New Zealand's voice at the Security Council
Why has the New Zealand representative at the Security Council not demanded action by the Security Council to require Israel to end its ceasefire violations and implement Security Council resolution 1860?
In a statement to the United Nations Security Council on 15 January 2015, New Zealand's Permanent Representative to the UN, Jim McLay, admitted that, “The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has endured for too long, and its resolution is overdue.” However, he also went on to say, “It has devastated Palestinians and Israelis alike.” Such even-handedness ignores the enormous chasm of disparity that lies between the day-to-day lives of Israelis and the relentless trauma that truly devastates the Palestinian people through discrimination, military occupation and blockade. Palestinian homes are invaded almost daily and a large proportion of home invasions by the Israeli Army are carried out at night. While Israelis drive their motor vehicles unhindered across the land, Palestinians living under occupation must endure the crushing economic costs and daily indignities of Israel's myriad military checkpoints.
Speaking to the UN Security Council on 30 December 2014 at the time of the vote on a Palestinian draft resolution calling for peace with Israel within a year and an end to Israel's occupation by 2017, Samantha Power, the US ambassador to the UN, said of the resolution that, "It is deeply imbalanced and contains many elements that are not conducive to negotiations between the parties including unconstructive deadlines that take no account for Israel's legitimate security concerns." Of course, Samantha Power gave no recognition of the Palestinian people's “legitimate security concerns" – but then, the United States is Israel's most staunch ally. The US veto that followed Power's assertion did not stop Jim McLay from lauding “the ongoing efforts of the United States to resolve this issue”, or going on to insist that “US leadership is indispensable.” While allowing the theory of US 'leadership' (with its concomitant, unconditional loyalty to Israel) to continue as a major element in attempts to bring peace, Israel has been enabled throughout ensuing decades to violate, with impunity, international humanitarian law and the provisions of the Fourth Geneva Convention. There is no reason to persist with a policy that has so abjectly failed and it is New Zealand's Permanent Representative to the Security Council himself who observed, “It is much more difficult to dispute proven fact than it is to argue unproven theory; facts work, theories are just theories.”
Does McLay actually believe that? Or is he really more at home with fantasy corporate-speak in which he also indulges, such as: “This Council has a major stake in ensuring that the UN’s peacebuilding architecture is capable of delivering the results the international community demands and, above all, is capable of delivering the positive results that are so deserved by communities emerging from violent conflict.” Yes, those are his reported words. Meanwhile, in the real world on Christmas Eve 2014, five-year-old Muhammad Jamal Ubeid, on his way home from school with his sister, was shot in the face with a rubber-coated bullet by Israeli government forces just after leaving the school bus. Muhammad was admitted to the Hadassah Medical Centre where he was found to have a bone fracture just below the right eye. Security – living free from the dangers of death, injury, home invasion, loss of liberty and plunder at the hands of arbitrary authority – must surely be the most essential of all human rights. In calling for peace talks between the Palestinian people and Israel, even as the Israeli state's belligerent military occupation of Palestinian land is allowed to continue, Western political leaders reveal their complicity with the occupying power; in countless statements and press releases they insist that, first and foremost, Israel has a right to defend itself while, at the same time, never, ever, giving voice to consideration of defence for the Palestinian people and their need for security. Palestinians did not ask to be turned into refugees or to be ejected from their homes, or to have their homeland divided and occupied. Their plight, contemptuously dictated from afar, has been thrust upon them.
In assessing the worth of New Zealand's presence at the Security Council, another statement made by McLay should be looked at. He commented, “increased radicalisation within some Palestinian communities prompts responses from Israel.” The assumption is that Palestinians are inherently violent and have no right to defend themselves, whereas virtuous Israel has never resorted to violence or aggression! In fact, this mindset is at the centre of the Western Alliance's prejudices and assumptions (hardly ever articulated plainly and honestly) regarding Israel and Palestine. New Zealand's ambassador made no mention of the fanatical daily attacks by illegal Israeli settlers on Palestinian agriculture with the uprooting of olive trees by both settlers and the Israeli Army of Occupation. McLay also chose not to mention Israeli extremism such as, for example, that exhibited by Israeli Haredim. It has a malevolent influence on Israel's politics, its military and its society.
UN Security Council Resolution 1860 obliges Israel to open the port of Gaza and facilitate the free movement of goods and people between Gaza and the West Bank. Bombed-out Gaza residents, struggling to find clean water, remain homeless while Palestinian farms and fishing boats are regularly under fire from Israeli government forces. In the recent freezing weather, two infants have already died from exposure. Devastating levels of unemployment are pushing the population ever deeper into poverty while the Israeli blockade prevents rebuilding. These appalling conditions, quite apart from the suffering under direct military occupation endured by the population in the West Bank, provide undeniable evidence of the complete absence of security for the Palestinian people. Why has the New Zealand representative at the Security Council not demanded action by the Security Council to require Israel to end its ceasefire violations (five already this month alone) and implement Security Council resolution 1860? This important step would bring appropriate public pressure to bear upon the permanent members of the Security Council to shoulder their responsibilities. The world at large has already recognised this responsibility.
New Zealand now has a historic opportunity to make an enlightened contribution towards the reformulation of global politics away from Great Power obsessions to one of service to humanity, peace and true stability. It should step away from the hypocrisy of abandoning the defenceless Palestinian people to 'negotiate' their freedom and honestly recognise the immense imbalance of power here. By standing up for the real issues, New Zealand could have an electrifying effect at the Security Council that would receive tremendous grass-roots support from around the world. Public opinion would at last be heard at the forum most capable of defending human rights and the rule of international law. Our ambassador has now to choose between either empty rhetoric or sincerity. The world is watching.