The New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ tweet condemning rocket fire from Gaza, while failing to condemn the Israeli extrajudicial assassinations and civilian killings that generated Islamic Jihad’s rocket-fire response, rips off the veil so quickly donned after the Christchurch mosque killings to reveal the hypocrisy at the heart of current “even-handed” New Zealand foreign policy and practice towards Palestine.
The message of the MFAT tweet is clear – Palestinian lives do not matter to the current New Zealand government. The Gazan lives lost in the past week are somehow considered separate from the Muslim lives in Christchurch so rightly mourned and condemned throughout the country, and despite the positive PR mileage our Prime Minister garnered from around the world for her principled response to the terrorist attack by an individual.
State terrorism seems to be a different kettle of fish to this NZ government – but it wasn’t always so.
Norman Kirk’s Labour government took on the French government over atmospheric nuclear testing in the Pacific, not only in the International Court of Justice, but also by sending a navy frigate into the testing zone with a Cabinet Minister on board in 1973. France ceased atmospheric testing the following year.
Such warrior-like behaviour did have repercussions – in an act of state terrorism, the French government blew up Greenpeace protest ship The Rainbow Warrior in Auckland twelve years later, – but again, another New Zealand Labour government stood strong, exerted our right to an independent foreign policy even against some of our closest allies, and held France to account.
Twenty years later it was Israeli muscle most publicly and notably felt when in 2004, two Mossad agents, Uriel Kelman and Eli Cara, were caught attempting to fraudulently obtain New Zealand passports with the aid of a local Jewish man, Tony Resnick (who fled the country).
These more recent gross violations of both New Zealand sovereignty and international law were met with both anger and diplomatic sanctions by then-Prime Minister Helen Clark, and with six-month jail sentences by the courts for the two captured agents.
“Cook the man some fucking eggs”
This week, far greater violations of international law and the right to life in Gaza have instead been met in New Zealand government circles with a response reminiscent of the friends witnessing the scene in Once Were Warriors, where Jake “The Muss” brutally beats Beth, and their intimidated “friends” leave her to her fate.
It is an intimidation that almost every New Zealand broadcasting or media outlet informally reports having been subjected to by the Zionist lobby, in the form of endless vexatious, frivolous or trivial complaints designed to deter coverage of any and every Palestinian issue – let alone the attacks on potential political candidates or politicians supporting Palestinian self-determination, or criticising Israeli government policy or practice.
It is a brutality experienced daily by Palestinians going about their daily lives in the West Bank and Jerusalem, a brutality experienced weekly, if not more often, by every Gazan daring to resist.
And the scenes of terrified children cowering in the face of it are not just excerpts from a movie, but were played out in almost every Gazan home over the last three days.
With that tweet, New Zealand’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Winston Peters has shown he has egg all over his face.
It is now up to Jacinda to be a Beth.
Show us that donning the hijab after the Christchurch mosque attacks was not just “a senseless and theatrical gimmick.”
New Zealand and the world – but especially Gaza – deserve no less.
Julie Webb-Pullman is a Gaza-based New Zealand journalist visiting New Zealand. She is returning to GAZA in December.