On 23 May, news broke that Israel had agreed to pay compensation to two photo-journalists who had been attacked by two Israeli soldiers four years ago, in the Palestinian village of Nabi Saleh. One of the assailants was a commissioned officer. The Israeli Army claimed that the journalists had led what it called “violent riots” that day.
However, video evidence was presented that showed the Israeli Army had lied and Israel was forced to withdraw its accusations. Israeli propaganda routinely refers to Palestinian protests as ‘riots’ in order to justify its violent suppression of the Palestinian right to assembly and free speech. The video, first published by +972 Magazine, shows a soldier throwing a stone at the two photographers as they attempt to obey the Army’s order to leave the area. As one of the photo-journalists, an Israeli, Haim Schwarczenberg, walked away, an officer ran after him and forced him, along with his cameras, to the ground. When Schwarczenberg got up to move further away, the officer stoned both Schwarczenberg and Abbas Momani, a Palestinian photographer working for Agence France-Presse (ASP).
Schwarczenberg explained further that, with the protesters already under live-fire, “one of the soldiers suddenly appeared from behind us and shouted, ‘get out of here before I shoot you’.” Eitay Mack, the attorney representing the two journalists, said that news reporters and Palestinian journalists in particular, including those working for foreign agencies, have become targets for Israeli forces.
In another example of dishonesty this year, on 24 May Palestinian farmland was set on fire and the Israeli Army immediately issued a statement, putting the blame on Palestinians. However, it was forced to back down when a video was released by the Israeli NGO, B’Tselem showing Israeli settlers, one of whom was an Israeli soldier, committing the arson attack.
Despite its name, the Israel Institute of New Zealand describes itself as an “independent think tank” that provides New Zealanders with “better understanding of the State of Israel through accurate analysis . . . and effective advocacy.” Allied with the Zionist Federation of New Zealand, whose declared mission is “to facilitate the growth of Zionist activity through extensive Hasbarah . . .”, the Institute last month insulted the New Zealand Government, accusing it of failing to raise concern over alleged UNRWA anti-Semitism, and support for terrorism. Another pro-Israeli voice, Shalom Kiwi, has likewise berated New Zealand for supporting the UN Agency. These Israeli agencies are angry because New Zealand, unsurprisingly, has not given way to their irrational demands.
Even the UK Government, a staunch ally of Israel, admits the value of UNRWA’s work for Palestinian refugees. In response to a question in the House of Lords on 5 June, Baroness Goldie affirmed the British Government view that “the role of UNRWA is extremely important.” Reminding the House that “the UK is a long supporter of that agency”, she advised that “we intend over the next few years to provide up to £80million to support it.” Baroness Goldie also reminded the House that on 29 May the Minister of State for the Middle East had announced that more funds, £1.6 million, were to be made available to the World Health Organisation to address urgent gaps in trauma and emergency care in Gaza, “including by establishing a new limb reconstruction unit which will help to provide life-saving treatment to more than 380,000 people in Gaza.”
In a just and rational, rules-based world order, it should be Israel that is required to fund due medical care, as well as reparations, for the victims of its ideologically-driven war crimes. Instead, we are subjected to the fury of the Zionist state, vilifying the world community for showing even the slightest sign of humanitarian concern.
Countering Israel Lobby propaganda
The Israel Institute of New Zealand and the Zionist Federation of New Zealand serve Israel in various ways. The source of their accusations against UNRWA turns out to be David Bedein, joint founder and Bureau Chief of Israel Resource News Agency (IRNA) based in Jerusalem. Bedein published a ‘report’ in 2017, which is the source of the IRNA accusations levelled against UNWRA by David Cumin. Interestingly, David Bedein wrote a comment on the TDB article US and Israel insult all who depend upon or support UNRWA, repeating his anti-Palestinian, anti-UNRWA abuse.
A Statement by UNRWA Spokesperson, Christopher Gunness, refutes the propaganda dished out by Bedein and reinforces the world view of the UN agency, as expressed above, even by the British Government. The statement describes the the IRNA’s ‘report’ as “inaccurate and misleading”. Almost 90% of the so-called evidence the agency presented concerning textbooks in use in UNRWA schools was able to be dismissed outright as totally false. The UNRWA statement explains that the books were:
“1. phased out when the Palestinian Authority changed their curriculum and textbooks starting in 2016, though the books relating to the old Palestinian Authority curriculum were found to be free of incitement to terrorism by an independent US State Department review.
