McCully Receives Letter From Harmeet Sooden Seeking Assistance
Report – By The Scoop Team.
New Zealand's Minister of Foreign Affairs has received a letter from peace activist Harmeet Sooden requesting that he urge Israel’s Ambassador to New Zealand, His Excellency Mr Shemi Tzur, to guarantee that New Zealand citizens on board flotilla vessels, planned to take aid to Gaza, will not be harmed nor impeded by the Israel Defense Forces.
Harmeet Sooden. Image by Selwyn Manning.
Sooden plans to take part of a peace initiative late in June and be on board a flotilla vessel. He says the purpose of the flotilla is to set sail to break the illegal and inhumane siege of Gaza. FF2 aims to raise public awareness about Israel’s military occupation of Palestine by challenging Israel’s naval blockade of Gaza directly. For more, see: New Zealanders To Join Second Aid Flotilla To Gaza
Harmeet Sooden's letter was emailed to the Minister on Monday May 30 2011. To date, the Minister has not replied.
Sooden also requests that the Minister clarify New Zealand's foreign policy with respect to Israel's borders: “In view of United States President Barack Obama’s recent re-statement of the United States’ formal policy that Israel return to its pre-1967 borders, to inform Mr Tzur and the New Zealand public that this is New Zealand’s actual policy,” Harmeet Sooden wrote.
The full letter follows:
Harmeet Singh Sooden,
30 May 2011
Hon. Murray McCully
Minister of Foreign Affairs
Parliament Office Private Bag 18888
I am writing with regards to the participation of New Zealand citizens including myself in the international initiative, ‘Freedom Flotilla II’ (FF2), which is increasingly gaining public support in New Zealand.
In accordance with my role as an FF2 participant, I am aware of the personal risks involved in travelling to Gaza by sea. I am familiar with the New Zealand Government’s travel advisory covering this region, which advises that there is no New Zealand diplomatic presence in the Gaza Strip. Nevertheless, the Government has the responsibility, indeed the wherewithal, to assist us.
Therefore, it is with some urgency that I request the Government fulfil its perfunctory obligations, namely for you in your capacity as the Minister of Foreign Affairs:
1. To urge Israel’s Ambassador to New Zealand, His Excellency Mr Shemi Tzur, to guarantee that New Zealand citizens on board the flotilla vessels will not be harmed and their passage to Gaza will not be impeded by the Israel Defense Forces. You may recall that in 2008 while attempting to travel to the Occupied Palestinian Territory as a human rights defender, I was detained by the Israeli authorities and denied legal representation or access to consular officials, assaulted and removed from Israel. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) concluded that Israel had effectively breached the Vienna Convention on Consular Rights, yet MFAT, during your tenure, failed to take any remedial action.
2. To request that Mr Tzur and Israel respect in good faith the international call for the cessation of Israel’s hostilities against the Palestinian population.
3. In view of United States President Barack Obama’s recent re-statement of the United States’ formal policy that Israel return to its pre-1967 borders, to inform Mr Tzur and the New Zealand public that this is New Zealand’s actual policy.
4. In the interests of the security of New Zealand citizens aboard the flotilla vessels, to make a definitive statement to the New Zealand public and myself on the Government’s:
- a. Legal
opinion on Israel’s status as an ‘Occupying Power’ in
relation to the Occupied Palestinian
b. Assessment on the legality of the Israeli-Egyptian blockade of Gaza.
c. Assessment, whether
preliminary or final, on the legality of Israel’s raid on
the Gaza flotilla in 2010, which resulted in the deaths of
nine civilians, and
the raid’s aftermath.
d. Official position on a settlement to the Israel-Palestine conflict.
5. To become the first
nation-state to endorse the participation of its citizens in
the FF2 initiative.
I trust you will give the aforementioned requests due consideration and respond as soon as is practicable.
I thank you in advance for your cooperation in this matter. Yours sincerely,
Harmeet Singh Sooden, P.Eng.