“New Zealand is a country that stands up for its values. We stand up for what’s right. We have an obligation to support stability and the rule of law internationally. We do not shy away from taking our share of the burden when the international rules-based system is threatened.” – John Key, 24 February 2015.
At 1:30am, 9 June 2016, three Palestinian fishermen in two small boats came to the end of an exhausting 13-hour fishing trip. As they began their return to port an Israeli Navy gunboat approached, hurling abuse from a loudhailer before opening fire on them and wounding a fisherman, Rajab Khaled Abu Riela. The warship then rammed one of the fishing boats. Their boat hijacked, Rajab and his brother were seized and taken to the Israeli port of Ashdod, where Rajab’s bleeding leg wound was left untreated until 9:30am. After being sent back to Gaza, Rajab was taken by ambulance to the Shifa Hospital for surgery. The surgeon was able to remove only the largest pieces of bullet from his leg, with many fragments remaining imbedded.
For Gaza fisherfolk, just trying to earn a living and feed their families has become an utter nightmare. For Rajab, who suffers chest pains resulting from earlier encounters with the Israeli Navy, these ordeals are especially stressful. This year alone, up until 20 June, Israel has committed well over 600 Gaza ceasefire violations, many of them assaults on Palestinian fishing boats, with two fishing boats sunk, 17 hijacked and one damaged. There have been five Palestinian Resistance ceasefire violations over the same period.
Israel’s racist restrictions of Palestinian West Bank water
On 16 June, it was reported that Israel had cut water supplies to large areas of the West Bank, leaving thousands of Palestinians without sufficient drinking water during the holy month of Ramadan. Mekorot, Israel’s highly profitable monopoly controller of Palestinian water, simply shut down the supply to a large part of Palestine. In some areas, according to Ayman Rabi, the Executive Director of the Palestinian Hydrology Group, there has been no water for over 40 days. An already impoverished population is being forced to buy water from trucks and 40,000 people in Jenin have had their water supply halved. No restrictions are imposed upon illegal Jewish settlements using the same water supply – they consume four to five times the amount allowed to Palestinians.
Israel’s invidious election to Chair UN legal committee
In spite of its manifest contempt for the Fourth Geneva Convention and countless violations of UN Security Council and General Assembly Resolutions, Israel has been elected to head the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) Sixth Committee, which deals with legal issues. Nominated by the Western European and Others Group (WEOG) regional bloc, Israel was elected to head the Committee, one of six set up to advise the UN. The Organisation describes it as the “primary forum for the consideration of legal questions in the General Assembly.” This outrageous decision is a slap in the face for every victim of Israeli racism and violence. The Committee’s duty is to defend international law and protect human rights and, while the new legal committee Chair, Israeli ambassador Danny Danon, boasted that “Israel is a world leader in international law and in fighting terrorism”, the world, especially the victims of Israeli state terrorism, know that the grim reality is otherwise. The election has served only to reinforce Israel’s unjustifiable impunity.
The US ambassador to the UN, David Pressman, commented: “We need a United Nations that includes Israel, that brings Israel closer, not one that systematically pushes Israel away.” What Pressman really means is that Israel, a country that has
ignored and violated more UN resolutions by far than any other country, including 80 Security Council Resolutions, must not be called to account for its war crimes. Dr Aaysha J. Soni, vice-chairperson of the South African Media Review Network, put it clearly: “Getting the country that categorically abuses international law to head the global committee monitoring international law is like getting a man who regularly beats up his wife to head an anti-domestic violence committee . . .”
