GUEST BLOG BY DR. ARAMA RATA
(Feaured image: Image: Palestine march, Tāmaki Makaurau. Photo: (with permission) billiebird_was_here
For the past two weeks we’ve watched in horror as Israel commits genocide against Palestinians, airstrikes killing over 4,500 including at least 1,873 children, and reducing entire neighbourhoods to rubble. Israel cut off food, water, and electricity to the region, and issued an evacuation order to 1 million people in the North, but proceeded to bombard Gaza indiscriminately.
Of course these are not the first war crimes committed by the state of Israel against Palestinians. Israel was founded in 1948 through events described by Palestinians as the Nakba – the ‘catastrophe’, what we might call a pāhua.
Two weeks ago, despite the overwhelming military superiority of the Israel Occupation Forces, Palestinian militants evaded Israeli intelligence, breaking the blockade and re-entering territory occupied by Israel for the first time since the Nakba 75 years ago. 1,200 Israeli soldiers and civilians were killed.
Since the 7th of October, Western leaders have ramped up reckless rhetoric, in an attempt to justify the collective punishment of all Palestinian people. Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stated his genocidal intentions openly: to reduce Gaza to rubble. Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said, “We are fighting human animals and we act accordingly.”
US President Joe Biden condemned Hamas as a ‘terrorist’ organisation, and affirmed “Israel’s right to defend itself”. Here in New Zealand, in the lead up to our general election, Prime Minister Chris Hipkins’ and Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta’s reiterated Biden’s statements.
The only political candidate to speak strongly against these atrocities ahead of the election was Te Pati Māori’s Debbie Ngarewa-Packer, who stated, “We cannot be in denial and can’t expect peace while one extremely powerful force has, for the last 80 plus years, been colonising and blocking another who hasn’t been able to live… We cannot judge this in isolation… our role as Te Pāti Māori is understanding the bigger picture and what has been happening here in the last 80 years and the absolute genocide that has been going on that everyone pretends hasn’t.”
Since the election, we’ve watched the social media accounts of our politicians as they gleefully take their place in parliament, while remaining silent on the unfolding atrocities. Many of us campaigned to get our people out to vote for ‘progressive’ parties. And yet, despite thousands here taking to the streets in support of Palestine and to oppose Israel’s war crimes, it took Labour 10 days to announce a $5 million package to address humanitarian needs ‘in Israel, Gaza and the West Bank’ (emphasis added), and 11 days for Te Pati Māori and the Greens to break their social media silence, during which time 3,500 Palestinians were killed.
The statements issued by all of our political parties have condemned the actions of Hamas, implicitly or explicitly reaffirming the right of Israel to ‘defend itself’. Extreme acts of violence were committed by Hamas. Of this there is no doubt. But what right does Israel have to claim victimhood when there are libraries of accumulated evidence of Israel’s ongoing war crimes? What right do the guards of a concentration camp have to ‘defend’ themselves? And what right does any Western leader have to condemn the tactics of a people whose oppression the West is responsible for? The answer to these questions is: no right whatsoever.
The rallies held across Aotearoa in support of Palestinian liberation over the past two weeks have attracted little to no attention from our mainstream media, who have instead continued to reproduce Washington/Tel Aviv talking points and platformed pro-apartheid, pro-ethnic cleansing groups in the interests of presenting a ‘balanced story’. Not since Operation 8 have we felt such widespread rage at the media establishment, so blatantly presenting false narratives to condemn an Indigenous resistance movement as terrorists.
We must continue to expose Israel’s atrocities, to cut through mainstream media propaganda. We must mobilise and build power outside of parliament. We must demand the end to Israel’s illegal occupation, and be part of the international movement for the liberation of Palestine.
While the siegebreakers have been accused of causing an escalation in violence, in reality they have challenged the West to account for our complicity in the oppression of Palestinian people. As Western leaders double-down on their support for Israel despite the mass movement in support of Palestinian liberation, the siegebreakers have shattered whatever’s left of the illusion of Western democracy. They have destroyed any remaining legitimacy of the so-called ‘international rules based order’, and in doing so the siegebreakers have broadened the horizon of political possibility towards decolonisation for us all.