Earlier this week the New Zealand Labour Party made a statement on Palestine and it was a good one.
Certainly much better than the positions adopted by its sister Labour parties overseas.
UK Labour has refused to call for a ceasefire although 56 Labour MPs defied the Party Whip and voted for calls for one to be included in the King’s speech. And in Australia the ALP refuses to call for a cease fire although Albanese’s own Labor Branch passed resolutions calling for one and noting that Israel “has moved from that of defending itself, to acts of retribution on an innocent Palestinian population”.
I am pleased that New Zealand Labour decided to be more staunch and declare that the killing of innocent children and the bombing of hospitals and schools should not be tolerated.
From Radio New Zealand:
Labour Party leader Chris Hipkins has called for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, saying “the violence and the killing has to stop”.
He has stressed that he has made the announcement as Labour leader, not caretaker Prime Minister.
But Hipkins said it had become “untenable” for him to remain silent.
“It runs against Labour Party values to see the horrific scenes we are witnessing without calling for a ceasefire,” he said.
“Israel and Gaza need to immediately ensure that conditions for a ceasefire be met. We call on all parties to strive to restore calm and restraint.
“We remain very concerned about the humanitarian impact of the conflict.”
Hipkins has called on Israel to allow supplies to be delivered and for Hamas to free its hostages.
“Ultimately we want to see a just and lasting peace.
“The violence and the killing has to stop.”
National responded by agreeing with Labour but then accusing Labour of playing politics. Again from RNZ:
“National supports the goal of a ceasefire, but acknowledges the conditions have not existed for one so far.
“On Friday afternoon the caretaker government approached National about calling for a ceasefire.
“In response, National asked to see MFAT advice on the matter – we provided feedback on that advice and indicated we were open to a discussion with Labour on it.
“National was then informed of the Labour leader’s statement four minutes before the press conference commenced.
“Given New Zealand’s long-standing bipartisan approach to foreign policy it is very disappointing that Chris Hipkins is playing politics with such a serious issue.
“If reports of a possible temporary ceasefire being close are correct, with hostage exchanges from both sides and humanitarian aid into Gaza, this is what New Zealand has consistently called for. It is hoped that any temporary ceasefire could last longer than five days and lead to peace talks,” National’s statement concluded.
I don’t understand how the statement could be considered to be political. How many civilians need to be killed and how many hospitals need to be attacked before it is appropriate to do something?
Meanwhile there is talk about a brokered cease fire where some of the Israeli hostages will be released along with some Palestinian women and children who have been detained without trial.
And the battering of Gaza continues.
Al-Shifa, once Gaza’s main hospital, has stopped functioning as a medical facility and is now a “death zone” according to the World Health Organization.
Food and power and fuel remain in short supply.
And the United Nations Special Rapporteur Francesca Albanese has labelled Israel’s activities in Gaza as a complete violation of all basic principles that international law establishes.
She was quoted in this Radio New Zealand article as follows:
“Let’s be clear: [Hamas’] killing civilians and taking civilian hostages are war crimes, and I’ve extended and continue to extend my deepest condolences to all communities affected.
“At the same time, what has happened in the occupied Palestinian territories – primarily in Gaza – is a complete violation of all basic principles that international law establishes.
“There have been over 12,000 people killed over a month now by Israeli bombs and military operations, 5000 of these are children, over 1.6 million people forcibly displaced, 30,000 Palestinians injured, and there is no measure to rescue them because Israel has also tightened its illegal blockade … a collective punishment on the 2.2 million people living in the Gaza strip, half of whom are children.
“Half of the civilian infrastructure has been destroyed, 40,000 homes and churches, mosques, entire residential buildings, refugee camps and schools, bakeries, universities, there’s very little to start, restart life after a ceasefire is declared.
“I’ve warned three times against the risk that Israel might be committing the crime of genocide in Gaza … there has been calls to flatten Gaza, to erase Gaza from Earth, and to kill the Gazans because they are ‘also responsible for what Hamas has done’ and there is no distinction here between civilians and militants.”
Presuming we have a government soon it will be interesting to see what position National and its allies take. Anything short of a full throated demand for a ceasefire will be a totally inadequate statement.