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Appeal to NZ Government and MPs Print
Sunday, 21 December 2008

PHRC Urgent Appeal to NZ Government and MPs

PHRC continues its campaign to urge New Zealand governments and MPs to recognise the danger posed to international peace and stability by Israel's flagrant breaches of international law and human rights. The following open letter has been sent to Prime Minister John Key and a number of MPs reminding them of the horrendous conditions suffered by Palestinians. The world community does little to bring pressure to bear on Israel, either diplomatically or in the form of sanctions, to desist from committing war crimes against a captive and defenceless people.

New Zealand's voice needs to be heard in support of people such as John Ging, the Director of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) in Gaza, whose reports should appeal to our common humanity. Our news media could assist by breaking their almost total silence on the situation. At best our newspapers, television and radio news understate the reality. We hope that all who read the facts set out below will be moved to respond appropriately.

OPEN LETTER TO JOHN KEY, PRIME MINISTER OF NEW ZEALAND

Urgent Appeal to NZ Government

December 17, 2008

Dear Mr Key,

On March 22 this year, we wrote to a number of MPs, including yourself, asking for responses to some questions of principle regarding international law and Israel's military occupation of Palestinian territory. This occupation renders impossible the two-state solution mandated by the international community. We wrote to you again a month later and have yet to receive a reply. The Labour Party, the Green Party and United Future are, in fact, the only New Zealand Parliamentary political parties so far willing to declare firm support for international law regarding the Israeli occupation. Since then the world has witnessed the advent of Israel's blockade of the Gaza Strip.

The UN special rapporteur on human rights in the Palestinian territories, Richard Falk, called on the United Nations to make an "urgent effort" to "implement the agreed norm of a responsibility to protect a civilian population being collectively punished by policies that amount to a Crime Against Humanity". He said the International Criminal Court should also investigate whether the Israeli civilian leaders and military commanders for the Gaza siege should be indicted and prosecuted for violations of international criminal law.

On its website (see below) the Palestine Human Rights Campaign (PHRC) published the responses, or in many cases the lack of response, to our March 22 letter campaign along with our comments. We intend to continue publicising the positions taken by New Zealand governments and individual political parties on such matters of principle. Occupation of Palestinian territory and the denial of the UN-declared right of return for Palestinian refugees are among the most destabilising and dangerous breaches of international law. I am sure you would agree that no responsible government should remain indifferent or passive towards them.

Below we outline some of the egregious violations of human rights and international law committed by Israel and invite you to declare your concern and positions of principle regarding each of the points raised:

We are witnessing an alarming escalation and intensification of the humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip, with food, fuel and medicine being blocked for prolonged periods. Two weeks ago Israel issued a written list of goods banned from import into Gaza. The list, which has surprised UN officials, includes spices, kitchenware, glassware, yarn and paper. The Director of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) in Gaza, John Ging, said in The Washington Post, 15 November 2008:

"This is a disastrous situation, and it's getting worse and worse... It is unprecedented that the UN is unable to get its supplies in to a population under such obvious distress; many of these families have been subsisting on this ration for years, and they are living hand-to-mouth."

The UN General Secretary has demanded that Israel lift the blockade of humanitarian goods, medicine and access for relief agencies.

http://www.ochaopt.org/documents/ocha_opt_gaza_situation_report_2008_11_17.pdf
The UN Humanitarian Co-ordinator for the Occupied Palestinian Territories, Maxwell Gaylard, described the Gaza blockade as “an assault on human dignity with serious humanitarian implications.”

Food
Israel blocked all provision of essential supplies to the Gaza Strip in November, except for allowing in a “token” amount of goods on 4 days. According to OCHA-OPT’s report, ‘the amounts of supplies imported remain wholly insufficient to meet the basic needs of the population and restore any semblance of normal life.’

