On 10 July 1985, the bombing, sinking, and fatality aboard the Greenpeace ship, ‘Rainbow Warrior‘, taught New Zealand that as a small country we could be vulnerable to the perniciousness of foreign powers.
Despite being supposed allies; despite the blood of our soldiers shed for their liberation in two World Wars, faraway France sent a team of DGSE secret agents to our shores and committed what could only be described as an act of state-sponsored terrorism.
As a nation, we did not take kindly to being bullied by a foreign power. The NZ History website pointedly observed that;
This incident did much to promote what has been described as New Zealand’s ‘silent war of independence’ and was central to an upsurge in New Zealand nationalism. There was a sense of having to ‘go it alone’ because traditional allies such as the United States and Britain sat on their hands while France worked to block New Zealand exports. The failure of Britain and the United States to condemn this act of terrorism hardened support for a more independent foreign policy line.
Thirty three years later, and another nuclear-armed, aggressive nation is arrogantly throwing it’s weight around and trying to “have a go” at us – Israel.
NZ-Israel relations took a nose-dive last year when singer-entertainer Lorde decided to cancel her planned tour of Israel;
The bitter reaction from Zionist individuals and organisations could only be described as – at times – reaching levels of insane hysteria. A full page advertisement in The Washington Times by fanatic Rabbi Shmuley Boteach showed the intolerance to dissenting views by hardline Zionists;
Obviously, Rabbi Boteach’s call to “support our campaign to defend Israel and promote human rights” (bottom of advert) didn’t extend to people having the right to make a decision on whether or not to tour the country he was “defending”.
Two young women who last year called on Lorde not to tour Israel have found themselves on the sharp, pointy-end of Israel’s hard-line extremism when it comes to criticising that country;
Ms Sachs and Ms Abu-Shanab wrote;
Since 1967, Israel has militarily occupied Palestinian land in the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the Gaza strip. The occupation is considered an affront to international law and Israeli settlements in the area explicitly violate the Geneva Convention. The military occupation of Palestinian territories has resulted in an apartheid state. Palestinians living in the occupied territories do not enjoy the same rights Israeli citizens enjoy, they are denied freedom of movement and often basic services and necessities.
Today, millions of people stand opposed to the Israeli government’s policies of oppression, ethnic cleansing, human rights violations, occupation and apartheid. As part of this struggle, we believe that an economic, intellectual and artistic boycott is an effective way of speaking out against these crimes. This worked very effectively against apartheid in South Africa, and we hope it can work again.
Israel’s violations are so brutal, Nelson Mandela’s own grandson, Mandla Mandela, said: “The settlements I saw here [in the West Bank] reminded me of what we had suffered in South Africa because we also were surrounded by many settlements and were not allowed to move from one place to another freely. Palestinians are being subjected to the worst version of apartheid.” He added, “Israel is the worst apartheid regime” and called for the continued support of the boycott movement.
They called on Lorde to follow in our country’s tradition of standing up to injustice;
Israel might seem like a world away from New Zealand but that shouldn’t stop us from speaking out and being on the right side of history. In 1981 New Zealanders took to the streets to protest the Springbok tour and South African apartheid. It’s remembered proudly now, so it’s easy to forget that at the time this stuff was seriously fraught. Many argued the politics of apartheid shouldn’t be brought into sport. People will say the same about music.
We’re not just writing to appeal to the past. We’re writing this because we know you agree that our part in movements for justice and equality shouldn’t just be a memory that gathers dust. We can play an important role in challenging injustice today. We urge you to act in the spirit of progressive New Zealanders who came before you and continue their legacy. In 2017, Lorde, reignite the spirit of 1981 and show the world that New Zealanders are the progressive forward-thinking people we say we are. Please join the artistic boycott of Israel, cancel your Israeli tour dates and make a stand. Your voice will join many others and together we can and will make a difference.
I am in awe of the courage of these two young women.
In the interests of fair, free speech, The Spinoff also published a counter-opinion, by Dane Giraud from the NZ Jewish community.
