Minister of Foreign Affairs urged to challenge escalating Israeli violence

Tēnā koe Minita,

Justice for Palestine is very concerned about the escalation of Israeli violence against Palestinians in recent weeks. We urge you as Minister of Foreign Affairs to demand Israel comply with international law and to support a meaningful peace process between Israelis and Palestinians as equal parties.

Escalation of violence against Palestinian civilians

The United Nations has expressed concern at the escalation of attacks in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. At the start of October the UN said that at least 120 Palestinians and 11 Israelis have been killed since January. Nearly a fifth of the Palestinians killed were children, and most were civilians, notably including Al-Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh. This the worst year of violence against Palestinains since 2015.

The failure of the Israeli Defence Force to distinguish between civilians and military personnel is a grave breach of international law. Furthermore, it reflects the untenable situation that Palestinians are subjected to living under the illegal Israeli occupation, apartheid regime and behind the blockade of Gaza.

Palestinians working land attacked by Israeli settlers under protection of police and army

There has been a concerning increase in coordinated violent attacks against Palestinians by armed Israeli settlers under the protection of the Israeli Police or Defence Force. There are between 600-750,000 Israeli settlers who live in illegal settlements on Palestinian land across the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, sanctioned by the Israeli government. Settler violence against Palestinians is always prevalent during olive harvest season, but there has been an upsurge this year in the face of increased Palestinian resistance. Dozens of Palestinians have been injured and their properties destroyed, and there have been attacks against international supporters endeavoring to protect Palestinians working their land.

Illegal and disproportionate Israeli response to Palestinian resistance to occupation

Israel attempts to justify its violence against Palestinians as a response to Palestinian resistance. This position does not withstand even minimal scrutiny given the nature and extent of the decades-long illegal Israeli occupation that Palestinians are resisting, and the illegal and disproportionate nature of the Israeli response to Palestinian resistance. 

Following the shooting of an Israeli soldier by a Palestinian at a checkpoint at the Shuafat refugee camp in occupied East Jerusalem, Israel enforced a 4-day blockade of  the camp and surrounding area, home to 130,000 Palestinians, as the Israeli Defence Force searched for the suspect. Palestinians living in the camp are encircled by Israel’s illegal Separation Wall, the two entry and exit points are guarded by Israeli border police and were shut down during the blockade. 

As a result, access to basic services – health care, education, food supplies and waste collection – were severely hampered. The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees, which provides many of these services, described the situation as unacceptable and noted many considered the situation a form of “collective punishment”, which is prohibited by international humanitarian law. Palestinian resistance to this situation, including a general strike, has resulted in further deaths and injuries of Palestinians.

Palestinian resistance has been continuous since the Nakba of 1948 and the 1967 illegal Israeli occupation of the West Bank. The recent intensification of resistance, particularly from young people, is indicative of the desperation of a people, many of whom have lived their whole lives under the illegal and oppressive Israeli occupation and Apartheid regime (as concluded by Human Rights Watch; Amnesty International; B’Tselem; and the UN Special Rapporteur) without access to basic human rights and dignity. 

This has included repressive rules recently implemented by Israel to limit the ability of foreigners to enter and stay in the occupied West Bank. These rules inhibit the Palestinian economy, academia, and aid agencies; alongside Palestinian families with dual nationality who already have to contend with a complicated permit system, including a requirement to declare romantic relationships to the authorities. Human rights organisations have observed that these measures are contrary to international law

Further, Israel has targetted Palestinian civil society organisations trying to stand up for Palestinian human rights through legal and political channels. Life under occupation is becoming increasingly unbearable for Palestinians, and the international community is failing to respond appropriately given the gravity of the situation.

International community must act to enforce international law and support peace process

Aotearoa New Zealand and the international community has taken decisive action in relation to Russia’s illegal and violent occupation of Ukraine, including the International Criminal Court opening investigations into war crimes committed there. 

Justice for Palestinian supports these actions, but laments the double standard applied to Palestine and the failure to respond appropriately to Israel’s breaches of international law and the consequent loss of Palestinian lives, including many children. Unless Israel is held to account for its breaches of international law it will continue to violently suppress Palestinian resistance to its illegal occupation with impunity. 

As a member of the international community committed to a rules-based international system, Aotearoa New Zealand needs to take action or risk undermining the integrity of that system.

Hon Nanaia Mahuta, Justice for Palestine urges the you as Minister of Foreign Affairs, and the Aotearoa New Zealand government you are part of to:

  • Support International Criminal Court investigating war crimes committed in the Occupied Palestinian Territories and blockaded Gaza
  • Demand an explanation from the Israeli ambassador to New Zealand as to the recent actions of the Israeli authorities perpetrating and sanctioning violence against Palestinian civilians, measures to limit the basic freedoms within Palestinian territory and targetting Palestinian civil society organisations
  • Provide support for Palestinian participation in a meaningful peace process with Israel, on an equal footing

We look forward to your response and remind you of our earlier correspondence of 27 June 2022 regarding a meeting to discuss the government’s policy settings and stance towards Israel/Palestine.

Ngā mihi nui, 

Samira Archer & Kate Stone (Co-Convenors)

Justice for Palestine

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