Ethics and morality desperately needed in Foreign Affairs and Defence after New Zealand First’s amorality


Appointing Nanaia Mahuta as Foreign Minister and Peeni Henare in Defence is a welcome relief and brings fresh pairs of eyes to long-neglected issues.

In the previous term of government several important foreign policy issues took a back seat after Labour contracted out Foreign Affairs and Defence to New Zealand First. Winston Peters as Foreign Minister and Ron Mark as Defence Minister were left to run their portfolios unchallenged and Palestine was the biggest loser.

Winston Peters “marked time” on the Middle East. He stayed silent when Israeli soldiers shot dead hundreds of unarmed Palestinian protestors – many of them children – in the Great March of Return protests in Gaza. He refused to speak out against Israel’s racist Nation State law and only managed some tepid opposition to US/Israel plans to annex vast areas of the Occupied Palestinian Territories earlier this year.

Meanwhile Peters’ pushed through cabinet an Agreement on Cooperation in Technological Innovation, Research and Development with Israel which was signed by the government in March this year despite the annexation plans.

Ironically the previous National-led government had a stronger policy of support for Palestine. Not only did it co-sponsor United Nations Security Council resolution 2334 which targeted illegal Israeli settlements on Palestinian land but National also delayed signing a New Zealand-Israel Film Co-production Agreement until 2015, because it thought that signing the Agreement while Israel was attacking Gaza the previous year was ‘not a good look.’

Winston Peters had no such qualms despite Israel’s announcement of plans to blatantly breach international law through seizure of more Palestinian land.

In moving forward now Nanaia Mahuta has work to do.

In the first 100 days of the new government New Zealand should finally recognise the State of Palestine. The indigenous people of Palestine deserve nothing less.

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Successive New Zealand governments have claimed to take an “even-handed” approach to the Middle East but this is untrue. We have extensive bilateral arrangements with Israel but minimal interaction with Palestinians.

Joining the majority of countries in the world and recognising the State of Palestine (138 out of 193 countries already take this position) would be an important step forward. 

Secondly New Zealand should make its relations with Israel conditional on Israeli compliance with its international law responsibilities, in particular the issues of ending the brutal military occupation of Palestinian territories, ending racist laws which discriminate against Palestinian Israelis and requiring the right of return for Palestinian refugees.

The Israeli occupation of the entire area of historic Palestine is probably the longest running military occupation in modern history. There is no more time for pious words.

We must say to Israel that until it abides by international law New Zealand will suspend our range of bilateral agreements with Israel; prohibit the importation of Israeli products, including those made in illegal settlements, and instruct the Superannuation Fund and the Accident Compensation Corporation to disinvest in any company involved in the illegal settlements or land confiscation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

Earlier this year the United Nations Human Rights Council identified 112 companies which are thumbing their noses at international law. New Zealand should withdraw its investments from these companies.

It’s gone on too long. There is no more time for pious words. 

The same applies in West Papua and Western Sahara.

West Papuans have also been betrayed by New Zealand under Winston Peters. These are our close Pacific neighbours living under particularly cruel Indonesian military rule. We have stood by, turning a blind eye, just as we previously betrayed the people of East Timor. Nanaia Mahuta is well placed to work with other Pacific countries in bringing pressure to liberate West Papua.

Meanwhile the people of Western Sahara continue to be exploited by New Zealand. The Saharawi people of the area live under Moroccan occupation while their phosphate deposits are mined for sale overseas. And which is the last country in the world to import phosphate fertiliser stolen from the people of Western Sahara? – New Zealand! A shameful embarrassment which should be ended in the first 100 days.

In Defence it has been a similar story under New Zealand First. Minister of Defence Ron Mark visited Israel in January last year and the outcome was deeply embarrassing.

Not only did Mark meet with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and give an awful display of obsequiousness on New Zealand’s behalf but he visited the huge Israeli weapons manufacturer Elbit Systems to check out the latest military equipment which has been “battle-tested” on Palestinians.

Ron Mark was apparently unaware that in 2012 the New Zealand Superfund withdrew its investments from Elbit Systems because the company was helping build the Israeli “security” wall (widely dubbed the “apartheid” wall) which the International Court of Justice declared illegal.

