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Israel calls Palestinian villagers 'squatters'

Israel's Foreign Minister calls

Palestinian villagers 'squatters'

In a letter sent earlier this month to the EU Ambassador to Israel, Emanuele Giaufret, and to ambassadors from the United Kingdom, Sweden, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Poland, Spain and Italy, the Israeli Foreign Minister, Avigdor Liberman,described the population of the West Bank village of Khan al-Ahmar as “a small group of squatters”. Liberman's letter was a furious and irrational response to a warning from the European Union to Israel that destroying Khan al-Ahmar, located in the geopolitically sensitive corridor between Jerusalem and Jericho, would make it impossible for that area to become part of the permanent boundaries of a future Palestinian state.

War Crime

In an earlier Resolution, the EU determined that: “The demolition of Khan al-Ahmar and the forcible transfer of its residents wouldconstitute a grave breach of international humanitarian law.” The French Foreign Minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian, said on October 9 that his country was “paying particular attention to the case of Khan al-Ahmar, given its location in an area of strategic importance for the contiguity of a Palestinian state and for the viability of a two-state solution with Jerusalem as the capital.” The French Foreign Minister also warned of “the potential humanitarian as well as political consequences of the demolition of this village and the displacement of its inhabitants.” European Union foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, had formerly outlined, in a statement, that the “European Union and its Member States have repeatedly stated their long-standing position on Israel’s settlement policy, illegal under international law, and actions taken in that context, including the demolitions of Palestinian communities and possible forced transfers of population.”

Since 2 October, the villagers have been on high alert, awaiting the imminent arrival of Israeli Army bulldozers. A recent visit by German Chancellor Angela Merkel has, no doubt, helped to delay the ethnic cleansing but the world needs, urgently, to step up the pressure. The Israeli Foreign Minister's racist reference to the Khan Al-Ahmar villagers as “squatters” reveals the ideologically-driven contempt that drives Israel to impose its colonial settlements on Palestinian land outside Israel.

Where is New Zealand's voice in defence of Palestinian human rights? Winston Peters remains silent over Khan Al-Ahmar and has still not declared New Zealand's foreign policy with regard to the open questions sent to him on 22 September. Will our Prime Minister take up the question of Khan Al-Ahmar with our Foreign Affairs Minister and urgently express New Zealand's solidarity with the villagers of Khan Al-Ahmar and the statements made on the matter by the European Parliament? New Zealanders and the world community await answers that will end the silence.


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