We were pleased to work with Alternative Jewish Voices on this urgent letter to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. Please see the letter below and the reply from Winston Peters that followed.
Thursday, 10 September 2020
To the Rt Hon Jacinda Ardern
Dear Prime Minister,
An appeal to intervene on behalf of the people of Gaza.
While Aotearoa New Zealand has been patiently managing the long tail of our second COVID-19 outbreak, the occupied Gaza Strip first identified community transmission of COVID-19 on August 24. Today there are more than 1200 cases in its crowded cities and refugee camps.
We, the citizens of Aotearoa NZ, are failing a community in immediate danger. Why is Gaza our responsibility?
The UN General Assembly and Security Council, the International Court of Justice, the International Committees of the Red Cross, human rights and legal NGOs all agree that International Humanitarian Law and the laws of occupation apply in full throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Occupied people are legally protected people. The duty of states like New Zealand, and one of the first duties of the occupying power, Israel, is to uphold the rights of the occupied people of Palestine.
Gaza has been battered for a month, as Israel responds to individual acts of Gazan protest:
- August 11, Israel closed the one entrance for goods into Gaza
- August 13, they cut off fuel supplies
- August 16, they militarily closed Gaza’s fishing waters.
- From August 17, Gaza had insufficient electricity to pump water into Gazan homes.
- On August 18, Gaza’s only power plant shut down for lack of fuel so that Gazans have had only a few hours of electricity each day.
- On August 19, sewage treatment had to cease without electricity.
- Israel began bombing Gaza on August 6, and they sustained the bombardment night after night.
S Michael Lynk, UN Special Rapporteur on Palestine and an associate professor of law noted this week, “Israel remains the occupying power, and international law – including Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention – strictly forbids the use of collective punishment by the occupier.”
On August 24 COVID-19 was found in the community of Gaza. In the same week that Israel reported its highest-ever use of electricity for air conditioning to combat a heat wave with temperatures up to 48C, Gazans lacked electricity to refrigerate food during their lockdown. Hamas and Israel have now agreed to resume some fuel shipments.
The International Crisis Group is warning that “A major outbreak in Gaza would likely be disastrous.” It is the responsibility of the occupying power to ensure Gazans’ equitable access to quality health care, but blockaded Gaza has been structurally deprived of the resources to fight COVID-19. S Michael Lynk adds, “This blockade has no meaningful security rationale. It inflicts great misery on the two million civilians in Gaza, while imposing little harm on any security targets.”
COVID-19 makes this long-standing misery into an immediate threat.
We, New Zealanders of Muslim, Jewish and other identities, urge our government to uphold the laws and conventions that it signs in our names. If we want to live in a world of laws and human dignity, we must show up together when law and dignity are violated.
Today, we call on Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, to please fulfil our obligations to protect the occupied people of Palestine and restore their equal human rights — especially their urgent right to medical care and COVID-related supplies. Let New Zealand join the 138 states that already recognize the State of Palestine, and let us speak up for a just solution to the military occupation of Palestine, and the blockade of the Gaza Strip.
Marilyn Garson (Alternative Jewish Voices) and
Neil Ballantyne (Wellington Palestine)
Also signed by these Alternative Jewish Voices: Fred Albert, Jeremy Rose, David Weinstein, Sarah Cole, Marilyn Garson, Asher Goldman, Sue Berman and Prue Hyman.
Also signed on behalf of Wellington Palestine by Laura Agel, Nadia Abu-Shanab, Gill Bailey, Neil Ballantyne, Carl Bradley, Biddy Bunzl, Shahd El-Matary, James Fraser, Jenny Hawes, John Hobbs, Gillian Marie, Jeanie McCafferty, Ben Peterson, M. J. Pittaway, Aida Tavassoli, Adri van Lith, Kate Slankard-Stone and Samira Zaiton.
Tuesday 22nd September, 2020
Dear Neil Ballantyne
Your email to the Prime Minister, Rt Hon Jacinda Ardern, has been referred to me, as the issue you raise falls within my portfolio responsibilities.
New Zealand has a strong history of protecting and promoting human rights in Palestine and we regularly engage on these issues in both bilateral and multilateral settings.
On 13 June 2018, in an emergency meeting, New Zealand voted in favour of the General Assembly resolution on “Protection of the Palestinian civilian population”. The resolution deplored the use of excessive, disproportionate and indiscriminate force by Israeli forces against Palestinian citizens in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip.
New Zealand believes the situation in Gaza is unsustainable, and has consistently called for improved access for humanitarian and other essential supplies into Gaza. In order for this to occur, both sides need to refrain from violence.
In this regard we welcome the recent announcement of a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas which also includes the reopening of Gaza’s only cargo crossing and fishing zone and, as you have noted, the resumption of fuel shipments. New Zealand funding to the Office of the Quartet includes a full feasibility study of a solar power generation facility in Khuza in Gaza which will contribute to the longer term well-being of Gazans.
New Zealand continues to maintain a close eye on events in the Palestine. We are also deeply concerned about reports of community cases of COVID-19 in Gaza and we are monitoring the situation closely.
New Zealand will continue to pursue a principled and balanced approach to the Middle East Peace Process including support for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Rt Hon Winston Peters l Deputy Prime Minister | Leader New Zealand First | Minister of Foreign Affairs l Minister for Disarmament and Arms Control | Minister for State Owned Enterprises | Minister for Racing | 7.4 Executive Wing, Parliament Buildings, Wellington | www.beehive.govt.nz