How could the government have let this happen?

12 Jun

NZ First or Israel First? NZ Minister of Defence, Ron Mark with Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu in January.

By John Minto, Opinion Daily Blog, 10 June 2019 

How could the government have let this happen? Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Select Committee run by pro-Israeli extremists

Under Winston Peters (Minister of Foreign Affairs) and Ron Mark (Minister of Defence) government policy on the Middle East has taken a great stride to the right. It was always pro-Israeli and never pro-Palestinian but Peters and Mark have taken New Zealand further to the right and closer to the US position.

Select Committees are usually run by the government of the day who would normally have a majority on the committee. Not so Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade.

This Select Committee has four National MPs, three Labour MPs and one Green MP so there is no majority for the government but more surprisingly the Chair and Deputy Chair (Simon O’Connor and Tim Macindoe respectively) are both National Party MPs.

This mightn’t seem very important but becomes critical this Thursday when the committee will decide whether or not to conduct an inquiry into New Zealand government policy towards Palestine/Israel.

Details of their pro-Israeli extremism is at the end of this blog but first – where does our policy stand now?

Government policy towards the Middle East under Winston Peters and Ron Mark

Under Winston Peters (Minister of Foreign Affairs) and Ron Mark (Minister of Defence) government policy on the Middle East has taken a great stride to the right. It was always pro-Israeli and never pro-Palestinian but Peters and Mark have taken New Zealand further to the right and closer to the US position.

Earlier this year Ron Mark visited the Middle East and made a point of meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu. Did he raise issues of human rights for Palestinians? Did he ask why Israel continues stealing Palestinian land for Jewish-only settlements? Did he ask why Israeli snipers can murder unarmed Palestinian children with impunity? No to all the above.

Look at this video of their meeting:

This video posted on Youtube by Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu’s office on 27 January 2019 shows Netanyahu’s “warm welcome” for NZ Defence Minister Ron Mark. The NZ delegation included National MP and Associate Spokesperson for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Tim Macindoe.

It’s a grovelling sycophantic display by Ron Mark towards an avowed racist who openly proclaims “Israel is not a state for all its citizens”. (Instead it’s an apartheid state with full rights for people of Jewish descent but second-class citizenship for Palestinians with Israeli citizenship)

Ron Mark shows how thrilled he is to meet someone who gives the fingers to the United Nations, thumbs his nose at international law and continues daily murder and mayhem directed at Palestinians: cold-blooded killings, bulldozing homes and livelihoods and theft of land.

Ron Mark’s obsequious behaviour towards Netanyahu in our name is nauseating. (Standing on the other side of Netanyahu in the video is select committee deputy chair Tim Macindoe)

Did Ron Mark or Tim Macindoe meet with Palestinian leaders when they were in the Middle East? No again.

So what about Winston Peters? His position is summed up this letter to me:

I wrote this response:

Palestine Solidarity Network

31 May 2019

Winston Peters

Minister of Foreign Affairs

Parliament Buildings

Wellington

w.peters@ministers.govt.nz

Kia ora Mr Peters,

Renewed request to meet

Thank you for your letter of 24 May.

It is deeply disappointing to find the New Zealand government policy on the Middle East remains frozen in time 71 years after the Palestinian Nakba. It is a policy which adheres to US/Israel priorities but is unrelated to reality and is simply a recipe for the ongoing brutal oppression of Palestinians.

It leaves New Zealand on the wrong side of history. It is not acceptable.

The so-called “two-state solution” you espouse has been undermined by Israel to the point where it would be impossible to implement in any meaningful way. The land which could possibly have formed a Palestinian state has been stolen for Jewish-only settlements and the remaining fragments have been separated by Jewish-only roads. The two-state solution is dead.

Thank you for pointing out the government’s opposition to Israeli settlements but these are already illegal under international law and in defiance of United Nations resolutions.

It’s very difficult to take seriously your government being “deeply concerned about the significant numbers of civilian deaths and casualties in Gaza, particularly children and health workers” when the government has been silent when unarmed Palestinian children have been murdered by Israeli snipers – in plain sight – for daring to oppose the ruthless oppression they face every day.

In the context of Israel/Palestine it is offensive to ask Palestinians to exercise restraint. They are under military occupation. Would your government have asked the French resistance to exercise restraint in their fight against Nazi occupation of France in the 1940s?

We are all familiar with your much-repeated statement “while accepting Israel’s fundamental right to maintain its security, particularly in the face of provocation, any actions need to be proportionate.”

Why do Palestinians not have the same right to security?

The provocation you refer to is the firing of rockets into Israel from Gaza but you ignore the primary, massive provocation – the occupation of Palestinian land by a brutal, overwhelming military power which every day steals more Palestinian land, bulldozes Palestinian homes, murders Palestinian children and spreads the vilest of propaganda which attempts to erase Palestine and Palestinian existence.

Why does the government not demand the immense provocations of the Israeli military occupation of the West Bank and the siege of Gaza be ended?