Not surprisingly, given the well-established lack of moral values in our Defence Force leadership, the organisation has continued to purchase military equipment from Elbit Systems.

Ron Mark and the Defence Force appear oblivious to any moral issues. Mark simply said the purchase of “niche” military equipment from Elbit Systems overrode other concerns.

New Zealand defence and foreign policy must have an ethical basis which aligns with international law and United Nations resolutions. 

Nanaia Mahuta and Peeni Henare have important work to do to bring New Zealand onto the right side of Human rights in Palestine and around the world.

We will be looking to our new ministers to do us proud where their predecessors failed.

There is an important role for the Prime Minister as well – using the politics of kindness to speak out against the military detention without trial of Palestinian activists, including children, by the Israeli Defence Force.

It is well documented that Palestinian children incarcerated in this way are frequently denied access to a lawyer or even their parents.

Speaking out for Palestinian children is the least our Prime Minister can do as the new government reorients towards Palestine.


  1. I wrote a few emails to Winston about various Palestinian issues and got some pretty hostile replies above his signature.

    The new Ministers are an opportunity for a new approach, but Nanaia and Peeni will need persistent lobbying from solidarity networks. Also 5 Eyes pressure will be on them to keep supporting Israel.

  2. Id be very surprised if anything changed. Most if not all of the parties in NZ follow the US’s lead. Have done for decades. We even took part directly in the Vietnam war whilst the US’ supposedly closest pal the UK declined.

    We still have the Five Eyes, listening stations, roles in dubious interventions off shore and more.

    Its going to take a fundamental shift in politics in NZ away from the US and neo liberalism. Does anyone see any sign that’s happening?

    • A fundamental shift yes, in the public not accepting the brutality of Zionism in Israel.
      Ron Marks ex NZ Army obviously got well sucked in with the Isaeli “hospitality” but Ron has a history of accepting and demanding personal favours even as a mayor of Carterton.
      Israel has plenty of money to sweeten cordial personal relationships with people who have no moral compass. Winston similarly, and he may have well laid the path for “sweeteners” being agreed to and accepted binding him to that international disgrace and genocide.
      NZF did some good things for NZ but the graft that is obvious in their connection with the Zionist Israeli cabal and the NZ fishing big players just cannot be ignored.
      If the National Govt can support a resolution against the Israeli illegal annexation and murder then what the hell is NZF doing fawning over the tyrants. It stinks.
      James Shaw also fawned when he spoke against BDS. James is reputed to have apologised but such about turns do not appear on the net when I have searched for them.
      The irrigation disaster in Canterbury also has Israeli connections.
      BDS is not optional but an moral imperative.

  3. Yes, well that’s all very well and good @JM and I do agree with you in so many ways but it was while I was just making coffee in my house among the birdies in the trees when I suddenly realised what the problem is.
    The Problem is us.
    The Problem is we’re arsing about trying to strap the cart onto the front parts of the horse.
    We’ve been robbed blind and reduced to social rubble by a cadre of swine. How did that happen?
    That’s the metaphorical foundation stone of AO/NZ politics actually. Under the floor, in the dark, down in a hole there are those who conspire politically to fuck us over. ( Just because I’m paranoid doesn’t mean shit’s not going down. Ba ha !)
    I have photographs of $200 K plus Lamborghini’s driving past Maori begging in the streets.
    Why is that @ JM?
    Before we can afford to help our foreign Brothers and Sisters suffering under the weight of oppression we must first help ourselves.
    Why are there hungry, poorly educated AO/NZ kids? Why are the poor, generally, demonised and spurned by the media? Sure, rnz’s keen to run any schtick about impoverished individuals hauling themselves around by their bootstraps as house prices are ever hiked by banksters aided and abetted by the greedy real estate industry arm in arm with the devilish insurance business.
    Buy why? How are they getting away with that?
    I see we AO/NZ’ers as South Pacific Palestinians in effect. We’re not being held at gun point ( Yet ) but we are being crushed down into subservience by the wealthy foreign interests we were sold out to by politicians we paid to best take care of us. How are they getting away with that? winston fucking peters is a lying Machiavelian arse hole is he not? He ran a defence strategy for his mates since the wine box scandal because the wine box scandal was a scandal and yet nothing came of it. Zero. Why?
    I get the feeling that we really don’t actually know what the fuck’s going here and we need to find out in a full-disclosure kind of way but who is going to do that?
    We have no unions strong enough to apply pressure to our politicians, our agrarian primary industry is so brainwashed and culturally disengaged from the rest of the world that most farmers think shadow puppets is the height of technology. “ All them words can come down a telephone wire…? Amazing aye? “ was said last week somewhere in the green-hills hinterlands.
    Before we worry about Palestine we should really worry about ourselves because I swear to Christ if we don’t start to paying very close attention to some of the flags I see waving we’re going to lose our country. If that’s not already happened and our new owners have yet to tell us. Why would they, I guess? The Peter theil thing indicates that they can come and go as they please, I see un marked Gulf Stream jets flying about, I see very expensive looking people in very, very expensive cars driving here and there and yet we’re an agrarian economy with a population of Sydney.
    Does the expression “ What the fuck? “ ever cross your mind?
    I personally think AO/NZ is a dirty little secret and that homeless people are a frisson for those sick scum who get a stiffy out of seeing people suffer because they put them there.