For their actions, a pro-Zionist group in Israel called “Shurat Hadin” has sued – and ‘won’ a legal case in an Israeli Court – seeking ‘damages against Ms Sachs and Ms Abu-Shanab. The award was for 45,000 Israeli New Shekel ($NZ18,976).
According to a Jerusalem Post report;
In January, Shurat HaDin filed a lawsuit on behalf of Shoshana Steinbach, Ayelet Wertzel and Ahuva Frogel. The three all purchased tickets to see Lorde, and were refunded when the show was canceled. The suit demanded NIS 15,000 in damages for each of the teenagers, claiming that their “artistic welfare” was harmed as was their leisure time, “and above all damage to their good name as Israelis and Jews.” The lawsuit said that Lorde’s response on Twitter to the letter Sachs and Abu-Shanab penned showed a direct connection to the concert cancellation.
“This is a precedent-setting ruling according to the Boycott Law,” [Shurat HaDin lawyer] Darshan-Leitner said Thursday. “This decision makes it clear that anyone who calls for a boycott against the State of Israel could find themselves liable for damages and need to pay compensation to those hurt by the boycott call, if they’re in Israel or outside it.”
“Shurat Hadin” makes no secret of their hard-line Zionism and willingness to exploit “legal avenues” to further their cause;
As their website clearly states;
Shurat HaDin is at the forefront of fighting terrorism and safeguarding Jewish rights worldwide. We are dedicated to taking action to protect the State of Israel and its citizens. By putting terrorists and their supporters on trial to compensate victims and block funding of terror, by fighting to end the use of social media for inciting violence and promoting terror, by defending Israel, its leaders, and soldiers against claims of war crimes, and by battling lawfare, BDS and other efforts to delegitimize the Jewish State, Shurat HaDin is using court systems around the world to go on the legal offensive against Israel’s enemies.
Former CIA counter-terrorism specialist and military intelligence officer, Philip Giraldi, has accused ShuratHaDin as engaging in lawfare;
Lawfare, as the name suggests, is the concept of using the law itself as a weapon of war. What it has meant in practice is turning American courtrooms into battlegrounds between private actors and foreign litigants seeking leverage in international political disputes. As a court case just concluded this week [February, 2015] in New York against the Palestinian Authority highlights, the increasing abuse of Lawfare litigation in the U.S. courts may soon have dangerous and irreparable implications for American foreign policy interests in the Middle East.
Israel’s Shurat HaDin Law Center has featured in much of the Lawfare litigation, seeking to harass groups and individuals that it regards as hostile, tying them up with litigation so they become ineffectual or even bankrupting them when a friendly judge rules its way. Shurat HaDin is headed by Nitsana Darshan-Leitner and her husband Avi, who have described their organization as a means of “fighting back,” particularly appropriate for Israel because “the Jews invented law.”
He pointed out;
More recently Shurat HaDin has been threatening to use litigation on American university campuses where it perceives that there is toleration of “an environment of intimidation and hostility” that fails to protect Jewish and Israeli students against alleged anti-Semitic harassment, by which it means demonstrations by Palestinian supporters and calls for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel.
Shurat HaDin have links to Israel’s security agency, Mossad.
Clearly, Ms Sachs and Ms Abu-Shanab are the latest victims of Shurat HaDin’s ‘lawfare’ strategy to coerce critics of Israel into silence.
“This is political theatre. This is not really a legal issue, this is about a court in Israel trying to create a precedent and it will have quite a large global impact.
A lot of people will start watching this because the fear will be that if you’re critical of Israel, no matter where you are in the world, you could be sued.”
However, Professor Gillespie said it would be difficult for Israel to enforce their Court decision to demand payment from the two women;
“In theory they can apply to the courts here to enforce their judgement, but it’s very unlikely that the judgement will be enforced because it’s completely contrary to our own laws.”
To their credit, Ms Sachs and Ms Abu-Shanab have bravely refused to cave to Israel’s abuse of legal process and have set up a ‘Givealittle’ page where donations toward their ‘fine’ will be forwarded to the Gaza Mental Health Foundation.
