by Leslie Bravery
Monday, June 25th, 2012
In his 22 June 2012 speech to the Otago Foreign Policy School, The Middle East unfolding: dreams and dramas in the early 21st century, New Zealand’s Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully spoke about what the New Zealand government sees as the strategic and economic significance of the Middle East to New Zealand.
Early in his speech McCully said, “Sadly, we are reminded by our television screens most evenings that the Middle East remains the world’s major source of potential and actual conflict. We now have, in effect, a civil war in Syria. The Assad regime is treating its own civilian population with almost unbelievable brutality. In doing so it is thumbing its nose at the international community.” Just who is thumbing their nose at the international community we shall examine below but the reference to “our television screens” and “most evenings” draws attention to the role of the corporate news media in promoting US, NATO and Israeli plans for the Middle East. A Jerusalem Post (http://www.ekurd.net/mismas/articles/misc2012/5/syriakurd499.htm) article of 16 May 2012 entitled: ‘Veteran Kurdish politician calls on Israel to support the break-up of Syria’ cites the objective of the US-sponsored armed insurgency, with the help of Israel, to “Break Syria into Pieces”.
The power political manoeuvrings over Syria are being falsely promoted by the news media as a concern for human rights. The role of the US-NATO-Israel military alliance in triggering an armed insurrection is not mentioned and neither is the role of CIA-MI6-Mossad covert intelligence operations and acts of terrorism. The US State Department’s involvement is on record (US admits funding Syrian opposition – World – CBC News 18 April 2011
http://www.cbc.ca/news/world/story/2011/04/18/syria-united-states-backing-wikileaks.html). No wonder the five permanent members of the Security Council are divided. The division reminds us that people have not forgotten the lies and deceit that were used to justify the criminal war of regime change in Iraq. That war destroyed the country’s infrastructure and economy. It has also cost countless lives and sown a deadly cancer-inducing legacy of white-phosphorus and depleted uranium. Whatever else such wars are about, the welfare of ordinary people is not one of them and television screens are certainly no way to decipher the truth behind the propaganda.
Israel and Palestine
In a statement of the blindingly obvious, New Zealand’s Foreign Affairs Minister observed, “Tragically, the Middle East is no stranger to conflict.” He went on to say, ”One of the world’s most enduring, complex and dangerous conflicts is between Israel and the Palestinians. The basic elements of this conflict are well known.” Well known? Not if the news media and politicians like McCully have anything to do with it. The Zionist ideology that drives Israel to thumb its nose at international law and the world community is never mentioned. One example of nose-thumbing is Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s boast to US President Obama regarding Israel’s illegal settlements that “we’re here to stay”. Another affront to the international community is the Israeli assertion that Jerusalem is the “eternal and undivided capital of Israel”.
McCully’s speech continued, “For too long, the Palestinian issue has been the fuse that threatens to ignite wider conflict in the Middle East. Festering differences that find their origins in this conflict have done much to inspire extremist attitudes affecting the wider region and beyond.” The first of these sentences is revealing. McCully does not say “the Israeli issue” or even the “Israel/Palestine” issue. He chooses to say “the Palestinian issue”. It is a matter of historical fact that before the Zionist project and the unilateral founding of the Israeli State there was no “Palestinian issue”. Palestine was simply Palestine, a part of the Ottoman Empire and later ruled under the British Mandate. The ‘issue’ plainly began with Israel and the interests of the imperial European powers. But Western propaganda implies blame upon the Palestinian people for the consequences of foreign-sponsored colonisation of their land. The reference to “festering differences” and “extremist attitudes” ignores the extremism of Zionist ideology which is amply recorded in the statements and actions of Israel’s leaders.
Not forgetting the dissembling that preceded the invasion of Iraq and following his “Palestinian issue” remarks, McCully went on to accuse Iran of threatening destabilisation in the Middle East through what he called “the Iranian nuclear programme”. Once again the speech revealed the Foreign Affairs Minister’s main concerns when he went on to say “the Israelis see the question of Iran as inextricably linked to Palestine.” For McCully, Israel’s interests are paramount and the blame placed upon the Palestinians is now linked to Iran. For good measure he added, “At the end of the day, to Israel, both are about security.” Not once in the speech did he mention the Palestinian people’s need for security. In McCully’s Middle East fantasy Iran, which has signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and which co-operates with IAEA over its nuclear weapons programme, must suffer sanctions while Israel, the state that introduced modern terrorism and nuclear weapons to the Middle East, is treated favourably. The Zionist state refuses to sign the NPT and will not co-operate with the IAEA. Yet, for McCully, it is Iran that remains the threat and Israeli intransigence is excused on the grounds of ‘security’. Security, that is, only for Israel to pursue its objectives with impunity.