Your final statement that the government is “committed to building a closer relationship with Israel and with the Palestinians” is surprising because the facts of New Zealand engagement in the Middle East tell a very different story. Your government has a strong, growing relationship with the state of Israel but no practical, meaningful relationship with the victims of its apartheid policies.

Your government has welcomed an Israeli embassy in Wellington; sent a New Zealand cabinet minister to meet the Israeli Prime Minister this year; supports a visa free scheme for young Israelis to travel to New Zealand; supports a film co-production agreement with Israel; supports an aviation agreement with Israel; supports increasing trade with Israel and shortly you intend to extend this by signing up to an innovation agreement with Israel.

You are rewarding Israeli’s most appalling behaviour – illegal under international law and in defiance of UN resolutions – with greater contact and enhanced international credibility. In effect New Zealand is helping shield Israel’s most egregious behaviour.

Alongside this you have a pretend policy of engagement with Palestinians. 

Just in the last week your government’s reported intention to purchase military equipment from Israel sums up the reality of your policy priorities much better than the “diplomatic speak” in your letter which tries to imply an even-handed approach.

These issues are too important for New Zealand to leave here. We repeat our request for you to meet with a delegation from the Palestine Solidarity Network as soon as possible to discuss a positive way forward for New Zealand in relation to the Middle East.

We look forward to a positive and timely response.

Na,

John Minto

For the Palestine Solidarity Network

Back to the Select Committee:

This Thursday the Select Committee will consider a request from the Palestine Solidarity Network for the committee to investigate the stride to the right in Middle East policy under Ron Mark and Winston Peters.

We are not holding our breath.

The Deputy Chair of the Committee, Tim Macindoe, was just as awestruck to meet Netanyahu as Ron Mark and that’s not surprising because Macindoe has aligned himself with the Israel Parliamentary Friendship Group (run by Alfred Ngaro). Like Ron Mark he made no attempt whatever, that we are aware of, to visit the occupied territories or Gaza or speak with any Palestinians in leadership positions anywhere. In his comments before, during and after his visit there isn’t a single mention of the word Palestine or Palestinians despite these being at the heart of what many consider to be the most serious international conflict of our time. Instead Macindoe has only weasily comments about Netanyahu and Israel. It seems Palestinians do not exist in Tim Macindoe’s world.

Committee chair Simon O’Connor is just as bad. O’Connor has gone out of his way to meet the Israeli ambassador to New Zealand but has made no attempt to meet any Palestinian leaders. After his meeting with the ambassador he said on Facebook:

“Pleased to welcome and chat with HE Dr. Gerberg – Israel’s Ambassador to New Zealand. A lot in common to discuss including our countries respective interest in research and development, as well as recent developments in the Middle East. Of course, it was also a chance to acknowledge Israel’s 70th anniversary of independence.”

O’Connor has lots to say about Hamas terrorists firing rockets into Israel and says:

“There should be one attitude towards terrorism, it is unacceptable, regardless of who perpetrates it or who suffers from it.”

Fair enough. But O’Connor is silent – absolutely silent, not even a whisper – about Israel’s reign of terror through its brutal military occupation and murder of Palestinians.

Not surprisingly O’Connor is praised by local Zionists as “one of the few National MPs who expressed disappointment at the time Resolution 2334 (condemning Israeli settlements on stolen Palestinian land) was passed.”

Elsewhere O’Connor says:

I wish to convey my condolences about the very sad news of an attack on a Jewish synagogue during a Passover celebration in San Diego on 27 April. Attacks on places of worship are increasing and must be condemned in the strongest possible terms. My thoughts are very much with the families affected, both in America but also with our Jewish community here in New Zealand.”

But no word of criticism about the frequent Jewish attacks on Palestinian mosques throughout the occupied territories.

This is the man overseeing New Zealand government policy on Palestine/Israel.

O’Connor sees and condemns the micro-terrorism of those firing rockets into Israel but is an apologist for racism, oppression and brutality when Israel is the perpetrator.

There is a lot of work to be done to wrest control of New Zealand foreign policy from this small cabal of far-right extremists.

 

John Minto, is a veteran human rights activist, commentator and spokesperson for NZ Palestine Solidarity Network. See his earlier 5 June statement here: https://kiaoragaza.wordpress.com/2019/06/07/psn-calls-for-investigation-into-nz-govt-policy-on-palestine-israel/ and his open letter to Winston Peters on 13 May 2019: https://kiaoragaza.wordpress.com/2019/05/13/open-letter-to-winston-peters/

3 Responses to “How could the government have let this happen?”

  1. Hallie Appel June 12, 2019 at 11:44 am #

    Good response to a deeply troubling move by NZ government on Israeli-Palestine policy.

  2. Leslie Bravery June 12, 2019 at 12:22 pm #

    This really valuable and informative article says it all, John. Since the end of the Second World War, respect for hard-won international law provisions in defence of human rights has never been under greater threat. The reminder concerning the French Resistance, in your letter to Winston Peters is most timely.
    Leslie and Marian Bravery

  3. jag37777 June 12, 2019 at 4:18 pm #

    Mark is a disgraceful little warmonger. Arderne is a fake progressive.

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