“2. They are for the higher grades 11-12; grades which are not taught in UNRWA schools in Gaza and the West Bank.
“3. They were ‘pilot’ for the first year of the rollout of the new PA textbooks in the school year 2016-17. New 2017 versions are applicable for the school year 2017-18.”
The UNRWA report also states that:
“23 of the books reviewed in the report are being used in our schools and we have reviewed them rigorously under our curriculum framework, which aims to ensure that our curriculum is in line with UN values. In the small number of instances where issues of concern were found, we have created enriched complementary materials for use in our classrooms and we will be rolling out training on this to our teachers in the coming months. UNRWA’s condemnation of all forms of racism is a matter of public record.”
Gunness and Bedein on Fox News
Chris Gunness demolishes the anti-Palestinian activist David Bedein in a Fox News video. Bedein accuses UNWRA of allowing Hamas weapons to be stored in its schools and when Gunness clearly refutes that, challenging him for his lack of evidence, Bedein retreats, trying to change the subject by saying “this is not the issue”, even though it was he that made the accusation. As Gunness notes, it was UNRWA itself that brought these unprecedented incidents to light and condemned them as a violation of UN neutrality. Moreover, while Bedein presents UNRWA as the aggressor, it was actually Palestinians and UN personnel, sheltering in UNRWA schools who were being repeatedly shelled and massacred by Israel.
A political science professor at McGill University, Rex Brynen, notes that Bedein has a long history of baseless and “poorly researched attacks against UNRWA, including drawing analogies between the UN humanitarian agency and the mass slaughter of Jews at Auschwitz.” Bedein has made and circulated several videos attacking the UN agency and demonising Palestinians. One film falsely alleges that UNRWA-run summer camps are given “anti-Semitic indoctrination.” As Brynen points out, the story is a fabrication.
David Bedein also runs what he calls a think tank called the Center for Near East Policy Research, which presented a report featuring his allegations to the US Congress, the Canadian Parliament, the Swedish Parliament and the British Parliament. There were no takers, not even the US. The Director of Public Affairs of the GAO (Government Accountability Office) issued a statement, saying that the US State Department “will not allow the report to be released to the US Congress.”
Israeli Occupation plans to close UNRWA schools
UNRWA has drawn attention to the Israeli Occupation’s decision not to inform the UN agency of its plan to shut down UNRWA-run schools in Occupied East Jerusalem. Israeli news media have disclosed that the National Security Council intends to revoke permits for UNRWA schools, starting next school year. The schools will be replaced by schools run by the Zionist Jerusalem municipality, supported by the Occupation power’s Education Ministry. The plan is a direct violation of the 1946 Refugee Convention and Israel, as a party to the Convention, is subject to binding bilateral agreements on UNRWA’s installations and immunity from outside interference in Jerusalem.
Once again, Israel is showing contempt for the international community and international law. The shutdown of schools is yet another step in the Zionist plan to incrementally Judaise the Holy City by imposing new facts on the ground and extending control over all aspects of Palestinian life, including forced displacement. In a clear admission that the Israeli Occupation had always been about extending Israeli sovereignty, the former Israeli Mayor of Jerusalem, Nir Barakat, said: “We are putting an end to the lie of the ‘Palestinian refugee problem’ and the attempts at creating a false sovereignty within a sovereignty.” This is a military Occupation that denies citizenship to Palestinians and ethnically discriminates in the way municipal services are distributed.
“Conquer and Divide”
The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, B’Tselem, has published a new on-line interactive map, Conquer and Divide, to mark the 52 years of Israel Occupation since 1967. B’Tselem sees ending the Occupation as “the only way forward to a future in which human rights, democracy, liberty and equality are ensured to all people, both Palestinian and Israeli, living between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea.” B’Tselem says further that what is needed is decisive action to end international co-operation with Israel. Tragically, as John Minto informs us, “under Winston Peters (Minister of Foreign Affairs) and Ron Mark (Minister of Defence) government policy on the Middle East has taken a great stride to the right. It was always pro-Israeli and never pro-Palestinian but Peters and Mark have taken New Zealand further to the right and closer to the US position.”