While the New Zealand Government will not consider sanctions as a non-violent way to help persuade Israel to respect the provisions of the Fourth Geneva Convention, the speech reveals a willingness to use sanctions against Iran, astonishingly, as a means of “arriving at a sensible and durable settlement in relation to Palestine”. Indeed, McCully said in the speech that, “I am intent on promoting legislation similar to that enacted in Australia last year to provide the capacity to impose autonomous sanctions.” Bearing in mind that, regarding the “conflict in the Middle East”, McCully declared his belief that “we can make a difference”, what better demonstration of independence and leadership could New Zealand show than to autonomously impose sanctions upon Israel? Instead, Iran, which does not occupy its neighbours’ territories, must suffer sanctions but Israel, which occupies and exploits neighbouring lands, must be allowed to do so with impunity. Israel is of course armed and equipped by the US in order to be able to maintain its regional hegemony.
In his speech, McCully made much of New Zealand’s part in the removal of land mines from nearly 400 square kilometres of unusable land in the West Bank. Israel laid more than 1.5 million mines in the 1950s and 1960s, contaminating a combined area of 200 square kilometres in the Golan Heights, in the Arava Valley and along the Jordan River. This includes more than 300,000 that render 20 sq. km. of agricultural and residential land in the West Bank unusable. Unexploded Israeli ordnance causes further problems. http://maic.jmu.edu/journal/15.3/notes/or/or.htm
Another type of mine
In a 3 January 2012 report Israel’s Supreme Court ruled that Israel’s mining companies may exploit the occupied West Bank’s natural resources for economic gain. http://www.minesandcommunities.org/article.php?a=11410 The Supreme Court ruling is in favour of activity that is illegal under international law. In 2004, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) declared Israel’s occupation of the West Bank territories illegal under international law.
The daily toll
Just this month alone, to 8am, 21 June, Israel carried out at least (figures for one of the days are unavailable) 141 night-time home invasions in the West Bank. In the same period, ten Palestinians died at the hands of Israeli Occupation forces and settlers, one of them a 14-year-old boy. This month Israeli forces and settlers committed 88 acts of agricultural/economic sabotage, including setting fire to olive trees and the destruction of 20 tons of wheat. There were 34 Israeli air strikes, in one of them a poultry farm was strafed and 69 Palestinians have been injured in Israeli violence so far this month. These statistics are only the tip of the iceberg. Underlying the violence is the constant daily harassment. For example, Israel blocks Palestinian roads at intervals so that farm produce has to be unloaded and reloaded onto another vehicle brought up to the obstacle from a point beyond it. This exercise may need to be repeated more than once. Israeli checkpoints force Palestinians to make journeys of several hours that could be accomplished in minutes. Ethnically segregated roads for Israeli use only dominate the Palestinian landscape. Palestinian families regularly endure the abductions of terrified young people from their homes at dead of night. Israeli abductions of minors from the West Bank under the age of 18 number at least 226 this year. The youngest so far is aged 11 and five children aged 12 have also been abducted. United Nations agencies have reported extensively the cruel treatment of Palestinian youngsters at the hands of Israel. The statistics come from the Palestine Monitoring Group (PMG) daily situation reports (http://www.nad-plo.org/dailyreports.php). Children and adults are often incarcerated by Israel without charge or trial by means of a process the Zionist regime calls ‘administrative detention’. See also United Nations sources such as:
Sadly, these crimes seldom, if ever, reach our newspapers or television screens. Likewise, radio does not seem interested either. One can be certain that if Israeli homes were to be invaded night after night or Israeli vessels fired upon and hijacked, our news media would report such violence with outrage and large headlines.
What must be borne in mind is that decades of Israeli Occupation, land theft, settlement, Israel’s annexation Wall and ethnic discrimination are all in gross violation of international law, particularly the Fourth Geneva Convention, as well as scores of UN General Assembly and Security Council Resolutions. If ever a UN member state were a candidate for the imposition of sanctions it is the state of Israel.
The dreams in the title of McCully’s speech are in reality nightmares and the dramas, nothing but Western play-acting. Does he really believe the Israeli/US propaganda line on the Middle East? Or, does his speech reflect New Zealand Government complicity in a policy that has created generations of ethnically-selected refugees? The public must be the judge of that. But the responsibility for the continued dispossession of the Palestinian people and the denial of truth and justice upon which it rests lies with us, the international community. We can make a difference.