IINZ History

NZ falls in line with antisemitic bias at the UN

It is widely acknowledged that the United Nations is a place where Jew-hatred flourishes and where an irrational fixation on demonising Israel persists. There are 193 member states of the United Nations. Of these, 125 – the Non-aligned movement, which includes the 57 member states of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation – are inherently anti-Israel and anti-democratic. It is little wonder that there are disproportionately more resolutions passed against Israel than any other country (by a ratio of 20:1) when countries like Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Iran, North Korea, and Venezuela dictate the agenda.

Sadly, New Zealand has played a role in propping up the antisemitic organs of the UN and supporting anti-Israel resolutions.

To understand the New Zealand motivation for not opposing this clear bias at the UN, The Israel Institute of New Zealand obtained, under the Official Information Act, advice given by Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade officials on UNGA voting for 2015, 2016, 2017, and 2018. The Israel Institute of New Zealand has summarised the advice given and commented on each of the nineteen reoccurring resolutions

In response to the Israel Institute of New Zealand commentary, Foreign Minister Winston Peters wrote “New Zealand maintains a consistent and balanced position on the nineteen Middle East-related resolutions that are voted in the United Nations General Assembly…”

However, it is hard to see how the rhetoric of ‘balance’ is manifest in reality. In 2017 and 2018, New Zealand abstained on four of the nineteen recurring anti-Israel resolutions and voted against none. In contrast, Australia voted against six in 2017 and nine in 2018; Canada voted against 17 in both years, and the USA voted against 17 in 2017 and all 19 in 2018. This shows countries can change their voting pattern if they choose and highlights a difference in thinking between New Zealand and traditional allies.

New Zealand’s record of supporting anti-Israel resolutions show the claims of balance, evenhandedness, and being an “honest broker” to be false. Rather, New Zealand has consistently followed the automatic majority at the UN in disproportionately condemning Israel, rather than finding an independent voice.

NZ’s unquestioning support of UNRWA

IINZ has challenged New Zealand’s unquestioning support of a United Nations agency that has become politicised and a barrier to peace. 

The New Zealand government has not addressed issues of corruption, inefficiency, the perpetuation of the conflict, or incitement to terror within UNRWA. Worse still, documents obtained under the Official Information Act by the Israel Institute of New Zealand show Ministry of Foreign Affairs Officials failed to record meetings where issues were raised and did not brief ministers.

New Zealand has only praised UNRWA and committed to at least $1 million each year in funding for the organisation.

When confronted with questions about the incitement on UNRWA staff social media and the corruption allegations of senior UNRWA officials, MFAT staff responded by saying ‘the Ministry will review the findings of the UN Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) report once the investigation is complete and provide advice to the New Zealand Government’.

We noted that this was a bizarre response from a government that is leading the Christchurch Call to eliminate online incitement. It would only be consistent to take more seriously online incitement by staff in an organisation funded by New Zealand taxpayers. The MFAT comment was also undermined by New Zealand voting, in opposition to the USA, to extend the mandate of UNRWA until 2023, despite the ongoing OIOS investigation (which was not even tasked with investigating the problematic material taught in UNRWA schools).

Dr David Cumin and Prof Dov Bing also highlighted the hypocrisy of New Zealand supporting UNRWA in an article published by The New Zealand International Review. They cited the government’s previous suspension of aid to Fiji and Nauru over reported violations of civil and political rights, in contrast to the continued support of UNRWA.

At the very least, New Zealand should denounce the egregious and systemic issues within UNRWA rather than continue its automatic support of the “right of return”, antisemitic curriculum, and online incitement to violence.

Rogue Labour MPs and Government officials

Finally, the actions of government Ministers and officials has raised doubt over the government’s claim to maintain a ‘balanced’, ‘even handed’ approach to Israel. 

In August 2018 Labour MP Dr Duncan Webb hosted a meeting by Unite Union National Director Mike Treen who participated in a flotilla protest against Israel. While Treen is entitled to support the terrorist actions of Hamas, a Labour MP hosting such an event, is a clear endorsement of extremism.

MP Webb continued his activism in promoting an unsuccessful petition for the New Zealand Superannuation Fund to divest from Israeli banks, and in May 2019 he promoted a BDS campaign whose goal is the delegitimization and ultimate dismantling of Israel. And in a speech given in June 2019, Dr Webb made the false and outrageous claim that “It’s illegal to promote boycotts against Israel [in US] because [US has] a strong Zionist Jewish lobby.”

Dr Webb’s views are in stark opposition to the official stance stated by the New Zealand Government and the Labour Party, which “supports a two-state solution to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, and recognises that New Zealand has a growing trade and economic relationship with Israel”. 

Another matter of concern is the way in which officials at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade were comfortable promoting an event that advocated BDS and a one-state solution. The keynote speaker, University of Auckland Associate Professor of Dance Studies, Nicholas Rowe openly identifies with a designated terror organisation and endorses actions that are designed to destroy an allied nation.

These are the same government officials who advise the minister and other representatives. 

Their retweet and lack of apology raised serious questions about the lack of balance in the advice given to Ministers of Foreign Affairs and other representatives, and the divide between MFAT officials’ opinions and the NZ government’s official position. What influence do rogue advisors have on Ministers and UN vote-makers? Or is it, like the Immigration Ministry, suffering a simple case of incompetence, as revealed by the chance discovery that Immigration NZ had erased Israel from the map?

However, in a slither of hope, PM Jacinda Ardern recently distanced herself from the on-line anti-Israel hate group, Kia Ora Gaza.

The posts and comments on the Kia Ora Gaza facebook page prompted emphatic condemnation from Race Relations Commissioner, Meng Foon, who called the material “abhorrent”. 

Chief Human Rights Commissioner, Prof Paul Hunt, was equally clear in a statement made to IINZ that the posts and comments crossed any reasonable line,

“Your [IINZ] article exposes utterly deplorable antisemitism… I am grateful to you for bringing your important article to my attention – and for calling out such appalling examples of antisemitism.”

The government’s report card on Israel over the past three years makes for dismal reading. In current parlance, Ardern’s government would receive “Not Achieved”. In terms with which our older readers would be more familiar: “D-“

It is therefore not surprising that Winston Peters has issued a press statement expressing ‘serious concern’ over Israel’s plan to apply Israeli civilian law to parts of the disputed territories, even before the details of the plan have been announced. 

New Zealand’s failure to clearly condemn terrorism reeks of hypocrisy and its ongoing anti-Israel voting record at the UN renders any talk of ‘balance’ and ‘even-handedness’ hollow. However, those who care about New Zealand’s relationship with Israel will soon have an opportunity to make their views known at the ballot box. We have prepared the following voter’s guide of different party positions on Israel and will write further articles in the lead up to the election.

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