John Minto: The Hypocrisy of New Zealand’s Silence in Denouncing Israeli and Indonesian Rights Violations
REMARK: By John Minto in Christchurch
On December 30, New Zealand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade posted a tweet condemning the forced closure of two Russian human rights groups, International Memorial and the Memorial Human Rights Centre.
The groups were shut down by the Russian Supreme Court which enforced strict laws regarding dealing with “foreign agents”.
In posting the tweet, the government urged Russia to “uphold its civil and political rights commitments.”
Our government has also spoken out against human rights abuses in China against the Uyghur people, to the point of facilitating a parliamentary motion condemning the Chinese government’s cruel policies.
Compare the criticism from Russia and China with the MFAT’s reaction to Israel’s outrageous attacks on Palestinian human rights groups last October, when it declared six of them to be “terrorist” organizations.
The targeted groups (Bisan, Al-Haq, Addameer, Defense for Children International-Palestine, the Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees and the Union of Agricultural Work Committees) generally challenge human rights abuses by the Palestinian Authority as well as Israel, both of which regularly detain Palestinian activists.
Israel’s “terrorist” claim against these groups was a blatant attempt to undermine some of the most effective Palestinian civil society organizations, stifle their collective voices and cut off their sources of funding.
Not a word from MFAT
But not a word from MFAT. No tweets, no public statements, nothing.
When our foreign minister is asked about these issues, her officials say the government is “very concerned” about developments in the Middle East and is “monitoring closely” the situation. They say they regularly raise human rights issues with Israel’s ambassador in meetings with officials.
God only knows what happens in these meetings, but if all of Israel’s human rights violations against the Palestinian people were discussed, the Israeli ambassador would be in permanent residence at the MFAT.
The MFAT gives similar responses when massive human rights abuses are perpetrated against the people of West Papua by the Indonesian military, which has occupied the territory since 1962. These are discussed behind closed doors, if raised. at all, with Indonesian officials.
So what is the difference that the Russian and Chinese governments are lambasted for human rights abuses, but for countries like Indonesia and Israel there is little or no public comment?
The terrible truth is that our current government has brought New Zealand closer to the United States than at any time since the 1980s and the MFAT is calling human rights abuses onto the agenda of the United States.
If the abuses are perpetrated by enemies of the United States, like in Russia or China, they get a full public outburst, but if American allies kill unarmed people protesting their country’s occupation, it’s all hushed up .
Kept “in the family”
It’s “in the family”, behind closed doors. Martin Luther King’s comment on “the injustice of silence” applies.
Human rights abuses against Palestinians and the people of West Papua continue because countries like New Zealand have self-important cabinet officials who think it is smart to operate a public/private hierarchy human rights violations by American standards.
Aotearoa New Zealand is complicit in many ongoing human rights abuses through our silence.
Cowardice is another word that comes to mind. It’s not acceptable.
The hypocrisy of the United States and Aotearoa New Zealand’s stance on human rights was laid bare last week when Amnesty International published a 280-page report who concluded that Israel was an apartheid state. US government officials bluntly attacked the report without reading it or challenging its substance.
MFAT didn’t say a word
At a press conference in Washington, a State Department official must have tried to explain why US human rights reports have quoted numerous extracts from Amnesty International regarding Ethiopia, China , Iran, Burma, Syria and Cuba, but categorically reject Amnesty’s report on Israel.
Needless to say, the MFAT has not said a word about Amnesty’s report, but is busy helping support a webinar aimed at “building strategic partnerships in agriculture” with Israel via AgriTech New Zealand. This is deeply embarrassing for this country and the MFAT should cancel Aotearoa New Zealand’s participation in this webinar.
It goes without saying that this country should oppose all human rights violations in an honest and principled manner. This will not happen until the current MFAT leadership is resigned.
John Minto is a political activist and commentator, and spokesperson for Palestine Solidarity Network Aotearoa. This article was first published by the New Zealand Herald and is republished with permission from the author.