As the Women’s Boat to Gaza was heading to challenge Israel’s illegal blockade of Gaza recently, the Palestine Human Rights Campaign and Kia Ora Gaza wrote to Foreign Minister Murray McCully (above) asking him to demand that Israel allows to boat safe passage to its destination. McCully eventually replied a few days ago, long after Israeli navy illegally hijacked the boat in international waters, then detained and deported all the women on board. Here is Leslie Bravery’s (PHRC) response:
By Leslie Bravery, 18 October 2016
Dear Mr McCully,
Thank you for your reply of 16 October to our emails concerning the Women’s Boat to Gaza.
You say in your response that:
“New Zealand pursues a balanced and constructive approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. New Zealand supports a negotiated two-state solution, with Israel and a Palestinian state existing side by side, in peace and security.”
While Israel continues to blockade Gaza and rule the West Bank and East Jerusalem with implacable brutality, New Zealand insists that the Palestinians must negotiate directly with the Zionist regime, as if they were equal parties. Palestine is seeking full UN membership but, as you must know, in the absence of an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement the US would almost certainly veto a resolution calling for full UN membership for Palestine. Israel, therefore, plainly has every incentive to avoid signing any so-called peace agreement. Human rights are non-negotiable and the call for talks evades the principle that violations of international law must never be circumvented or given validity. On 29 November 2015, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu declared that there are no plans to deliver any land from West Bank Area C to Palestinians. In a meeting for Likud Ministers, he stressed that there will be no transfer of land to the Palestinian Authority, “not 40 thousand dunams, not 10 thousand, not one metre.” What dort of basis for negotiation is that? According to the Times of Israel, the President of the Zionist Federation of Australia, Danny Lamm, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency: “The New Zealand Foreign Minister is unfortunately misguided and in his attempt to promote peace has [passed off] blame on Israel when in fact there is no peace for one reason only: Israel’s enemies don’t want peace.” The urgent need for peace, human rights and international law all require that Israel immediately begin the process of ending its belligerent military Occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem, as well as the blockade of Gaza.
- “New Zealand’s approach to security, and particularly maritime security, is anchored in strong support for international laws of the sea.”
- “A rules based system is particularly important for ensuring continued freedom of navigation and collective maritime security.”
It is time to live up to these claims. The New Zealand Government must know that Israel does not have a very good record in regard to international maritime law. For example, in 1967 Israeli forces deliberately attacked a vessel they knew to be the American intelligence-gatheringship USS Liberty. At that time, Israel had been about to invade the Golan Heights but postponed the manoeuvre for 24 hours until it had disabled the US Navy vessel. The attack on USS Liberty killed 34 crew members, wounded 171 and severely damaged the vessel. The attack took place in international waters and involved Israeli Air Force jet fighter aircraft and Israeli Navy motor torpedo boats. The US Government went to enormous lengths to cover up the true enormity of the attack and the crew felt betrayed. An on line video is available that includes the real-time conversations between Israeli Air Force pilots and their controllers.
Rescue efforts the day after the Israeli attack on the USS Liberty in 1967
That attack on USS Liberty illustrates most clearly that Israel has scant regard for international law but the New Zealand Government has chosen to side with Israel and support Israeli Navy hijacking over the rights to lawful passage in international waters. Mr McCully, you end your email with the following observation: “All New Zealanders are subject to local immigration laws and regulations overseas and being a New Zealand citizen does not lead to any special treatment. The New Zealand Government cannot intervene in the judicial processes of another country.”
What possible relevance can Israel’s judicial processes have regarding the right to free passage in international waters and the Palestinian people’s right to welcome friendly visitors? Israel does not own international waters and the Gaza Strip is not in Israel.
The UN Security Council has stood passively by and allowed Israel to turn the Gaza Strip into the largest concentration camp in history while subjecting the people of the West Bank and East Jerusalem to brutal military oppression. The Palestinian people are in desperate need and they look to us and the rest of the world to bring Israel to account. By choosing to condone and support the armed hijacking of the peaceful Women’s Boat to Gaza in international waters, the New Zealand Government has shamed our country, betrayed humanity and sadly undermined the principles of international law.
Palestine Human Rights Campaign Aotearoa/New Zealand www.palestine.org.nz