Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Karl du Fresne: A puzzling departure from normal practice

Is there any more intractable issue in international affairs than that of Israel and Palestine? Offhand, I can’t think of any. It’s tricky for a whole lot of reasons. One is that the competing claims of the two sides, Israel and the Palestinians, both have weight.

The Jews, having suffered centuries in exile, mostly in countries where they experienced relentless discrimination and persecution, have a right to a homeland where they can feel safe and secure. But the Palestinians feel aggrieved because to provide that Jewish homeland, they were displaced from land that they regarded as theirs.

Another complicating factor is that both sides are capable of behaving badly – sometimes very badly.

Palestine shelters terrorist groups that are dedicated to the destruction of Israel (the Middle East’s only democracy, and one where Arabs enjoy rights of citizenship that would never be granted to Jews in Arab states, even assuming any Jew would be crazy enough to want to live in one).

These fanatics think nothing of killing innocent civilians. In their eyes no Jew can be innocent. The very fact of being Jewish is a crime that warrants their extermination.

Groups such as Hamas are indifferent even to the suffering of their own people, cynically exploiting children and other civilians as human shields.

Using schools, hospitals and even mosques as sites from which to launch rockets at Israeli territory is a grotesque win-win strategy from their point of view. They know the Israelis will hesitate to strike back for fear of killing civilians – and if they do retaliate, that’s fine with the terrorists too, since the resulting damage will be televised by gullible Western media as evidence of Israeli savagery. 

When it suits them, the Palestinians make noises about negotiating a settlement. But whenever a deal looks within reach, they pull back or impose new conditions that they know will be intolerable to the Jews. It was said of the late Yasser Arafat, head of the Palestine Liberation Organisation, that he never missed an opportunity to miss an opportunity.

For their part, the Israelis don’t always make it easy to support the Jewish cause.

They have occasionally been guilty of gratuitously brutal reprisals. The 1982 Shatila and Sabra massacres, when Israeli forces turned a blind eye to the slaughter of civilians in Lebanese refugee camps thought to harbour terrorists, remains a terrible stain on the country’s reputation. The man held responsible for the killings, Ariel Sharon, later became Israeli prime minister.

Aggressive territorial expansion by Jewish hardliners is another factor that troubles people who might otherwise support the Israeli cause. The widely held religious conviction that the Jews are God’s Chosen People is no help either. It encourages Jewish zealots to believe they have divine endorsement in whatever they do.

The Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, is not a likeable man. He gives the impression of being arrogant and belligerent.

But Netanyahu is strong, like Sharon, and the Israelis have a history of supporting leaders who uncompromisingly defend their country’s right to exist. You can hardly blame them, when their tiny country – less than half the size of Canterbury – is surrounded by 22 hostile Arab states, many of which would cheerfully see Israel obliterated.

This is the backdrop against which New Zealand strangely co-sponsored a recent United Nations resolution condemning as illegal Israeli settlements in territory occupied by Israel since the 1967 Six-Day War (a war started, and quickly lost, by the Arabs).

I say “strangely” because the Israel-Palestine question is one on which New Zealand has previously taken a prudently cautious approach.  This is in line with our international reputation as an honest broker that seeks honourable and sustainable solutions to problems rather than taking sides or adopting provocative stances.

Our support for the UN resolution was a dramatic departure from this practice. It came as a bombshell just two days before Christmas. You have to wonder: what’s changed?

The picture is made more opaque by the involvement of our slippery Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully, a man who could make a stroll to the corner dairy for a bottle of milk look suspicious.

McCully claimed New Zealand’s support for the resolution was all about promoting the so-called two-state solution, under which Israel and Palestine would peacefully co-exist. But the unavoidable suspicion is that we were doing a favour for the White House.

Barack Obama had a notoriously testy relationship with Netanyahu and may have wanted to score a last diplomatic blow against him before his term expired. To have moved directly against Israel, however, would have risked a damaging domestic political backlash within the US.

Was New Zealand, then, leaned on to do Obama’s dirty work, with the US playing its part by refusing to exercise its usual veto against the resolution? In the absence of any convincing alternative explanation, it seems plausible.

Even if we accept McCully’s assurance that our intentions were honourable, why should New Zealand so suddenly take an active and provocative stance on such a volatile issue? After all, it’s not as if there’s any shortage of countries willing to pillory and marginalise Israel.

The backing of a respected, neutral democracy like New Zealand gave the resolution a force that it would not otherwise have had. The Jew-haters will have taken great heart from our support and could well use it to justify further acts of terrorism.

Is this what New Zealanders want? I doubt it. It’s a nightmarishly complicated issue and we’re probably better off trying to work constructively from the sidelines. But if we’re forced to take sides, I know which one I’d opt for.

Karl du Fresne blogs at First published in the Manawatu Standard and Nelson Mail.


Anonymous said...

Factual correction, Israel started the Six Day War. It attacked Egypt and Jordan without warning, claiming it was a preemptive strike. The fact remains that the West bank, Gaza and sinai were seized through an aggressive campaign not a defensive response.


Ross said...

A good, balanced, well thought-out article. Thank you Karl.

Unknown said...


Unknown said...

Yes, there are reports that on the evening of 13 November, John Kerry arrived in NZ unannounced to meet secretly with our then Prime Minister John Key (who by the way I'm told is partly Jewish). The Obama administration clearly wanted NZ to co-sponsor UNSCR 2334 since Obama's scheming was under threat with Egypt having just been persuaded by Trump to pull back from doing so. Key and McCully agreed to comply like good little puppies would do. And look at the company that we jumped into bed with - Senegal, Indonesia and Venezuela! Hardly thriving civilised democracies with an honourable human rights record.

