent dwellings and livestock shelters. 
- Raid – annexation Wall extension – olive trees destroyed – beating and hospitalisation – agricultural sabotage – land theft: Bethlehem – 08:00, 17 August, the Israeli Army raided the Bir Una area in West Beit Jala and bulldozed agricultural land, to make way for the growing Israeli annexation Wall. The Army destroyed 45 olive trees in the process, beating up and hospitalising the owner, Waleed al-Shatlah, when he objected to the loss of his land and livelihood. 
- Apartment buildingdestroyed: Jerusalem – 04:00, 18 August, Israeli troops raided the Wadi al-Joz neighbourhood and destroyed an apartment building. 
- Raid – agricultural sabotage – land theft – annexation Wall extension: Bethlehem – 08:00, 19 August, Israeli forces invaded agricultural land in the Bi’r Ona area of Beit Jallah and bulldozed crops, to make way for the annexation Wall. 
- Raid – Israeli Army ‘exercise’ orders force families out of their homes: Tubas – 15:00, 20 August, Occupation troops raided Attouf village and the al-Buqa’a area and issued orders telling residents to leave their homes from 30 August until 8 September, to make way for Israeli Army exercises. 
- Occupation settler agricultural sabotage: Nablus – 21 August, Israeli settler arsonists set fire to and destroyed 30 Burin village olive trees. 
- Israeli Army ‘exercises’ – families forced from their homes: Tubas – 23 August, Israeli forces issued orders to force 15 families out of their homes in Khirbeit Ras al-Hamra village in the North Jordan Valley, from 30 August until 1 September, to make way for military exercises in the area. 
Palestinians also suffer constant night home invasions and the frequent abduction of their terrified children.
Where is the good conscience in depriving Palestinians of their water while Israel’s settlers continue to enjoy well-watered lawns and full swimming pools? What possible bearing on Israel’s security could there be in such cruelty? It must be obvious to all but the most wilfully blind that the motivation for this malevolence is ideological. There is ample precedence and justification for sanctions against Israel, the occupying power. The inspirational Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS) is an appeal to reason and to conscience. BDS is designed to strip the Zionist state of its impunity and force it to account for its war crimes. Under sufficient combined public and diplomatic pressure, it would find its territorial expansionism and racist discrimination increasingly less profitable. The benefits to Middle East stability, peace and security of such enlightened law enforcement would manifest themselves in a number of ways. Israel’s anachronistic founding ideology would not survive the ensuing cold light of public examination; the disgrace and repudiation of Zionism would pave the way to reconciliation and a coming together of all the people of Palestine/Israel. A reunited land, equitably sharing its resources and the combined talents of all its people, could and should be the foundation of a new era of goodwill and hope for humanity.
With true secularism replacing ideology, and genuine equality for all religions, the Holy Land could at long last be at peace. What does it take to get our government politicians to move out of their sanctimonious comfort zones and discover their humanity? First, they must open their eyes and witness the truth.
Leslie Bravery is a member of Palestine Human Rights Campaign