Setting an example
More than 150 European researchers and academics have set our leaders an example. They have written to the European Commission, demanding the exclusion of Israel and its military companies from a new EU research programme Horizon Europe. The letter, dated 4 June, expresses “deep concern about the participation of Israel and its military companies in EU Research Programmes.” The signatories express humanity’s sadness that the recent massacre of civilians in Gaza appears to be “already forgotten” and the people “forsaken”, even though they were only “demanding their rights enshrined in international law . . .” The letter remind us that “the EU has approved hundreds of research projects with Israeli companies, such as Elbit Systems and Israel Aerospace Industries, that are accused of deep complicity in Israel’s war crimes and possible crimes against humanity. Israel uses military force and technology to maintain its system of military occupation and apartheid.”
Stand for justice – an independent foreign policy
Do our leaders really believe the false and misleading propaganda put out by the Israel lobbyists in New Zealand? Or is it more that they have sided with Israel because the Realpolitik of teaming up, unconditionally, with our “traditional allies” appears to them, in some way, more beneficial? Siding with the supporters of Israel is making it easy for the Zionist state to continue its undeniable violations of the Fourth Geneva Convention. New Zealanders are better than that. The Israel lobby’s powerful friends and allies are intent on influencing foreign policy around the world – and that includes New Zealand. Lately, there has been much in the way of accusations of interference in elections, so one would think that a threat from one of our ‘traditional allies’ against the democratic process in another would have had headline coverage and debate. It didn’t.
In an audio recording of a private meeting with Jewish leaders in New York, leaked to The Washington Post, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo can be heard saying he would not wait for the UK Labour Party Leader, Jeremy Corbyn, to become Prime Minister of Britain before taking “push back” action against him. Asked if Corbyn “is elected, would you be willing to work with us”, Pompeo said: “It could be that Mr Corbyn manages to run the gauntlet and get elected. It’s possible. You should know, we won’t wait for him to do those things to begin to push back. We will do our level best.” The suggestion of interference in the electoral process is unmistakable as Pompeo added, “It’s too risky and too important and too hard once it’s already happened.” His response was greeted with great applause. The ‘gauntlet’ that Pompeo expects Jeremy Corbyn to run is, of course, the intense storm of “anti-Semitism” accusations levelled against him by the Zionist lobby.
This calculated statement of intent from the second-most powerful foreign policy official in the US Administration, against a democratically-elected party leader in Britain, says much about the real nature of the so-called US/UK ‘special relationship’. If Britain can be held in such contempt, then how does New Zealand’s relationship with its ‘traditional ally’ really stack up? Does that explain why our Minister of Foreign Affairs, Winston Peters and Minister of Defence, Ron Mark are so willing to cosy-up to Israel? It’s time to challenge the New Zealand Government’s failure to call Israel out.
Last year, in a New Zealand national statement to the United Nations General Assembly, Jacinda Ardern recalled that “In 1945, New Zealand Prime Minister Peter Fraser said that the UN Charter offered perhaps a last opportunity to work in unison to realise the hope in the hearts of all of us, for a peace that would be real, lasting, and worthy of human dignity. But none of these founding principles should be consigned to the history books. In fact, given the challenges we face today, and how truly global they are in their nature and impact, the need for collective action and multilateralism has never been clearer. And yet, for all of that, the debate and dialogue we hear globally is not centred on the relevance and importance of our international institutions. Instead, we find ourselves having to defend their very existence.”
UNRWA’s mission is due to come up for renewal later this year in the General Assembly, which offers a window of opportunity to focus on Israel’s blatant violations of international humanitarian law. Israel’s illegal settlement colonies are in direct violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention yet the Zionist state is allowed to get away with impunity. We should constantly be demanding clear answers from Ron Mark and Winston Peters regarding all of Israel’s human rights violations. For instance, we could ask them if they are willing to make representations to the government of Israel about the large numbers of Palestinian children held in Israeli prisons. If not, why not? As the abduction of Palestinian youngsters into Israel constitutes a war crime under Article 147 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, we should also demand to know what action the ministers plan to take under Article 146 of the Geneva Convention to sanction those responsible for these unlawful transfers.
Consider again, Peter Fraser’s words, recalled by Jacinda Ardern in her speech to the UN: “The UN Charter offered perhaps a last opportunity to work in unison to realise the hope in the hearts of all of us, for a peace that would be real, lasting, and worthy of human dignity.”
Our ‘traditional allies’ may have turned their backs on this – but New Zealand has a duty to stand independently. Why would we not set an example?