Hopefully the New Zealand government will act decisively to defend two of it’s citizens from the brazen bullying by a foreign power. If our government fails to act to defend it’s citizen on our own soil, then it has become a weak vassal-state of a foreign regime.
Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia – another “ally” of the West – has taken it’s war from the bombing of Yemen to it’s Consulate in Istanbul where apparently it has murdered Washington Post columnist, and critic of the Saudi regime, Jamal Khashoggi.
Not content with bombing and mass-killing in Yemen that has resulted in at least ten thousand killed and tens of thousands more dead from starvation, the Saudi regime has adopted Mossad-style techniques of using execution teams to kill critics. The weapons used to kill innocent men, women, and children in Yemen – such as forty children in a school bus – are American-made;
Sensitive to ongoing reports of mass deaths of Yemeni civilians, Secretary of State, Michael R. Pompeo, tried to “make good” on assurances that Saudi Arabian warplanes would take better aim in attacks on so-called rebel targets;
Pursuant to Section 1290 of the John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019 (NDAA), I certified to Congress yesterday that the governments of Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates are undertaking demonstrable actions to reduce the risk of harm to civilians and civilian infrastructure resulting from military operations of these governments.
In the same statement, Pompeo also said how much the US government wanted peace in Yemen;
The Trump Administration has been clear that ending the conflict in Yemen is a national security priority. We will continue to work closely with the Saudi-led coalition to ensure Saudi Arabia and the UAE maintain support for UN-led efforts to end the civil war in Yemen, allow unimpeded access for the delivery of commercial and humanitarian support through as many avenues as possible, and undertake actions that mitigate the impact of the conflict on civilians and civilian infrastructure.
Oxfam America’s Scott Paul responded the only way possible to US support of Saudi bombing of Yemen;
“Today, the Trump administration once put its Gulf allies ahead of Yemeni families who are struggling to survive. With Secretary Pompeo’s certification, the State Department demonstrated that it is blindly supporting military operations in Yemen without any allegiance to facts, moral code or humanitarian law.”
Many of the horror-weapons used in Yemen were banned from sale to the Saudis by the previous Obama administration. Trump reversed that ban in March 2017.
Trump has promised a controversial US$110 billion arms sale to Saudi Arabia will proceed – regardless of the current storm of international condemnation over the mysterious disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi; regardlss of the fact that the Saudi regime may be engaging in extra-judicial killings; regardless of the the alleged murder taking place within the borders of another country.
In a statement that shows – yet again – the utter moral bankruptcy of the man, Trump explained;
“I know they’re talking about different kinds of sanctions, but they’re spending $110 billion on military equipment and on things that create jobs, like jobs and others, for this country. I don’t like the concept of stopping an investment of $110 billion into the United States. Because you know what they’re going to do? They’re going to take that money and spend it in Russia or China, or someplace else.”
And Americans wonder why they are hated throughout much of the Middle East?
Israel and Saudi Arabia – two regimes that brook no dissent. Both thumb their noses at free expression; democracy; and respect for human life. Neither are hesitant at using lethal violence to pursue their aims.
We certainly have no moral grounds to complain when Russia supports one of their own allies in the region. Russia has Syria’s Bashar al-Assad. The US has Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu and Saudi ‘Crown Prince’.
Russia’s RT News may be a government mouthpiece, but on the killing of Jamal Khashoggi, Yemen, and continuing arming of the Saudi regime, they make a valid point;
The West should choose it’s friends in the Middle East more carefully.
And New Zealand should have as little as possible to do with Israel and Saudi Arabia as possible. They are both rogue states.
Rolling Stone: Lorde Cancels Tel Aviv Concert After Calls to Boycott Israel
Radio NZ: Rabbi continues criticism of Lorde
Shurat HaDin: Main Page
The Telegraph: Dubai Hamas assassination – how it was planned
US Department of State: Certification to Congress on Actions of Saudi Arabia and UAE in Yemen Under the NDAA
The Electronic Intifada: Israeli lawfare “backfires” in New Zealand
The Standard: Concert Woes
Previous related blogposts
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