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New Zealand’s Foreign Minister fails to show leadership


04 Nov 2016

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Following the passing of resolutions in the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) that deny Jewish and Christian connections to the Temple Mount, many world leaders spoke out. New Zealand politicians did not.

In a rare move, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon, distanced himself from the resolution, saying

any perceived undertaking to repudiate the undeniable common reverence for these sites does not serve the interests of peace and will only feed violence and radicalism.”Ban Ki-moon

Shalom.Kiwi also reported statements of outrage from the UNESCO Director General and other world leaders, including apologies from the Italian Prime Minster and a formal change of vote from Mexico.

Only a relatively small number of countries were eligible to vote for the resolutions, which were passed by the 58 members of the Executive Board and the 20 members that comprise the World Heritage Committee, many of which overlap.

So objectionable were the resolutions, passed by a handful of countries, that one expert has said “those serious and responsible states … should disassociate from and leave UNESCO and withhold all membership dues”.

Further, some leaders of countries that were not part of the voting have spoken out. Notably, Australia’s Foreign Minister, Julie Bishop, condemned the resolutions as “Highly politicised, unbalanced and provocative”.

These condemnations are important because, as a Boston Globe editorial states:

UNESCO’s tendentious semantics play into an ongoing propaganda campaign by the Palestinian Authority to “de-Judaize” the identity of Jerusalem, the foremost Jewish city on earth… Malicious distortions of history are not trivial. In the Middle East as elsewhere, such falsifications have triggered wars and incited bloodshed. So it is reassuring that the UNESCO resolution has been vigorously denounced, and not only by Israel.”Boston Globe

Shalom.Kiwi contacted New Zealand Foreign Minister, Murray McCully, for comment. McCully has been outspoken about the lack of leadership in the UN – specifically impotence with regard to Syria and perceived misuse of veto powers.

However, when it comes to showing his own leadership, McCully found himself unwilling to take a strong position, saying only that both sides need to preserve “each other’s legitimate historical and religious connections to the land” – as if the UNESCO resolutions were unfair to both the Palestinians, who drafted them, and to Israel. In fact, as the Boston Globe editorial continues:

[Jerusalem’s] holy sites have never been safer, or open to more people, than in the 49 years since it was reunified under Israeli administration. If UNESCO has constructive suggestions to improve the status quo, by all means let it proffer them. But spiteful resolutions that distort history are the very opposite of constructive and deserve only contempt.”Boston Globe

The UN body that is charged with preserving history and heritage has instead undermined them by falling prey to a political agenda. Rather than condemning this, McCully creates a moral equivalence between Israel and the Arab Palestinians and rolls out his usual platitudes about the peace process, without regard to the context. This implicitly seems to place some of the blame on Israel for UNESCO’s historical distortion. To be fair to McCully, at least his response is consistent with his previous statements that have blamed only Israel for the conflict and minimised Israel’s concerns, and with his failure to adequately address anti-Israel bias within the UN.

Since McCully did mention the peace process in his response, though, he should have recognised that UNESCO’s resolutions undermine that process, and found the fortitude to condemn UNESCO on that basis, if for no other reason. How can Israel have confidence in a ‘partner for peace’ who does not recognise her legitimate rights in the Holy Land or an international community that will not uphold those rights?

Yet again, McCully, and our Government, have shown themselves to be lacking in the moral leadership they loudly proclaim, and found themselves on the wrong side of history.

Whether McCully is being disingenuous or downright dumb is for the reader to decide. McCully’s full response is below.



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