What could NZ do in response to Israel’s actions against Gaza?

If the NZ government wanted to do something about Israel’s actions what could we, a tin pot little country on the other side of the world, do?

It’s hard to know what we could do, it’s easy to understand why the government’s response is vague wafflings (although a statement that we think its wrong wouldn’t go amiss), and I’ve struggled to come up with any options, but here are my thoughts

  1. A public statement that Israel’s action is disproportionate, unacceptable and should stop. That seems like the easy one, but I’m sure someone with a foreign affairs background might explain it’s not without cost.
  2. We could go to the UNHCR and offer to take Palestinian refugees in addition to our existing quota. It’s not a public high profile measure, but it would make a real difference to some real lives. 
  3. Working for a UN statement. We might never get one, but it would keep up the international pressure
  4. A travel ban on government and military officials and families? I was scraping the barrel to come up with this one, it seems like something we could actually do and, again, it’s a sign to the international community.

Anything else?

What we can do as individuals is slightly easier; as usual Indymedia is providing a space for people to advertise events. There’s a protest in Wellington today, and one in Auckland on Saturday.

19 thoughts on “What could NZ do in response to Israel’s actions against Gaza?

  1. infused,

    We can’t even support New Zealand,

    Can’t we?

    but hey, lets allow more people here!

    Do you really think rescuing 100 of the world’s most needy and vulnerable from lives of misery and terror would tip NZ over the edge?

  2. I’d have to say I’m most sympathetic to #2- lends weight to our concern to civilian welfare but without direct criticism of policy, so it leaves us looking pretty tidy even with staunch supporters of Israel. Actions speak louder than words and all that.

    The rest seem mostly symbolic, which while necessary, hardly strikes me as even approaching sufficient.

    I don’t get what Infused is on about either, but hey.

  3. It is incredible, in the vacuum that is Murray McCully the media were interviewing Helen Clark yesterday for a clear, concise and morally acceptable view on the matter.

  4. Ari,

    Yes, I like #2 as well! But I feel that NZ should be doing that anyway; we should take refugees because they need us to and we are able to. I am uncomfortable with the idea that taking refugees is a political statement (other than a statement about an appropriate response to refugees).

    Don’t we also need to find a way of saying something about Israel’s actions?

  5. Tom,

    I just added the link to the interview with McCully this morning. I think he’s calling for someone to do something (without expressing an opinion).

  6. Dont hold your breath for this tory mob to come out against anything let alone Israel.

    Helens press release was spot on…

    Spose John and Mur have been on the phone trying to find out what they are to do……poor stupid bastards!

  7. We could go to the UNHCR and offer to take Palestinian refugees in addition to our existing quota.

    I think you will find that the residents of Gaza and the West Bank actually want to live there, or else in their ancestral homes that some/many fled from when the region was partitioned, rather than move to some distant land.

  8. Helen who?

    The best NZ can do is NOT to take sides on the conflict.

    The Left is quick to defend the Palestinian cause, but very reluctant to defend Israel’s right to exist as sovereign nation.

  9. Poneke,

    My vague memory is that Palestinian refugees are formally divided into two groups: those looked after by UNHCR and those looked after by UNRWA. The division is by when you (or your parents or grandparents) were displaced and where you ended up.

    UNRWA is not trying to resettle outside Palestine, but UNHCR is trying to resettle theirs (who have been displaced for longer and are, I think, further away). Here, for example, is a story from UNHCR who are trying to get the international community to find places for Palestinian refugees stuck on the Iraq-Syria border. A worse situation is hard to imagine :(

  10. Not much NZ can do other than some symbolic protestations (which would be more for domestic consumption). If it comes out too much against Israel it looks to be pro-Hamas. If it says nothing it looks to be condoning the Israeli offensive. Thus the National government’s relative silence and neutrality, which also demonstrates an inclination to position NZ foreign policy (at least on this issue) more in line with its traditional allies (Asuralia, the UK and the US). It has nothing to do with Mr. Key’s ancestry. Those who claim that clearly have issues with Jews. Also remember that NZ has stronger economic relations with the Sunni Arab world than its Shiia counterparts, to which Hamas is aligned. That brings commercial interests into play, which for a trade-driven country like NZ (especially under National), is of particular concern. In that light, being seen as overly supportive of Hamas (by issuing a strong condemnation of Israel without reference to Hama’s charter and resistance activities) could be interpreted negatively by trading partners–and National does not want that at any cost.

    Given its support for the UN and role in international peacekeeping, one option might be to push for the quick deployment of an international peacekeeping force under a UN security council resolution in exchange for Israeli withdrawal (which will happen anyway but on a different timetable). However, NZ would have to commit troops to that effort, which could be a thorny political issue, and the question remains as to what Hamas will do vis a vis the peacekeepers once the IDF has left (Lebanon is a worrying precedent).