Obscuring the truth
The mainstream news media, world leaders and other politicians try to hide the truth of Israel’s behaviour. An article in the New Zealand Herald shows that some members of the business community actually extol Israel as a role model for our country. Not everyone is buying it – three letters written to the Herald:
Dear Madam/Sir, Michelle Dickinson (Nano Girl) is not the first to suggest that New Zealand should learn from Israel’s success in high-tech and start-up enterprises. However, she overlooks Israel’s secret ingredient: the close links between Israel’s high-tech industry and its booming trade in sophisticated armaments. That includes everything from drones to guns that can shoot around corners. Last year a divisional Director at the Israel Ministry of the Economy confirmed that technology from the defence sector is handed on to the civilian sector. Israel’s arms industry accounts for a fifth of all its exports. It thrives not only because of high-tech wizardry but also because of its experience with asymmetric warfare against the Palestinian people. The 2013 Israeli documentary “The Lab” spelt out how Israel ‘s arms sales surged after its offensives such as Operation Cast Lead conducted in Gaza in 2008-9. During that 22 day assault 1400 Palestinians were killed, including over 300 children, while others suffered horrific burn injuries, reportedly from white phosphorus. But that does not deter the arms industry from promoting Israel’s experience. Israel’s success in high-tech is no model for a peace-minded nation. – Maire Leadbeater.
Oh Nano Girl! How could you? Describe Israel as a ‘peaceful nation’ whose compulsory military service ‘fosters a young generation with strong leadership skills’! Although an arts person who enjoys your science columns, this time you have definitely let down the New Zealand public you generally inform. Israel is an occupying, militarised state, whose young soldiers are regularly involved in the brutal oppression of the Palestinians, whose territories Israel illegally occupies. Check numerous UN resolutions. A country whose government has not ceased encroaching, via its ‘settlement’ program into Palestinian lands, often, and even now, demolishing homes and sometimes entire villages. A state that keeps the inhabitants of Gaza in virtual imprisonment. And ‘Equal opportunity’! You must be joking. Try being a fifth of the population of Israel, the Palestinian percentage. Please do your background as a University academic justice and embark on more research on the place you have, as part of a New Zealand business delegation, been recently visiting. – Elizabeth Eastmond.
Michelle Dickinson, Nano Girl, has done serious damage to her reputation as a scientist and academic in her column comparing Israel with New Zealand. Propaganda is presented as evidence without analysis. No mention made of the $3 billion per year (and growing) in aid provided by the USA over decades, the largest single recipient of US foreign assistance. No mention of nuclear industry and stockpile of 200 plus warheads Israel has developed and which we know about only because of the heroic whistle blowing of Mordechai Vanunu in 1986 just prior to New Zealand becoming nuclear free. No mention of the indigenous people Palestinians including those living and educated in Israel and the discrimination built into the Israeli education system or those living under occupation in West Bank or imprisoned Gaza. Please, compare us with Finland, Denmark, Michelle and seek their technological solutions, not Israel, which specialises in products for mass surveillance and military control of civilian populations. – Janfrie Wakim, Palestine Solidarity Network.
15-year-old boy shot dead by Israeli Army – 3 family members wounded
On 20 June the Israeli Occupation Army opened fire on a car in the area between Beit Ur al-Tahta and Beit Sira. The vehicle was carrying carrying Palestinian teenagers returning from a visit to a nearby swimming pool. The incident took place near a bypass road for Israelis, built on private Palestinian land, which is referred to as “road 443” also known as the “Apartheid Road.” Mahmoud Ra’fat Badran (15) was killed in the attack and his two brothers, Amir (16) and Hadi (17), were wounded, along with Daoud Abu Hassan (16) and Majd Badran (16) who was visiting his Badran family. The Western Press, including the New York Times, played down the deadly assault on the boys’ car, describing the situation as one of Israeli troops combatting stone-throwing troublemakers. The Palestinian Red Crescent Society reported that Israeli soldiers prevented paramedics from reaching the wounded Palestinians for over an hour-and-a-half. PLO General Secretary Saeb Erekat commented that the international community has the responsibility to put an end to Israel’s impunity for the crimes it commits.
Israel desperately attempting to prevent access to incriminating archives
A campaign to get the Israeli Government to allow access to essential archives is being led by the Akevot Institute, a group of Israeli human rights activists, lawyers and researchers. In a new report, Point of Access, they note that only one per cent of 400 million pages of documents have been made public. According to Lior Yavne, co-author of the Akevot report, “most of the files should have been accessible after 15 years.” Although their classified status has expired, the documents have still not been made public. Despite the secrecy, Israel’s historic war crimes are coming to light. It seems evident that the Israeli regime was dismayed by the evidence that emerged when some archive material was released, enabling Israeli historians, such as Benny Morris, Ilan Pappe and Avi Shlaim, to reveal that much of the official history of the founding of the Zionist state was based on misinformation.