BTW, apparently that meeting ended just before midnight. Whatever was decided must've earned the living God's displeasure. Guess what struck just after midnight. It's no wonder that Key got shaken more than most - enough to announce his (then decided?) resignation a short time later.

And where was this nation's investigative journalism at the time? Sleeping. They still are.

Brian said...

International Affairs...normal practice = abnormal decisions!

I was rather more angry than puzzled by New Zealand’s Security Council decision to promote a condemnation of the State of Israel; when Islam itself considers the rest of the non Muslim world as an infidel domain.

In Karl’s fourth paragraph he mentions that terrorist groups plan the total destruction of Israel, yet it seems to pass by the United Nations together with our leftish groups, that not only do they intend to destroy Israel, but are also dedicated to the destruction of the West.

It was highly likely that former President Obama instituted this decision as a fitting tribute to his anti Israeli policy, something akin to his agreement with Australia to re-settle some illegal refugees in the USA at the end of his term. A decision whose consequences have now fallen upon President Trump...hence the recent testy phone conversation between Mr. Turnbull and himself. Which it seems finally turnout to being “A deal is a deal”. One might quite call it “dirty politics” at the “Democratic Party Sunset” !

The failure of the West since World War 11 in the Middle East has been dominated politically as well as economically by Oil. OPEC rivals the greatest monopolies on this globe, and at last we can see some light at the end of this tunnel, with the U.S.A. soon becoming self sufficient. Hopefully other major powers can follow this example.

Is the Jewish/Palestine affair “intractable”? Only to the extent that the use of appeasement is an encouragement to militant Islam, in that the European Western Nations have neither the will, nor the courage to deal promptly with the bases of this terrorism in Saudi Arabia and Iran.

In his book “The Decline & Fall of the Roman Empire” author Edward Gibbon wrote that without Charles Martel’s victory at the Battle of Tours in 731AD.

The pulpits of Europe would be sounding with verses from the Koran”.

Western Civilisation was lucky that time; we may not be that lucky next time.


jah said...

NZ government = useful idiots... if only this were insignificant. From a NZer.

paul scott said...

Agree with Brian above.
It is strange that when New Zealand entered the Security Council, Murray gave a speech which indicated that he thought the Council and UN was a dysfunctional shambles, and meaningless.

So to act at the behest of the Islamobama regime was a dreadful failing to New Zealand, sad indeed.
The 'Dark Prince" as they call him made us wonder again, just what are the values and principles of this 5th Nat Government. I don't think they have any values. You can look from NAT Constitution to Minister and Minister to Nat Government Principles and already you can see nothing .

Anonymous said...

The history of this conflict needs to be examined in detail in order to make any determinations as to who has a legitimate claim on the land of Palestine.
I make this statement and what follows anonymously because good people have been assassinated for speaking out on this issue.

Firstly the Jewish people that were living peaceably alongside Palestinian Christians and Muslims at the time that the Balfour declaration was made numbered about 60,000 and were vastly outnumbered by the remainder of the population who had held title to most of the land for generations.

The Balfour declaration was pushed for by the Zionist movement which was started in the later part of the 19th century. The Zionist movement had proposed at an earlier date that Uganda might be a suitable land upon which to establish a Jewish state so returning to the "holy land" was not the driving force rather the creation of a state based on religious or racial affiliation was.
The people claiming to be adherents to Judaism that moved into Palestine after the Balfour declaration were from largely Eastern Europe, the Americas and other places apart from the middle east.
I say "people claiming to be adherents to Judaism" because many truly religious people of the Jewish faith would hold that Zionism is blatant racism and against true Jewish values. In fact many Jewish people hold the whilst Judaism is a religion, Zionism has attempted to replace religion with nationalism. Only Jews enjoy equal rights in Israel where it is not a true secular democracy even for Jews in that only marriages between Jews are acknowledged as legal in Israel to give one example. All non-Jews are effectively marginalised in Israel. Even Jews of non Ashkenazi (Ashkenazi Jews are Europe) origin are discriminated against in Israel, just ask any Mizrahi Jews (Jews from the Middle East and Africa)that are living or have lived in Israel.

It is a fact of history that the early Zionist leaders that occupied Palestine were not at all averse to using terrorist tactics like bombing and assassination to achieve their objectives. The Stern Gang was a Zionist group that assassinated prominent people who spoke out against the legitimacy of their cause and early leaders of the state of Israel including Yitzhak Shamir (a Stern Gang leader) were formerly involved in terrorist activities of the most heinous kind.
It is a bitter irony that a State founded by people that used terrorism to attain their objectives now eschews terrorism being used by factions of the Palestinian people who are trying to get their lands back from those who took it by force.

Anonymous said...

The Arabs were not "displaced" from their land. The Israelis asked them to stay and be part of the new country.
However the Mufti of Jersulam went around the Arabs villages and told the population to leave at once or they would be slaughtered by the Jews.
He sais they should not be worried because the Arab oalition would have them back in their homes within a week.
The Arabs lost the war and did the Arab coalition absorb those they had told to leave? NO. They were left to rot in camps by their our co-reliongists.

Three generations later they and the world are convinced these poor people were ejected from their land by the Jews.