NZ, China, Israel, Palestine – on human rights, uncomfortable truths and speaking out


No government likes to be called out for human rights abuses and it’s uncomfortable to do so, particularly when the abuser is either a friend or a country with which we have strong economic links.

In our relations with China, this is a difficult issue for us.

However, we should always expect our Government to speak out for human rights and the case can be made that Chris Hipkins was too soft on his visit to China last week. The impression was of a laid-back PM failing to convey any of the serious concerns expressed by credible and principled human rights organisations such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International.

It seems New Zealand is leaving the heavy lifting on human rights to Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta who, in her own words, had a robust discussion with China’s Minister of Foreign Affairs on these issues earlier this year. An Australian report said she was “harangued” from the Chinese side, although this was denied by Mahuta.

Hipkins, as Prime Minister, has our loudest voice and he should have publicly backed up our Foreign Minister.

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If we want to be regarded as a good global citizen, we have to speak out clearly and act consistently, irrespective of where human rights abuses take place. This is where New Zealand has fallen down repeatedly.

We have been happy to strongly condemn Russia and announced economic and diplomatic sanctions within a few hours of its invasion of Ukraine but we look the other way when a country guilty of abuses is close to the US.

In regard to the longest military occupation in modern history, Israel’s occupation of Palestine, we have been weak and inconsistent over many decades in calling for Palestinian human rights.

It hasn’t always been like that.

In late 2016, the National Government, under John Key as prime minister, co-sponsored a United Nations Security Council resolution (UNSC2334 – NZ was a security council member at the time) which was passed in a 14–0 vote. The US abstained.

The resolution states that, in the occupied Palestinian territories, Israeli settlements had “no legal validity” and constituted “a flagrant violation under international law”. It said they were a “major obstacle to the achievement of the two-state solution and a just, lasting and comprehensive peace” in the Middle East.

So why does this matter now?

Because Israel has elected a new extremist government that has declared its intention to make illegal settlement building on Palestinian land its “top priority”. Early this week it announced plans for 5000 more homes for these illegal settlements, which a Palestinian official described as “part of an open war against the Palestinian people”.

Israel is showing Palestinians, and the world, its middle finger.

UNSC 2334 didn’t just criticise Israel. It called for action. It also asked member countries of the United Nations “to distinguish, in their relevant dealings, between the territory of the State of Israel and the territories occupied since 1967″.

In practical terms, this means requiring our Government and local authorities to refuse to purchase any goods or services from companies (both Israeli and foreign-owned) that operate in illegal Israeli settlements.

This ban should also be extended to the 112 companies identified by the United Nations Human Rights Council as complicit in the building and maintenance of these illegal Israeli settlements.

The Government should be actively discouraging our Superannuation Fund and KiwiSaver providers from investing in these complicit companies but an analysis earlier this year showed the Super Fund investments in these companies have close to doubled in the past two years.

Some countries have begun following through on UNSC 2334 but New Zealand has been inert. We have not been prepared to back up our words at the United Nations with action here.

Following through would mean we were standing up for human rights for everyone living in Palestine. We could expect our Government to face false smears of anti-semitism from Israel’s leaders and their friends here but we would receive heartfelt thanks from a people who have suffered immeasurably for 75 years.

Palestinians are the largest group of refugees internationally after being driven off their land by Israeli militias in 1947-1949. Every day, more of their land is stolen for illegal settlements while we avert our gaze.

The Indonesian military occupation of West Papua and Morocco’s occupation of Western Sahara also deserve our voice on the side of the victims.

Standing up for human rights is not comfortable when it means challenging supposed friends or allies. But we owe it to ourselves, and to those being brutally oppressed, to do more than mouth platitudes.

These peoples deserve our support and solidarity. Let’s not look the other way. Let’s act.

First published in NZ Herald


  1. Remember, apartheid Israel is the only democracy in the M.E. Israel doesn’t have the right to exist because its existence comes at the brutal murderous treatment and colonization of the indigenous palestinians.

    The manner in which to create this terrorist state was from ideologues who weren’t from the region nor were they even religious. Christian zionist existed well before Jewish zionism and today are the most ardent supporter of this racist state.

    The colour of your skin was also a major factor in creating the apartheid racist state in the heart of the arab world. In the end the apartheid state had to incorporate arab jews from Iraq, Egypt, Yemin, Morocco, etc because the european jews weren’t sufficient in numbers and they also needed a lower class to do the dirty work that the white Jews didn’t won’t to do. The zionist leaders weren’t only racist bigots they also exhibited anti-semitic behaviors that can be witnessed in the Haavara transfer agreement between Nazi germany.

    Free Palestine.

    • Whereas in the real world Stephen Israel and much of the rest of the world (including many of the Middle Eastern countries) have zero interest your opinion and Israel only still exists because long ago it learnt that only they can guarantee their own survival by making no compromises or apologies in regards to their own security (and nor should they).
      You + Minto + Bravery can continue to shout into the wind but the truth is that no one really cares and at the end of the day the three of you vs the IDF is to be honest a bit of a mismatch.