Fuel/water/sewage

  • Israel is blocking the import of vital spare parts and pumping equipment for sewage treatment plants and is also preventing the repair of the power stations bombed by Israel. Deprived of power, and with failing infrastructure, the untreated sewage of 1.5 million people is, inevitably, being dumped into the Mediterranean Sea.

  • UNICEF states 80% of Gaza’s wells are only partially functioning due to intermittent electricity, shortages of backup fuel and the lack of spare parts. As a result, 20% of the Gaza population has six hours water access every five days, 40% of the population have access to water every four days and 40% of the population has access to water every three days.

Medicine

Gaza and Israel's Obligations

Israel's claim that it no longer occupies the Gaza Strip is misleading because it continues to control Gaza's borders, airspace, territorial waters, tax collection and population registry. Israel remains morally and legally responsible for the protection and human rights of the captive people of Gaza.

Israel's blockade of Gaza violates international law and denies basic rights to healthcare, education, freedom of movement, employment and self-determination. Israel, as the occupying power is obliged, under the terms of the Fourth Geneva Convention, to ensure the supply of food and medical supplies to the population and is prohibited from collectively punishing the people of the Gaza Strip. Independent: Food aid runs out for Gaza

Israel is pursuing a long-term strategy of displacement and oppression that started in 1948, when it created Gaza's refugees by expelling them from their villages. According to Oxfam, CARE and Save the Children:

"The rise of poverty in Gaza relates to the crippling impact of the Israeli blockade within the broader context of a long-term pattern of economic degradation . . . “ Collective punishment

Economic sabotage

  • The Israeli Army makes frequent incursions into the Gaza Strip and bulldozes farmland, crops and olive trees. The Israeli Navy opens fire on, and severely restricts, Palestinian fishing boats from pursuing their normal and legal quest for a vital food source.

Settlements

  • International law, including the Geneva Conventions, prohibit the transfer of the population of an occupying power to the territory it occupies. Israel's annexation of East Jerusalem and surrounding areas is also illegal. Although Israel agreed in 2003, under the US-sponsored "road map" to peace, to "freeze all settlement activity", including building in existing settlements, Israeli occupation settlement in the West Bank continues to expand at a rate higher than the population growth inside Israel.

Hebron

  • The 1400 shops in the market are have been closed and shuttered for years. The once crowded lanes are empty apart from Israeli soldiers and Jewish tourists being given guided tours of the Old City. The hundreds of Palestinian families that lived around the market have all been driven out and their houses have been vandalised by settlers. Until 1997, about 35,000 Palestinians lived in central Hebron. About 25,000 of them have since been driven out by the unrelenting pressure of settlers protected by Israeli soldiers. The settlers beat up and sometimes even kill Palestinians. They terrorise Palestinians in their homes, set fire to their property and deface their cemeteries with racist and anti-Islamic graffiti.

Most Palestinians have been driven out of the Tel Rumeidah district. The small number that remain protect their homes with wire cages. They are stoned and abused and dare not leave their homes empty because of the danger that the settlers would occupy them. Older people are too frightened to move outside their front door. An eyewitness has described in The Independent, April 19, 2008 how Palestinians are subjected to systematic and violent abuse by settlers, who stone them, throw rubbish and excrement at their houses, invade and destroy their homes and attack their children when they return from school. Israeli soldiers who witness these atrocities do little to stop them. Outside the city the settlers harass farmers, prevent them from harvesting their olive crops and uproot the trees.

  • The Palestinians are defenceless yet the international community does nothing to protect them.

The Wall

  • The International Court at the Hague has declared Israel's Wall to be illegal and said that it should be dismantled. The Wall separates Palestinian communities from each other and Palestinian farmers from their farmland.

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The Palestine Human Rights Campaign (PHRC) aims to raise public awareness about the occupation of Palestine and the struggle of the Palestinian people. We encourage New Zealand governments to align their policies with international law.

Leslie Bravery

For Palestine Human Rights Campaign www.palestine.org.nz

PO Box 56150 Mt Eden Auckland