    • ‘we must first help ourselves’.

      I am sure Country Boy that you know that Minto works on many fronts in Aotearoa inluding housing, poverty etc. Just because we have plenty of problems doesn’t mean we should ignore the plight of those in Palestine, West Papua or Western Sahara. We’d be bloody selfish if we did.

    • “I get the feeling that we really don’t actually know what the fuck’s going here and we need to find out in a full-disclosure kind of way but who is going to do that?”

      You’re not wrong Countryboy. Complex to say the least. All the stuff going on under our noses, not to mention elsewhere, is just too much for the average Joe and Jill. Information overload. A long trial of deceit. The ongoing legacy of neoliberalism. A next to useless MSM on the payroll and bent on easily digested sound bytes, and to make it worse, the paucity of investigative journalism. A largely uncritical populace. All of the above. And more. I sympathize. Who’s going to offer a full disclosure? That’s a VERY BIG question.

      I know what you mean about foreign flags. I was down the line a week ago and here was the Malaysian flag on the Tongariro Chateau. Shouldn’t have come as a surprise. Most of the assets in AO/NZ could easily fly flags not our own. But is this on the radar of the average Joe and Jill? Peripheral sight if you are lucky. But do they have *time* to care? Would they notice? Apathy? Simply don’t know what they don’t know? Ignorance? Or simply a feeling its all beyond them?

    • CB
      If we accept the crimes against others then we help normalise them and they become shades of what we contend with at home.
      The graft that perpetrates the horrors of war and stealing from the vulnerable also is a backbone of the opposition to social reform in NZ.
      It is alive and thriving but should no go ignored anywhere in the world by struggling Kiwis or anyone.
      Our Govt is only the second tier of who runs NZ.

    • Palestine is a complex and some would argue, debatable issue. Not all would agree with John Minto on this one, or care that much. Given the distance involved and absolute corruption in that area, what good can be achieved? @CB points out Aotearoa’s problems, big problems of Poverty, Inequality, Housing. These are massive problems effecting masses of people here in Aotearoa. Priorities NZ. Our people first every time.

      • The issue is neither complex nor debatable!
        This is the excuse used by endless people who do not listen to the fact.

        Sure ‘our people first’ that does not exclude people from working on the Palestine issue frankly.

        I always wonder what people who make these sorts of statements are doing themselves, it is bloody irritating when I know that Minto works on a wide front of issues effecting both Kiwis and those such as the Palestinians who are marginalised because of the US and other countries such as NZ who are too gutless to move a muscle!

  4. It definitely feels like with these appointments there is some reason to be optimistic that Palestine will get some support. After all, Nanaia stood in opposition to the foreshore and seabed so understands the issues of land theft. This is a truly inspired appointment by Ardern and I believe that Mahuta will deliver a foreign policy that respects international law.

  5. NZ First tenure of our Foreign Affairs portfolio has been very damaging to NZ’s place in the world. Jacinda Ardern, Nanaia Mahuta, Peeni Henare must move to stand up for human rights & international laws & Conventions without delay. NZ troops fought in Palestine in WW1 on the side of Britain. With Australian troops they were also involved in crimes against humanity at Surafend. It is high time we paid our debt of restitution. Recognising Palestine as a state is a good first step.

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