Green Party MP, Marama Davidson, is soon to depart on the “women’s peace boat” in an attempt to breach Israel’s legal maritime blockade of Gaza and raise awareness of the Palestinian cause. However, press releases from the Green Party and Ms Davidson seem to lack awareness of some fundamental facts, so we thought we would help them become better acquainted with the truth.
1. Jews are indigenous to Israel
In the Green Party press statement, Ms Davidson said she is joining the boat “as an indigenous woman” to support the women of Gaza. However she appears unaware of the Jewish people’s 3,000 year historical connection with the land of Israel, which expulsion and dispersal failed to destroy. Since the most recent expulsion by the Romans 2,000 years ago, faithful Jews have prayed three times daily, and annually on special festivals for a return to their maunga (sacred mountains), their whenua (ancestral land). This is the longing of an indigenous people.
The Jewish state of Israel is considered by many to be the role model for indigenous peoples seeking a return to their ancient homelands. While most were dispersed to foreign lands, Israel has always retained a small number of Jews, keeping the fires burning (ahi kaa) for an eventual return to land over which they had mana whenua. Jews, like many other indigenous peoples, were under occupation, a minority in their own land for many centuries. The revitalisation of the indigenous language (Hebrew) is an inspiration to indigenous language advocates worldwide, including Måori.
If there is a people group that knows and understands discrimination, persecution, dispossession, expulsion, occupation and genocide, it is the Jewish people. The re-establishment of the Jewish state was an existential necessity that was internationally recognised and ultimately granted by the United Nations. In the face of an alarming rise in anti-Semitism worldwide, the state of Israel as the Jewish homeland, continues to be a necessity.
2. Gaza is ruled by Hamas, a fundamentalist terror organisation with a genocidal purpose
Israel unilaterally withdrew from Gaza in 2005. Since 2007, Gaza has been ruled by Hamas, a sunni-Islamic fundamentalist organisation that took control of Gaza in a bloody battle (against Fatah) that cost 116 Palestinian lives. The armed wing of Hamas, Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, is designated by New Zealand as a terror group, in line with UN Security Council Resolution 1373. Hamas does not recognise Israel and its charter calls for genocide.
3. Human rights are not high on Hamas’ agenda
Ms Davidson thinks that “as a woman” she is able to help the women of Gaza and yet refuses to speak out about the treatment of women within Gazan society. The rights of women in Gaza, under Hamas rule, are severely restricted; they are prohibited from walking in public unaccompanied by a male relative. Shockingly, 63% of women in Gaza suffer from domestic abuse and many of these women believe they deserve the abuse. According to the Director of Women’s Affairs Center, Amal Syam,
Within Palestinian society, women have limited participation in political life. Existing discriminatory legislations, social norms, growing conservative attitudes, prevailing gender stereotypes, and socio-economic hardship hinder women’s political role.”Amal Syam, Director of Women’s Affairs Center
The treatment of women in Palestinian society is exemplified by the upcoming municipality elections; instead of referring to the female candidates by name and publishing their pictures, the electoral lists are using the terms “the wife of” or “sister”.
It’s not only women who suffer greatly under Palestinian rule: homosexuals are persecuted and sometimes killed and political opponents are assassinated. Hamas uses its own citizens as human shields, including children, while Hamas leaders shelter in the safety of bomb shelters or the luxury of five star hotels in Qatar. Children are exploited as labourers to build terror tunnels and boys and girls are recruited to be ‘martyrs’.
Freedom of religion in Gaza is also restricted by Hamas. Just like in the West Bank and many Arab states, Jews are not allowed to own land. While there are no Jews living in Gaza anymore, there are some Christians. They have recently expressed great concern about the destruction of an ancient Byzantine church by Hamas.
4. Aid is often diverted to terror or misappropriated by millionaire Gazans
Gaza receives billions of dollars of international aid and, according to Global Humanitarian Assistance, Palestinians receive the highest level of aid per capita when compared to any other place on Earth. Much to the chagrin of many hard working and generous New Zealanders, some of this aid has been diverted to Hamas for the building of terror tunnels and stockpiling of weapons. The misappropriation of aid has also angered at least one UN representative:
Those who seek to gain through the deviation of materials are stealing from their own people and adding to the suffering of Palestinians in Gaza,”Nickolay Mladenov, the UN’s special coordinator for the Middle East peace process
It is because of this diversion of aid to terror that some of the wealthy Arab states have still not made good on their multi-billion dollar pledges, further delaying reconstruction efforts. It is also why an investigative report published in the pan-Arab newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat, found there are at least 600 millionaires living in the Gaza Strip.
While we have come to think of Gaza as a bombed out, poverty-stricken place, visitors are surprised at how far from reality this actually is. Hamas recently released an election video showing parts of Gaza that we seldom see on our news, a new luxury mall is soon to open and the lavish lifestyles of the rich keep the hotels and restaurants busy.
This does not mean that there are not people in need – there is also poverty in Gaza. However, the notion that all people there are suffering unimaginable circumstances is a false narrative. If the distribution of wealth within Gaza was more fair and there was less corruption, hardworking aid organisations could put efforts into regions of the world where there are no millionaires and much more need. If only the government of Gaza was focussed on improving the lives of their people rather than destroying Israel.