      • James, you’re the one that out of fucken touch!! Seriously the Palestinian support has been growing for decades even Jews globally have been turning their backs on apartheid Israel because they see it for what it is. Your views are becoming a minority voice and that only gonna increase.

        Free Palestine.

        • Ok I’ll play along then – who’s getting the 7 million plus Israeli’s to leave Israel?

          • The answer is: no one. The only requirement is one of respect for others. Those Israelis who cannot tolerate a liberated Palestine and who reject the principles of equality and human rights may decide to leave – but that would be their decision and theirs alone.

            • So if the Israeli’s hand over all political power to the Palestinians the (Muslim) Palestinians will treat the (Jewish) Israeli’s with ‘principles of equality and human rights’?

              Is anyone supposed to seriously believe this?

                • Neihana, you’re out of your depth when discussing this fascist state. Like I said stick to running down Ben narrative on Ukraine which you have miles ova him .

              • James, stupid analogy and untrue. Have you meet a Palestinian? They’re the most humble people on this planet. All they want is to live in peace like they did before zionism. Palestinian under international law of the geneva convention article 51 have the right to defend themselves however possible from hostile groups which Israelis are. Go back to kindergarten laddie.

                • Sure have spent about a week hiking with a few of them in the Andes about 15 years ago one of which was cheating on his wife back home with an English girl on the hike.
                  Much preferred the young Israeli’s who I also spent time with in South America who were travelling after finishing their compulsory IDF service (and in particular a guy who had just finished his 3 years as a ‘back-seat driver / Goose from Top Gun’ in an air force fighter) . .

              • There speaks Zionism, that demands a right to “all political power”! The voices of anti-Zionists, both within Israel and globally, is growing. The incredibly brave and principled Refusers in Israel along with rational organisations, such as the US Jewish Voice for Peace and Jews for Justice for Palestinians in the UK, point the way to a more humanistic and hopeful solution.

          • James+Brown, wait for Iran to become more influential in the M.E region then they already are, they’ll push the zionist into the mediterranean sea and take security of the Dimona nuclear facilities in the Negev desert. The candid amateur’s concerning this fascist state especially from bigoted pakeha is actually quite amusing keep up the shallow narratives lol.

            • Disagree with a Maori = Get called a racist.
              You do realise how that word is becoming increasingly meaningless yeah?
              What’s your go-to then?

    • Personally, I’ve never met a Christian zionist. I do know Christians, who know that the Talmud says that their and our Prophet Jesus is boiling in excrement, and that his mother Mary, honored in Surah Ali ʿImran 42, was a prostitute who was impregnated by a Roman soldier. None of them, unsurprisingly, support the invasion of Palestine and the genocide of that nation’s Muslim and Christian population by the zionists.

  2. Let’s not forget that the invasion of Iraq, and the slaughter of more than a million Iraqis and the displacement of millions more, would not have happened if ‘israel’ had not been unhappy at President Hussein for sending money to the families of Palestinians slaughtered by the ‘israeli’ government. Nor would the so called ‘Syrian Civil War’ with its head-chopping terrorists destroying that nation have happened if the ‘israelis’ did not have aspirations to steal even more Syrian land than the Golan Heights they continue to illegally occupy.

    The sooner that Palestine is free, the sooner that all humanity will be safer.

  3. The uncomfortable truth is that the world is rotten, because the only way a country can be regarded as a good global citizen, is to follow the dictates of the world’s hegemon, the USA. Sure, you are allowed to stray, every now and then, but 29 times out of thirty, you do as the USA says or else. Palestine is one of the best examples, certainly one of the most tragic, of the rottenness, of the true hypocrisy of the world we live in.

    The best way to help Palestine is to wake up to the reality of today’s world, namely, that the USA controls the world with the USA in turn, being under the control of big money interests, meaning, it is money, not people/democracy that the entire political world serves!

    Wake up, then wake those around you up because only together, a united people, can challenge and break the hold that big money has over global politics. Palestine, aka a powerless, perennially set-upon people, is an existence that awaits us all if we continue to sleep walk our way through the world that big money is shaping around us.

    Wake up…let Palestine and the inconsistent way that we, let alone the entire world, treats their plight, relative to say China or Ukraine, be your guide.

    Wake up.

    • As all human beings are well aware, to the extent this is true, this is simply a product of the existence of the zionist entity.

      A certain puppet government sends more than a hundred million USD a year in ‘military aid’ to bribe the Egyptian military to suppress the will of the Egyptian people to support the Palestinians against the zionist murderers.

      Millions of Iraqis were murdered because they refuse to pretend the zionist entity is a civilized nation.

      Libya has open air slave markets because its previous leader supported the Palestinian people and built an independent nation, so NATO destroyed it.

      Meanwhile, your zionist bosses openly admit to providing arms and hospital care to ISIS and other terrorists fighting against the people of Syria.

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