NZ Just Threatened The Houthis.
New Zealand has just dipped its quill into the blood of a dead Palestinian child and signed our name to a letter threatening death and destruction to the Houthis of Yemen. No kidding. New Zealand is threatening war on Yemen. See below for an extract of the letter sent on January 3.
Ansar Allah - commonly referred to as the Houthis – in solidarity with the people of Palestine – has been attacking ships in the Red Sea to disrupt trade with Israel. It’s a courageous act of solidarity, a high-risk act of resistance to pressure the West to end the blockade of water, fuel, food and medicine to Gaza and stop the slaughter of innocents by the US-armed Israelis. The people of Yemen have themselves endured a pitiless siege and know the price Western powers and Arab oligarchs could inflict on them. In their hundreds of thousands they have rallied to show they are on the side of the oppressed, not the oppressors.
Prime Minister Chris Luxon has experience with Yemen. Under his leadership Air New Zealand was a minor enabler of the murder of 400,000 people in Yemen. As always, we were there as a bit player. Air New Zealand’s subsidiary Gas Turbines had a contract to service Saudi navy ships - ships that were enforcing a naval blockade of Yemen to try to impose a Saudi-compliant regime on the country. They failed, but not before British bombs, American warplanes and billions of dollars of Saudi money was poured into this crime against humanity. The blockade triggered what for years was the greatest humanitarian crisis on the planet. Those Saudi navy ships we serviced helped ensure that food and medicine was denied to millions - a quarter of a million people died from starvation and lack of health care, and another 150,000 died through bombings and fighting. I wouldn’t want that on my CV.
Pretty much nobody in the West gave a hoot that hundreds of thousands died in the siege and millions endured starvation. Contrast that to the explosion of anger and empathy across the Western world after the October 7 Hamas attack. The civilians killed are victims too, but the unavoidable truth is that the lives of 400,000 dark, Muslim people were unworthy of the same kind of solidarity. I think Gaza has been a wake-up, an enlightening, a seizing of consciousness for many millions of people in New Zealand and throughout the West. The mental landscape is changing. We not only can’t look away this time; we are seeing things through different eyes.
When the distasteful Air New Zealand saga was finally revealed in 2021, Air New Zealand's chief executive was forced to apologise, not to the Yemeni people, but to the New Zealand government.
Admittedly New Zealand was little more than shit on the boot of the stormtroopers who committed these atrocities – but now former Air NZ CEO Christopher Luxon is back for more.
On January 3, the White House issued a letter, co-signed by a broederbond of largely white-dominated nations, including Australia, the UK and New Zealand, that threatens the Houthis:
“Let our message now be clear: we call for the immediate end of these illegal attacks and release of unlawfully detained vessels and crews. The Houthis will bear the responsibility of the consequences should they continue to threaten lives, the global economy, and free flow of commerce in the region’s critical waterways. We remain committed to the international rules-based order and are determined to hold malign actors accountable for unlawful seizures and attacks.”
The letter is a compendium of hypocrisies - full of phrases that should be mirrored back to the West: “attacks … are illegal, unacceptable, and profoundly destabilizing”, “There is no lawful justification for intentionally targeting civilians”, “These attacks threaten innocent lives”, “We are … determined to hold malign actors accountable”.
Another gem: “We remain committed to the international rules-based order.” Seriously? This from the people who are funding and fuelling genocide in Gaza? This from the people who brought death to millions in Afghanistan, Iraq,Palestine, Vietnam, Cambodia, Syria, Yemen, Central America, etc, etc)?
After Gaza, nobody can give this Goebbelesque double-speak more than a groan.
New Zealand should have no part in this sabre-rattling by an imperial power that has wreaked havoc across the planet for far too long. New Zealand should be on the side of the victims of this onslaught.
There is another reason we should not be signing letters of this kind - even if Uncle Sam is pressing our head to the concrete to force us to. The risk of the US and Israel pushing the region into a wider, even more devastating war is high. The assassination of Hamas deputy leader Saleh al-Arouri in Beirut this week, almost certainly carried out by Israel, is an attack on a sovereign nation, Lebanon, and a provocation. The US bombing of an Iraqi military base last week in revenge for a militant attack is a typical flouting of “the international rules-based order”.
In the past week the Americans and Israelis have killed people in Gaza, West Bank, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, and Yemen. What international law gives them the right to wander the globe bringing death and destruction? And New Zealand does not have the right to be part of a settler-colonial project that seeks to exterminate Palestinian nationhood – or to pick a fight with the people of Yemen.
Tectonic shifts are happening in the Middle East - Saudi Arabia and Iran reestablishing relationships offers a chance for peace. Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Iran and Ethiopia are all joining BRICS. The axis of mutual support formed by Ansar Allah, Hezbollah, Hamas and Iran means that the genocidal intentions of Israel and America could yet be checked.
It’s high-time we politely back away from the failing global hegemon.
It’s high-time we conduct ourselves as a decent nation in command of its own moral compass.
It’s high-time we were part of a powerful international non-aligned movement.
History will condemn all those who assisted in the attack on Palestine. We should do everything in our power to support an immediate ceasefire, enduring peace, the creation of a Palestinian state, and the prosecution for war crimes by all parties, especially the military and political leaders of the US and Israel. I’d put my signature to that any day – but I most certainly wouldn’t to threaten the Houthis.
Eugene is a community organiser who lives on Wellington’s South Coast. He received an Absolutely Positively Wellingtonian award in 2023 for community service to coastal communities, environmental action, water quality, emergency resilience and other causes. His politics does not closely align with any group named in this article.