Israel still not ready to ratify nuclear weapons test ban treaty
The treaty, which will ban all nuclear explosions, was signed in 1996, but will only go into effect when it has been ratified by all parties. Israel is widely believed to have between 200 and 400 nuclear warheads, though it furtively refuses to confirm or deny their existence. The regime also refuses to sign the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and denies international access to its atomic arsenal. The Israeli daily Jerusalem Post quoted Netanyahu on 20 June as saying that the issue of ratification “is dependent on the regional context and on the appropriate timing.”
NZ Government’s selective view of its commitments
Addressing Parliament last year, on 24 February, concerning the deployment of New Zealand military personnel to Iraq, John Key said that, “New Zealand is a country that stands up for its values. We stand up for what’s right. We have an obligation to support stability and the rule of law internationally. We do not shy away from taking our share of the burden when the international rules-based system is threatened.” However, Iraq has now announced its determination to sue Israel for bombing the Osirak nuclear reactor in 1981 and has called on the United Nations to implement Resolution 487 (1981) that allows it to demand reparations from Israel. An Iraqi spokesman told news media that: “Until now, Iraq has not received international support to sue Israel for bombing the nuclear reactor. In order to do so, it will need this support, and especially the support of the permanent members of the UN Security Council.” Bearing in mind that John Key stated in Parliament that we were sending troops to Iraq because “the Iraqi Government has requested support from the international community”, will New Zealand speak up in defence of Iraq at the Security Council and call for Israel to be brought to account over its air strike on Iraq? Or will our leaders continue to cover for Israel when it attacks its neighbours and UN refugee camps? John Key promised Parliament that “we will work as a member of the UN Security Council to advocate for effective action on ISIL” – why can he not do the same on behalf of Israel’s defenceless victims?
Israeli air strike on UN refugee camp
At night on 14 June, Israeli fighter jets launched missiles into the al-Bureij UNWRA refugee camp, and five people were wounded in other Israeli attacks on UN refugee camps this month. Israeli forces frequently invade Palestinian homes in UN refugee camps and a 17-year-old youth was abducted during another raid on a refugee camp. Imagine the headlines if any country other than Israel were carrying out air strikes and home invasions in UN refugee camps.
US Congress members plea for Palestinian children
On 20 June, twenty members of the US Congress signed a letter to President Obama urging the appointment of a Special Envoy for Palestinian Children. The letter reminds the President that Palestinian children are living “under the constant fear of arrest, detention and violence at the hands of the Israeli military” and calls upon the US Government to advance the cause of “security, human rights, equality, dignity, justice and opportunity” for all Palestinians. Palestinian youngsters live under Israeli military Occupation and the daily consequences of hostile foreign settlement expansion. The letter cites an April 2016 report from Defence for Children International (DCIP) that found three out of every four children held captive by the Israeli Army are forced to endure physical violence. According to UNICEF, ill-treatment of children is widespread, systematic, and institutionalised from the moment of arrest.
It is about time the news media in New Zealand allowed the public to know about these abuses and reported something of the daily news from the Palestine. Is it too much to hope that a group of New Zealand lawmakers might stand up for Israel’s innocent victims and demand, in Parliament, that the New Zealand Government live up to its claim that it recognises our “obligation to support stability and the rule of law internationally”? John Key says “we do not shy away from taking our share of the burden when the international rules-based system is threatened.” So let him prove it.
End the silence – witness for truth
On 18 June, two days before the UN-declared World Refugee Day, in a New Zealand Government Press Release, Minister Michael Woodhouse announced that, “This Government is totally committed to fulfilling its international humanitarian commitments to provide protection to refugees.” That being so, when will New Zealand make use of its presence at the Security Council to condemn Israel’s remorseless attacks on UN refugee camps? Or will the Government, like the mainstream news media, keep on pretending it isn’t happening? When it comes to Israeli violations of international law, our humanitarian commitments seem to be quickly forgotten. The indifference of our political leaders and news media helps the Zionist state to remain unaccountable and the cruel injustices to continue – generation after generation.