by Leslie Bravery, Aotearoa Independent Media Centre, 1 July 2015
New Zealand now has a voice at the UN Security Council, and that is a grave responsibility, yet John Key’s responses to Kennedy Graham are shameful and desperately sad.
A senior columnist and political analyst for Israeli newspapers, Ben Caspit, who also has regular TV shows on politics and Israel, noted in an article for al-Monitor that Israel’s hijacking of the Gaza flotilla ship the Marianne “barely made the news or garnered any real attention.” Caspit went on to gloat that “. . . what is happening in Gaza is apparently no longer of interest to the international media . . .” The columnist also expressed satisfaction that Israel had been able, with scarcely any adverse comment, to send “fighters from the navy’s special forces unit Shayetet 13” to board the Marianne and seize control in order to tow it to the port of Ashdod. As Caspit said in the article, “In the new Middle East, Israel finds that it has much more room to manoeuvre . . .” It’s called impunity of course – for which the news media must bear their share of the responsibility.
Māori Television crew aboard hijacked vessel
In New Zealand, even the fact that a Māori Television crew was aboard the Freedom Flotilla boat when it was hijacked by the Israeli Navy was of little note, either to the news media or to Foreign Affairs Minister, Murray McCully.
The Israeli blockade of Gaza has been in force since 2007. Israel uses the captive population as guinea pigs in the development of weapons of war and population control. Gaza is used to develop bombardment and terror techniques, as well as advanced chemical weapons use. In 2013, a documentary called The Lab turned the spotlight on Israel’s arms industry. It showed how captive Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza are being subjected to military experiments that not only keep them subjugated but also enrich Israeli arms dealers, entrepreneurs and former generals. Israel is ranked as one of the world’s largest arms exporters, which is hardly surprising, given the country’s militaristic founding ideology and massive US tax-payer contributions to the Israeli military. Benjamin Ben-Eliezer, a former Israeli defence minister, attributes Israel’s burgeoning arms sales to the fact that “people like to buy things that have been tested.” Techniques for the crippling of socio-economic activities, such as agriculture, fisheries, power production and distribution etc., upon which a population’s well-being depend, are developed with the objective of profitably furthering the Zionist enterprise. In an interview on Maori TV, Palestine Human Rights Campaign (PHRC) spokesperson, Janfrie Wakim, commented, “This is an outrage. This is a humanitarian crisis and the world is turning a blind eye.”
The Marianne was in international waters (approximately 100 nautical miles off shore) at the time of the hijacking. The captive vessel was carrying a consignment of solar panels for a people whose electricity supply has been destroyed by Israel. But the news media dutifully reported Israel’s monstrous claim that the flotilla carried no humanitarian aid. According to international law, Israel’s territorial waters should extend just 12 nautical miles from shore, as laid down in the 1984 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, which directs that: “Every State has the right to establish the breadth of its territorial sea up to a limit not exceeding 12 nautical miles, measured from baselines determined in accordance with this Convention.” They certainly do not extend as far as 100 nautical miles.
The Israeli Navy ordered the Marianne to change course a number of times and relayed a message that: “There is no blockade on the Gaza Strip, and you are invited to transfer humanitarian supplies through Israel.” That, in itself, is an admission by Israel that there is a blockade and also that the ship was indeed carrying humanitarian aid. The civilised course of action would have been not to interfere with a vessel in international waters and to allow it to pass unmolested to the Port of Gaza. Forcing the Marianne to be towed to Israel was an additional outrage.
News media complicity
Imagine the news media headlines and condemnation if, for instance, Hamas had hijacked a vessel on the high seas! The UN Convention on the Law of the Sea makes “piracy a universal crime and subjects pirates to arrest and prosecution by any nation.” Unsurprisingly, Israel has not signed the Convention and, considering the Zionist state’s past and present conduct, the reasons are obvious:
Part 7 of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea:
Article 89: No State may validly purport to subject any part of the high seas to its sovereignty.
Article 90: Every State, whether coastal or land-locked, has the right to sail ships flying its flag on the high seas.
Article 100: All States shall co-operate to the fullest possible extent in the repression of piracy on the high seas or in any other place outside the jurisdiction of any State.
But sadly, as Ben Caspit noted, Israel’s hijacking of the Gaza flotilla ship the Marianne “barely made the news or garnered any real attention.” The New Zealand Government likewise remains disinterested. On Tuesday, 30 June, in the New Zealand Parliament, the Green Party MP Kennedy Graham questioned the Prime Minister, John Key:
Dr Kennedy Graham: Given that the Prime Minister has said he wants New Zealand to champion peace between Israel and Palestine, will he condemn the Israeli boarding of the Freedom Flotilla yesterday, with two New Zealanders on board?
Rt Hon John Key: No, but I will encourage both Israel and Palestine to continue to try to find a peaceful resolution to the problems in Gaza.
The New Zealand Prime Minister contributes to Israel’s impunity by maintaining the pretence that the brutal Israeli Occupation and blockade of native Palestinian territory is nothing more than a dispute between two equal parties. Asked in Parliament to condemn Israel’s excessive use of force in Gaza, with its use of “huge firepower of 6,000 airstrikes and 50,000 artillery shells”, as reported by the UN, John Key lamely replied: “I do not think that it would be terribly conducive to the good relationship that New Zealand enjoys with Israel and Palestine to start throwing stones on either side in particular.”
New Zealand now has a voice at the UN Security Council, and that is a grave responsibility, yet John Key’s responses to Kennedy Graham are shameful and desperately sad. Nothing in the world is more destabilising than Israel’s selfish, ideologically-driven repression and exploitation of the Palestinian people. Key’s evasive attitude bodes ill for hopes of Middle East peace because it not only reinforces Israel’s impunity but also, by default, renders this country complicit in Israel’s war crimes.
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