Update: Official Statement from NZ at the United Nations (22 July, 2014) – Added to the MFAT page on 30 July, 2014.
Dear Mr. McCully
New Zealand is prepared to speak out against actions by any party that are likely to have contravened international law. These include rocket attacks by Hamas and/or other Palestinian militant groups against Israel. Equally, we have spoken out against actions by Israel, including the blockade of the Gaza Strip, and expansion of settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.
Ministry of Foreign Affairs
For the New Zealand government to speak out against blockades and the expansion of settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories but to have nothing to say about the bombing of civilians in those territories is strange. Strange that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has no comment or action of note to make on the deaths of over 1,000 people in Gaza as a direct result of the actions of the IDF undertaking the policies of the Israeli government. That it has nothing to say about the destruction of schools, mosques, homes and hospitals, or the many thousands of people injured, disfigured and maimed, or the permanent emotional harm all of this is wreaking on the minds of all those left behind with the memories of the ones they loved, and the things that they saw. The population of Gaza is young. Very young. And the Israelis continue to sow a terrible legacy with their bombs and their snipers in that troubled land they occupy and surround.
There is no possible justification for holding a civilian population under a siege of terror, and death. If you watch video from inside Gaza I think you will find it is different from how you might imagine it. Far, far more desolate and terrifying. At night there are flares in the dark over the city and the endless sound of drones overhead; a sound which must make the heart of everyone who hears them constrict. The only variation in this noise is the thunderclap of a bomb and then perhaps a car alarm going off. All night. Most nights. The people trapped in their rooms, huddled on the floor, cowering under their beds, must just sit and wait and pray. What do the parents tell their kids I wonder? What would I say? Where do you go? Watching some Palestinians go looking for the dead and the wounded in the rubble in the day time I see how devastated areas of Gaza are now: just collapsed buildings that have spewed their guts onto the streets, and a handful of volunteers in high visibility vests calling out for the wounded. Until one of them is shot by a sniper. The rest don’t know what to do. They are immobilized, frozen. The man who has been shot lies on his back and tries to get up but the sniper shoots him again. And then again. The man in the green top who was looking for his family. I suppose he is dead.
There is also no possible justification for firing rockets at Israel. Never mind that it is ineffective. It is also indiscriminate and reckless and if “successful” only brings tragedy not victory. There is in fact no justification for murder full stop, but the disproportionate number of deaths caused by the IDF makes Israel the more guilty. If, in the absurd calculations of guilt, we wanted to know how much more guilty then we could compare the ratio of deaths (never mind injuries and destruction of infrastructure and homes). On this scale alone the ratio of blame is 20:1.
In response to the unfolding horror in Gaza the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs of which you are the Minister has released two statements to the press. There have been three statements on the terrible crash of MH17. The first of the two press releases (9 July, 2014) states that “New Zealand is greatly concerned by the escalation of violence in Gaza and Israel…. We call for an immediate end to rocket attacks into Israel and for proportionate responses that do not further escalate the situation.” It is curious that the focus here is on the actions of Hamas although at this point in the conflict the IDF had killed 5+ Palestinians and arrested 350+ people for the murder of three Isreali teenagers by a group that is likely to have been rogue and not currently connected to Hamas. On the 15 July MFAT told us that New Zealand supported the UN call for a ceasefire, and that “civilian deaths are unacceptable”. This was the last statement from MFAT on the matter. In the intervening 15 days the death toll has risen over 1,000.
Sometimes New Zealand can express itself more strongly in its press releases. On the 19 July, for example, New Zealand had this to say about MH17: “New Zealand’s statement to the Security Council overnight expressed outrage at the mounting evidence that this tragedy resulted from a surface to air missile strike.” Outrage I think is the correct word for what probably happened to flight MH17. It is a word that is missing from our press releases about Gaza and Israel.
I am not, of course, calling for you to align our government with Hamas, or join in the idiocy of anti-Semitic nonsense. Anyone who has spent time reading about Hamas must question their actions even if they can understand where the rage and hatred of some of their members comes from. There should be no recourse to violence in seeking a just peace, although it would be wise for all parties to remember that line of John Kennedy’s: “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible make violent revolution inevitable”.
The language of the MFAT statement on the need for a two-party-state solution is correct, but I believe that the silence of our government on the massive destruction being rained down on Gaza right now is a disgrace. If we as world citizens are genuinely interested in a peaceful resolution to this conflict then we must surely acknowledge that what is happening now is making that increasingly unlikely day by day. I call on you as the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. McCully, to register New Zealand’s outrage at the actions of the IDF in Gaza and the current policies of Netanyahu. In the interests of a peaceful resolution I also call on you to speak with Yosef Livne, Israel’s ambassador to New Zealand, and to personally express New Zealand’s anger at these policies which are so counter-productive to a just and lasting peace.
If you are concerned about the current actions of the IDF in Gaza and the weakness of the New Zealand government’s response then feel free to send this letter – adapted as you see fit – directly to Murray McCulley. I also recommend donating money to UNICEF.