Tag: New Zealand
Since New Zealand assumed its seat on the United Nations Security Council, Foreign Minister Murray McCully has raised eyebrows with some of his actions and statements regarding Israel.
He has regularly stated his desire to get Israel and the Palestinians back to the negotiating table. But, while doing so, he has repeatedly pointed to Israel's settlement activity as the key item threatening the viability of the two state solution. Conversely, he has generally refrained from giving any specific comment on Palestinian inctitement or recalcitrance.
Building bridges with art and culture is a time-honoured tradition. It could be a partnership between musicians from countries in conflict, or a fine art exhibition aiming to break down the gap between different parts of the world. Whatever the form, the arts can serve to create empathy, understanding and identification in situations where it might not otherwise exist.
Back in 2014, at the height of the Israel-Gaza conflict, I wrote about the extreme nature of anti-Israel protests and public pronouncements. I pondered whether there might perhaps be a stream of antisemitism, disguised as anti-Israel sentiment, growing in New Zealand.
These concerns are shared by other New Zealanders, non-Jewish as well as Jewish.
One prominent example is Sir James McNeish, a critically acclaimed novelist, playwright and biographer.
Sometimes trying to be too many things to too many people in a difficult situation can end up offering nothing to anybody. Or, alternatively, counterproductively sowing confusion and discord. And such seems to be the case with New Zealand's draft Security Council resolution on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Palestinian human rights activist Bassem Eid has been openly vocal in his opposition to, and condemnation of, the BDS movement and all that it represents. This may have played a part in the hostility that greeted his recent visit to New Zealand.
However, that hostility, in turn, exposed some of the ugly hypocrisy which is circulating in some sectors of New Zealand academia.
In October 2014, after a campaign of nearly 10 years, New Zealand won its fourth two-year term on the esteemed UN Security Council. Prime Minister John Key pledged that New Zealand would be a "small country with a loud voice." Indeed, it put forth an ambitious agenda, one that included working with the five permanent members of the Council to remove their veto privilege and restarting Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. Murray McCully, New Zealand's Foreign Minister, said after visiting both Israel and the Palestinian territories earlier this year that his "overwhelming impression" is that the two sides are "not that far apart" and that "the UN Security Council's a pretty good place to start that conversation."
In theory, the United Nations is the epitome of effective diplomatic activity and relations. Yet, in practice, it is, all too frequently, an epicentre of vitriolic rhetoric, wilful misinformation, and unfortunate end results.
There is prestige and status attached to seats on the various UN councils and committees, though. And, at least partly for this reason, New Zealand fought long and hard to gain its current seat on the UN Security Council.
New Zealand's battle to secure a non-permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) was long and hard-fought. And with just a two-year term to serve, starting from last January, the country's foreign affairs officials don't plan to waste what time they have.
Foreign Minister Murray McCully has committed Wellington to support a greater role for the Security Council in the Middle East peace process, saying, "We have been clear in our view that the situation in the occupied Palestinian territories is not sustainable, and our friendships with Israel and Palestine demand we play a part in helping to find a solution."
Impassioned speeches, heated debates, jovial neighbourhood walkabouts, the peddling of grand dreams for the future... National elections tend to be rousing times, full of hope and opportunity.
They also tend to focus the attention of the community on broader social issues, along with the challenges facing the economy and the country. The resulting dialogue - which is often the only time many issues are publicly debated - is a useful and important part of New Zealand's democratic system.
Jumping to hasty assessments can often be a mistake but, sometimes, looking further into those same assessments can lead to interesting discoveries. When first asked to write a column about coverage of the recent Israeli elections in New Zealand I said, without too much thought, "there wasn't much". Yet my research on the topic very quickly showed that assumption was, in fact, not correct.