5. The blockade is legal and attempting to breach it is reckless: UN
There was no blockade in 2005, when Israel unilaterally withdrew from Gaza. After Hamas took control, Israel and “The Quartet on the Middle East” (US, Russia, UN, EU) imposed economic sanctions and restrictions on Gaza. The naval blockade and land crossing policies were instituted as a response to rocket attacks and expressly for the purpose of stemming the flow of weapons into Gaza.
After months examining international law, the United Nations Security Council Panel deemed Israel’s naval blockade of Gaza legal and a necessary step to protect its citizens from the onslaught of rocket attacks from Gaza. In order to maintain the legal blockade, Israel must stop any boat attempting to breach it. That is why the previous attempts have ended with the Israeli navy interceptions and arrests. It is also why the UNSC report considers attempts to breach the blockade “a dangerous and reckless act” and stated
Where a State becomes aware that its citizens or flag vessels intend to breach a naval blockade, it has a responsibility to take pro-active steps compatible with democratic rights and freedoms to warn them of the risks involved and to endeavour to dissuade them from doing so”United Nations Security Council Report
6. Egypt borders Gaza and blockades more restrictively than Israel
Gaza borders Israel but it also borders Egypt (see map). It is also interesting to note that before 1967, Egypt occupied Gaza with little or no demand for an independent Palestinian state. Egypt has imposed tough measures on Gaza in recent times, because of its battle with jihadists in Sinai. These measures include creating a 2km ‘buffer zone’ and closing the Rafah border crossing between the Gaza Strip and Egypt except for rare instances.
Israel continues to send humanitarian supplies into Gaza. Since June 2010 restrictions have eased and the Kerem Shalom Crossing expanded and developed so that its capacity now allows for the movement of about 2,000 trucks per day, compared to 150 before the June declaration, and fifteen thousand people cross the border each month. In the first half of 2016, 88,800 trucks of goods were transferred to the Hamas-controlled enclave through the Kerem Shalom border crossing in southern Gaza, breaking the record for the number of deliveries into Gaza.
Why have we never heard Ms Davidson or the Green Party criticising Egypt for its more restrictive blockade?
7. Israel is working to help Gazans
When Israelis left behind valuable horticultural businesses in 2005, Gazans, instead of receiving them as the gift that they were, destroyed them. It was anticipated that thousands of Gazans would continue to cross into into Israel every day to work, but under Hamas’ control this could not be.
The supply of many essentials such as water and electricity is governed by complicated arrangements between the PA, Hamas, independent companies, and coordinated by Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT). Israel has limited capability to impact Gaza’s domestic affairs, now that it no longer has any jurisdiction over the strip. Hamas, as the political and administrative authority in Gaza, has the ability to improve life for its citizens, but since it took control, conditions have worsened significantly.
Israel recently announced plans to improve water and gas supply, and actively assists with medical treatment – including relatives of senior Hamas officials. Egypt has no such policy for its Arab neighbours and other Arab countries have held back on investment in Gaza while Israel seeks solutions for the people under Hamas rule. Israel maintains these efforts in spite of Hamas’s refusal to accept some aid, build a desalination plant, or to pay for power.
8. This is not the path to peace or helping Palestinians
Although the flotilla is called a “Peace Mission”, it is not about finding a way to peace or helping Palestinians. Neither of these things will come from virtue-signalling and a demonisation of Israel. Peace will not be imposed by outsiders who think they know best and infantilise Palestinians. It will come from dialogue between the two sides, co-existence, and a recognition that both sides have suffered and have legitimate rights.
For Palestinians, it will come when their leaders’ desire to have a viable sovereign democratic state, and to make the sacrifices necessary to effect it, is greater than the desire to see the demise of Israel. If Ms Davidson really wants to help the Palestinians get their own state that will co-exist peacefully alongside Israel, she should support one of the many grassroots movements co-founded by Palestinians and Israelis – movements promoting non-violence, transformation and dialogue between the two sides.
If she doesn’t do these things, it would seem she is less interested in helping the Palestinians than in useless and reckless grandstanding.
9. The Greens are keeping bad company
Kia Ora Gaza is the NZ-based group facilitating Davidson’s trip. Kia Ora Gaza leader, Roger Fowler, has expressed support for a one-state solution, compared Israel to Islamic State, publicly supported a “third intifada”, and justified violence against Israeli civilians. This is not the language or actions of an organisation committed to peace and human rights.
Further, when a party like the Greens that ostensibly champions peace, justice and human rights, finds itself aligned in its stance with Hamas and other Islamists, who violently eschew those same values, something is amiss. Indeed, it seems the Greens only care about impugning Israel, the democratic state that has one of the most religiously and ethnically diverse populations in the world, equal rights for women, annual Pride parades, and Muslims in its Parliament; all things that Gaza under Hamas does not have. Also, if the Greens weren’t so pre-occupied with hating Israel, they might have noticed that Israel, with its amazing scientific know-how and research, is at the forefront of many great environmental initiatives and was one of only two countries to enter the 21st century with a net gain in trees.
The Greens should realise that the company they are keeping makes a mockery of them and their purported values. If Ms Davidson and the Green party want to be taken seriously as influential political players and champions of human rights, they should stop consorting with extremists whose agenda is to see Israel disappear.