Brownlee’s betrayal

16 Jun

Rod Emmerson cartoon, NZ Herald

Opinion: Leslie Bravery, NZ Palestine Human Rights Campaign, 16 June 2017

Brownlee’s betrayal

Last Tuesday, 13 June 2017, The Jerusalem Post (JP) celebrated New Zealand Prime Minister Bill English’s expression of regret over what he called the damage done to relations with Israel as a result of this country’s sponsoring of UNSC Resolution 2334. The newspaper reported that, “following discreet diplomatic contacts, Netanyahu and New Zealand’s Prime Minister Bill English spoke by phone a few days ago.” According to the JP, Wellington had been informed that,Israel has decided to end what it called ‘the crisis’ and send Ambassador Itzhak Gerberg back to the country.” Israel had, apparently, been appeased by what the JP reported as “efforts to restore ties between the two countries started in earnest last month, when New Zealand’s new Foreign Minister Gerry Brownlee wrote a letter to Netanyahu on the occasion of Independence Day trying to smooth over the difficulties.” Brownlee explained that, “Our goal is to get the relationship between New Zealand and Israel back on track,” and expressed the hope that “this will provide a positive platform to re-establish communication between officials from our respective foreign affairs ministries.”

In December last year, the New Zealand Herald had reported Israeli PM Netanyahu’s fury over UNSC 2334 when he threatened: “If you continue to promote this resolution from our point of view it will be a declaration of war. It will rupture the relations and there will be consequences.” But that was during the last days of Obama’s Presidency and Murray McCully was our Foreign Affairs Minister. Obama had little time for Netanyahu and, at the end of his term, felt he could afford to ease up a little on America’s pandering to the Zionist state. The US refrained from using its veto, UNSC 2334 was adopted and international law somewhat upheld. Today, the Trump Administration has returned the US to its habitual, unconditional support for the Zionist enterprise. It should be no surprise that New Zealand has to trim its sail accordingly. From Israel’s perspective, Gerry Brownlee’s appointment and the departure of Murray McCully are timely in the extreme. This course of events must raise the question of just how independent New Zealand’s foreign policy really is. According to the JP, “Jerusalem believed that McCully was the driving force behind the move, and it was widely expected that relations with Wellington would improve once he left office. Brownlee took over from him on 2 May.”

UNSCR 2334 was adopted because, as McCully had explained, “continuing settlement growth at anything like the current rate will render the two state solution a purely academic concept. There will be nothing left to negotiate.” On 14 June, in an interview onRadio New Zealand’s Morning Report, Brownlee was asked about New Zealand’s view on the legality of Israel’s Jewish-only settlements on Palestinian land. Our Foreign Affairs Minister refused to be drawn, simply replying: “What we’ve said is that the settlement issue is one that the parties that are in dispute need to sort out among themselves. And we will do what we can to assist in that process. But in the end, it’s something for them to determine.” Of course, after 50 years of cruel, belligerent military Occupation, it should be obvious that the defenceless Palestinian people have simply been abandoned to the demands of the Occupying power.

Is Brownlee utterly ignorant of Benjamin Netanyahu’s avowed position? The Israeli PM, uncompromisingly, asserts that a Palestinian state would not be established on his watch and, speaking in the East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Har Homa, he promised to increase construction there, saying it was “a way of stopping Bethlehem from moving toward Jerusalem.” He was reported in the Times of Israel as saying: “I think that anyone who moves to establish a Palestinian state today, and evacuate areas, is giving radical Islam an area from which to attack the State of Israel.” So much for ‘negotiations’. They have only ever been a cover for the gradual realisation of the Zionist enterprise.

On 15 June, ACT Leader David Seymour published a Press Release, saying: “Israel has always been a friend of New Zealand, and for good reason. We share basic but vital values of democracy and individual freedom.” Has Seymour forgotten that Israel sent its Mossad agents to this country in an attempt to illegally obtain a New Zealand passport? The plot involved getting hold of a passport in the name of a tetraplegic man who had lost the ability to speak. The Act Press Release even asserted that New Zealand and Israel “share basic but vital values of democracy and individual freedom.”

We should ask David Seymour what other so-called democracy does he know of that uses soldiers to take prisoner terrified children and blindfold them before illegally removing them for interrogation! The methods used often amount to torture. What sort of democracy treats 20% of its citizens as second-class and steals its neighbours’ land and water resources? What other democracy has violated so many provisions of the Fourth Geneva Convention and been subject to so many UN Security Council and General Assembly resolutions condemning its behaviour?

We must tell Gerry Brownlee that, after 50 years of brutal intransigence, if Israel doesn’t feel comfortable with UNSC Resolution 2334, it knows what to do. There must be an end to impunity for Israel. Israel’s victims deserve the full support of the international community and if Security Council Resolutions are to really mean anything practical then they must be enforced with sanctions. The international grass-roots organisation Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) leads by example. We must never surrender to ideology the hard-won human rights enshrined in international law.

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