    In a sense, having Labour criticize Israel over the incursion while the National govt gives the appearance of neutrality is the best of all worlds. It shows that NZ is torn on the issue but that diplomatic niceties need to be observed. That may not satisfy domestic critics of Israel, but it would be understood by the international community (especially if NZ lobbied for the peacekeeping force on humanitarian grounds). Just thinking aloud here–thanks Anita for prompting the thought.

  11. The thing that really bothers me about this conflict is how israel can claim it wants to negotiate with palestine. In reality israel wants to “negotiate” in the sense that palestine makes concessions and israel doesn’t destroy them. The election of hamas made this perfectly clear. they dont want to deal with the palestinians now because they no longer have a puppet government. A similar thing happened in nz in the 1890’s the current strike legislation was constrictive so the workers registered under old law to get the freedom to strike. but the bosses made a few strikers sign up under the current law then these few men became the “legal’ union and they gave large concessions to the bosses. the point im making is that the israeli government will negotiate with whoever will do what it wants, and use force against anyone else. It put the blockade down on the palestinian people after they elected hamas like one would put a choke chain on a disobedient dog. Palestine will never be free until goverments like ours take a stand.

  12. Way to go Anita two posts containing unmitigated poop what an auspicious start !

    At least Pablo despite his obvious political bias makes for a good read and provides some sound thinking

  13. great demo by the way. Did the National Front give you the idea to desecrate Rabin’s memorial or do have you contacts with the Israeli extreme religious right?

  14. Is the Israeli tennis player at the ASB tournament in Auckland a legitimate target for a boycott protest? Does she represent Israel in the way a national team would, for instance?

  15. I don’t think our government should be choosing sides in this conflict. Encouraging a ceasefire from both sides is the appropriate response.

    If you really want them to pick a side then perhaps the appropriate action would be to have a referendum so they could be sure to represent the majority of NZer’s.

  16. “The Left is quick to defend the Palestinian cause, but very reluctant to defend Israel’s right to exist as sovereign nation.”

    On the contrary, peace (as distinct from Palestinian capitulation and occupation by Israeli forces) is fundamental to Israel’s continued existence and independence and is the only real way to ensure the security of Israel in the long-term. We criticise Israel because they are shooting themselves in the foot when they resort to this kind of aggression- even if it might have some gain in the short term in averting Israeli casualties.

    I can’t say I have much sympathy with those firing rockets- but I do understand that this is a small subsection of palestine, much the same way as say, the ACT Party and its supporters is a small subsection of New Zealand. There are better ways to deal with either of them than invading the neighborhoods that harbour them. And most of those being hurt or killed in this conflict will have not even known about the rocket attacks.

  17. Ari, it’s not quite a small subsection of Palestine as you say. Hamas is the democratically elected government of Gaza, and their charter states a clear goal of destroying Israel. Hamas are using the civilians as human shields, and are more to blame than Israel for the civilian casualties. The UN school that was shelled by the IDF tanks was used by Hamas to fire mortars from. Hamas would have done this deliberately hoping for Israel to attack the school in response so there would be civilian casualties. That is part of their strategy, to inflame western condemnation of Israel’s actions and make themselves look like the victims. There is no win-win situation to be found in this conflict, but don’t be fooled by Hamas into thinking they are the victims. These are the same people that threw their political opponents off buildings when they came to power. The same people that kill their citizens for selling goods to Jews.
    They are deliberately trying to get Israel to kill civilians in front of the world media to garner sympathy.

  18. Anita

    I would support taking in refugees from Gaza. I would have no problem with say taking up to 2000.

    Regarding a travel ban I see it as meaningless and nonsensical. Something with no impact whatsoever.

    On Item 1, I suggest you look at 2 posts by Andrew Sullivan at The Daily Dish – Proportionality and Terror and Proportionality and Terror continued in which he addresses elements of Just War Theory amongst other matters. By the way Sullivan does not come down on the side of Israel but he lays out some useful factors and ideas for consideration

    Including the fact that each and every rocket fired by Hamas, numbering thousands since May 2007 satisfies at least one common definition of war crime.

    Much of my own view can be taken from this post at my blog, where I suggest that Israel may win the military battle, but not so strongly as to outweigh the loss of the media conflict.


    Tom Semmens your comment re Clark:-

    “It is incredible, in the vacuum that is Murray McCully the media were interviewing Helen Clark yesterday for a clear, concise and morally acceptable view on the matter.”

    Helen Clark is entitled to her opinion as is any other citizen. She does not represent NZ anymore.

    Further, her view is not necessarily morally acceptable, nor the only morally acceptable view. There are other valid views, which are morally acceptable.

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