New Zealand’s Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully’s meetings with Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and the planned series of top-level visits, described by Israel’s Foreign Ministry as “New Zealand Month”, are an opportunity for this country to show the world where it stands in relation to human rights and international law.
Recent questions posed by the New Zealand Palestine Human Rights Campaign (PHRC) in a recent Open Letter to Murray McCully http://palestine.org.nz/phrc/index.ph raise urgent and long-neglected issues. While our Foreign Minister wholeheartedly supports Israel’s membership of the OECD, Israel is encouraged to continue stifling the Palestinian economy through belligerent military occupation. The Palestinian people have no control over their borders, air space, sea or access to the wider global economy. Israel severely restricts access by Palestinian fishing boats to essential fishing grounds, often at the expense of fishermen’s livelihoods, vessels and even life and limb. In addition, Israel uses its military might to take a grossly disproportionate amount of Palestine’s water, to the detriment of Palestinian agriculture and health. For 44 years now the US and the UK, and, by association, New Zealand, have stood by Israel and allowed this exploitation to continue while pressuring the victims to negotiate with their oppressor.
Although the Gaza Strip and the West Bank are recognised under international law as a single territorial unit, Israel continues to prevent the movement of Palestinians between the two areas. As the UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reports, Israel maintains an average of 520 permanent checkpoints, road obstacles and other restrictions besides imposing hundreds of mobile checkpoints, all inside Palestinian territory. Furthermore, Israel’s illegal settlements and annexation Wall, with its ethnically discriminatory Israeli-only roads, place intolerable costs upon the movement of Palestinian goods, workers and students.
Our Foreign Affairs Minister is unable to show any softening of Israel’s relentless suppression of Palestinian human rights, and aspirations through decades of what he likes to call “dialogue” with Israel. The PHRC invites Mr McCully, once again, to answer the questions posed in our Open Letter to him dated 30 April 2012. Consideration of these questions might help him concentrate his mind on the vital issues that confront, not only the Palestinian people but also the wider world community. “New Zealand Month” should be used to demonstrate to Israel that dialogue no longer means cosy chats and complicity but plain speaking and the demand that Israel end its gross violations of international law.