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Wellington Palestine Group Raise Gaza With NZ MPs

Wellington Palestine Group Raise Gaza With NZ MPs

At the end of last week the Wellington Palestine Group sent the attached letter to all MPs. The letter raises concerns about the dire situation in Occupied Palestine, particularly in Gaza. The letter coincides with the start of so called "peace talks" in Anapolis, USA this week and with the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, which is observed by the United Nations each 29th November.

This day should serve as a reminder for New Zealand parliamentarians that still after sixty years the minimum rights of the indigenous majority in Palestine are nowhere near being realised. These rights are defined by the UN General Assembly as inalienable; namely the right to self-determination without external interference, the right to national independence and sovereignty and the right of Palestinians to return to their homes and property from which they had been displaced by Israel.

Jenny Hawes for Wellington Palestine Group

*****

Annapolis fiddles while Gaza burns


Later this month the United States is to hold yet another ‘Peace Summit’ on the Palestine Question.

There is no reason however to believe that the much anticipated meeting in Annapolis is going to bring peace any closer than previous meetings over the past decade and a half; at Camp David, Wye River, the White House, or any other location in the United States or Middle East.

No solution will work that begins with the premises that Israel can set what borders it wants, that Palestinians can’t act in self defence although Israelis may, and that international law and history are irrelevant.

It will be forty years next month since the United Nations’ Security Council passed UNSC 242, which instructed Israel to withdraw from territory it had conquered the previous June, including the Syrian Golan Heights. Israel has still not done so.

Even earlier, on November 29 1947, the General Assembly adopted resolution 181(II), which came to be known as the Partition Resolution. That resolution recommended the establishment over most of Palestine of a "Jewish State" for its recent European Jewish minority, and an "Arab State" over the rest, with Jerusalem as a corpus separatum under a special international regime. Of the two States to be created under this resolution, only one, Israel, has so far come into being, and well beyond its designated boundaries.

The International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People is observed by the United Nations each 29th November. This day should serve as a reminder for New Zealand parliamentarians that still after sixty years the minimum rights of the indigenous majority in Palestine are nowhere near being realised. These rights are defined by the UN General Assembly as inalienable; namely the right to self-determination without external interference, the right to national independence and sovereignty and the right of Palestinians to return to their homes and property from which they had been displaced by Israel. The Palestinian refugee population constitutes most Palestinians and is by far the largest refugee population in the world.

In direct negation of UN conditional recognition of Israeli statehood, Israel has ignored more than 60 UN Security Council resolutions since its formation. Nuclear armed Israel refuses to abide by international treaties, such as the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Despite this (and contrary to its own law of not providing aid to regimes that violate the norms of international law) the US has just announced a $30 billion military aid package for Israel.

Israel, virtually daily, assassinates Palestinian leaders, bombs or rockets civilian population areas and infrastructure, demolishes homes, confiscates land, destroys crops, steals water resources, sets up new checkpoints and blockades, and turns a blind eye to the violence of settlers against Palestinians.

Under the guise of security Israel is building a huge barrier through the Palestinian West Bank, designed to incorporate most of the illegal Israeli settlements and their confiscated land into Israel. The International Court of Justice concluded that Israel’s barrier was illegal and instructed Israel to immediately demolish it.

Israel has taken no notice. Instead, last month, it announced plans to alter the route of the barrier to take in even more of the West Bank. The ultimate route will bring 46 percent of the West Bank under full Israeli control.

In May the Israeli government announced plans to build 20,000 new settler units on the outskirts of occupied East Jerusalem. These units will add another 90,000 settlers to the 480,000 already illegally living in the Occupied Territories.

Neither the expansion of the land confiscations on the West Bank, nor the increase in settler numbers there, are expressions of an Israel that desires peace.

It is worse in Gaza. The Palestinians of Gaza are already imprisoned with their air and sea borders totally closed and their land borders usually closed. Israel now has termed Gaza an ‘enemy entity’ which makes two years of Israeli practice ‘legal’. Gaza becomes eligible to have its water and electricity cut off – albeit of course ‘humanely’. Israel bombed Gaza 's only power plant last summer. The World Food Programme lists it as a global hunger hotspot. Out of its 1.5 million residents, 1.1 million have to survive on food handouts, which Israel increasingly blocks from entry. The Israeli journalist, Amira Hass, describes Gazans as being imprisoned in "an enclosed space like battery hens".

UN Works and Relief Agency (UNWRA) has reported that some 200,000 Gazan children started the school year without the books they need. Israel deems books an offensive weapon in the hands of Palestinian children.
Gazans are meant to be protected by the Israeli state under the Fourth Geneva Convention. Last year, the then UN special rapporteur on Palestinian human rights, John Dugard castigated the international community for this, saying: "In effect, the Palestinian people have been subjected to economic sanctions - the first time an occupied people has been so treated.”

Even before Hamas was freely elected to power in 2006, Gaza had been brutalised. Since the start of the Second Intifada in 2000, the Israeli army has destroyed vast swathes of infrastructure including homes, schools, factories, glasshouses, and mosques. There is no Gazan economy left to smash. The Liberal Democrat MP Alistair Carmichael , who recently visited the Gaza Strip, likened Gaza to a "flattened moonscape".

Both Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu have drawn the parallel between apartheid South Africa and the policies of the Israeli government. So has South African cabinet minister Ronnie Kasrils who has said the situation is 100 times worse than it was in apartheid South Africa. The UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in the Palestinian territories, John Dugard, describes crimes against humanity, as he termed the occupation as characterised by elements of colonialism and apartheid.

New Zealand has experienced Israeli perfidy with the conviction of two Israeli Mossad agents here in 2004. New Zealand suspended relations with Israel until Israel issued a mock apology. More deserving of conviction was former Israeli Chief of Staff Moshe Ya’alon against whom an arrest warrant was issued last year by an Auckland District Court Judge on terrorism charges for his role in killing of civilians in Gaza.

Neither these actions in New Zealand nor the Israeli record against the Palestinians appears to have had any impact on New Zealand’s ongoing relationship with Israel. New Zealand reiterates what it describes as an even handed attitude to the conflict, but has given up calling on Israel to observe international law. Instead New Zealand now prefers to hand Israel its veto power over any solution that it does not like.

New Zealand should reiterate its support for the implementation of international law and United Nations’ resolutions, as it has in the past.

New Zealand also appears to be ready for Israel to reopen its embassy here after the visit of the new Canberra based ambassador Yuval Rotem last month. New Zealand should send a clear and public message that Israel will not reopen its embassy here until it makes substantial progress in implementing Palestinian rights.

In the meantime New Zealand should reimplement the political separation moves it took in 2004 and adopt the same position has we have in regards the regimes in Fiji and Zimbabwe – the support of an international boycott. For instance, New Zealand imports goods from the Occupied Palestinian and Syrian Territories, labelled ‘Product of Israel’. Such mislabelling is illegal, but our authorities have done nothing to investigate the extent of such imports, nor taken measures to prevent them in the future, nor prosecute importers.

Others are advocating such a strategy. UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food, Jean Ziegler, and British Member of Parliament Clare Short, have both said that human rights conditions in the European Union trade agreement should be invoked and Israel's trading preferences suspended.

In apartheid South Africa, international boycott efforts encouraged public awareness, applied pressure and stated disapproval for the government's racist policies. Israeli historian Ilan Pappe has said boycotts "will not change positions in a day, but they will send a clear message to the Israeli public that these positions are racist and unacceptable ... They would have to choose."

Yours sincerely

ENDS

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