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Open Letter to McCully Re Palestinian Human Rights

Open Letter to McCully Re Palestinian Human Rights

Dear Mr McCully,

Thank you for your reply to my emails of 25 June, 26 July and 25 August 2010. In your reply you express concern over continuing reports of violence against Palestinians at checkpoints and the forced removal of people from their homes.

With regard to the imprisonment of Abdallah Abu Rahmah for organising weekly demonstrations against Israel's annexation Wall in the West Bank, you comment that “Israel's reaction appears to have been disproportionate” but preface that by saying “there are reports of violence on both sides in the protests in Bil'in . . .” Your letter acknowledges that Israel practices violence against Palestinians at checkpoints and forcibly removes people from their homes and so the question must be asked: what does “violence on both sides” mean in the context of belligerent foreign military occupation? Is it that in Bil'in some individuals, among an otherwise defenceless population, may resort to throwing stones at the armoured vehicles and troops of the occupying power? People who read the “violence on both sides” comment will judge for themselves how appropriate it is and may wonder also about the thinking that lies behind it. Your letter refers to Israel's “disproportionate” violence in Bil'in as a “reaction”. Would it not be more accurate to describe Palestinian protest as a reaction to foreign occupation?

Abu Rahmah was scheduled to be released on November 25, but an Israeli military court has extended his sentence. Former US President Jimmy Carter and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, members of a group of world leaders called The Elders, have released a statement this week condemning Abu Rahmah's continued imprisonment. They say: "Israeli military prosecutors want to extend Abdallah Abu Rahmah's sentence as a deterrent to others who may follow his example.” Jimmy Carter said in a statement: “The Elders believe that his example of non-violent resistance against the occupation is a model that others should follow.” Archbishop Desmond Tutu, a Nobel Peace Prize winner and former South African archbishop, said Abu Rahmah should never have been convicted and called for his “immediate and unconditional release.” Does the New Zealand Government agree with these statements?

Your letter refers to the reaching of “a just and sustainable agreement with the Palestinians” and admits that “Israel's settlement building is unhelpful” for what is described as “the peace process.” But while you say that the New Zealand Government does not agree with Israel's “natural growth” argument and calls for a freeze on all settlement building in the occupied territories, it fails either to demand the removal of all illegal settlements or to acknowledge that all the settlements are illegal. The transfer of a nation's population to a foreign territory that it militarily occupies is a war crime and our failure to require Israel to abide by international law is a betrayal of the victims.

Yours sincerely,

Leslie Bravery

For Palestine Human Rights Campaign - Aotearoa/New Zealand

9 December 2010

***********

Mr McCully's letter in full:

Office of Hon Murray McCully

Minister of Foreign Affairs

12 DEC 2010

Leslie Bravery

Palestine Human Rights Campaign Aotearoa New Zealand

Dear Ms Bravery

Thank you for your emails of 25 June and 25 August regarding the trial by an Israeli Court of Mr Abdullah Abu Rahmah, a Palestinian West Bank resident for organising weekly demonstrations against the Israeli barrier in the West Bank. I also refer to your email of 26 July regarding a violent incident at a checkpoint in Bethlehem.

While there are reports of violence on both sides in the protests in Bil'in Israel's reaction appears to have been disproportionate. In this context Mr Abu Rahmah's arrest and conviction are concerning, as are continuing reports of violence against Palestinians at checkpoints and forced removal of people from their homes. New Zealand has always maintained that Israel's settlement building is unhelpful for the peace process, and that this makes reaching a just and sustainable agreement with the Palestinians more difficult as more land in the occupied Palestinian territories is taken for settlement blocks. We have been clear in our discussions with Israel that we do not agree with its “natural growth” argument used to support settlement building, and have called on Israel to freeze all settlement building in the occupied territories.

Yours sincerely,

Hon Murray McCully

Minister of Foreign Affairs

***********

ENDS

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