We are pleased to work with Wellington Palestine on this urgent letter to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.
Thursday, 10 September 2020
To the Rt Hon Jacinda Ardern
Dear Prime Minister,
An appeal to intervene on behalf of the people of Gaza.
While Aotearoa New Zealand has been patiently managing the long tail of our second COVID-19 outbreak, the occupied Gaza Strip first identified community transmission of COVID-19 on August 24. Today there are more than 1200 cases in its crowded cities and refugee camps.
We, the citizens of Aotearoa NZ, are failing a community in immediate danger. Why is Gaza our responsibility?
The UN General Assembly and Security Council, the International Court of Justice, the International Committees of the Red Cross, human rights and legal NGOs all agree that International Humanitarian Law and the laws of occupation apply in full throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Occupied people are legally protected people. The duty of states like New Zealand, and one of the first duties of the occupying power, Israel, is to uphold the rights of the occupied people of Palestine.
Gaza has been battered for a month, as Israel responds to individual acts of Gazan protest:
August 11, Israel closed the one entrance for goods into Gaza
August 13, they cut off fuel supplies.
August 16, they militarily closed Gaza’s fishing waters.
From August 17, Gaza had insufficient electricity to pump water into Gazan homes.
On August 18, Gaza’s only power plant shut down for lack of fuel so that Gazans have had only a few hours of electricity each day.
On August 19, sewage treatment had to cease without electricity.
Israel began bombing Gaza on August 6, and they sustained the bombardment night after night.
S Michael Lynk, UN Special Rapporteur on Palestine and an associate professor of law noted this week, “Israel remains the occupying power, and international law – including Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention – strictly forbids the use of collective punishment by the occupier.”
On August 24 COVID-19 was found in the community of Gaza. In the same week that Israel reported its highest-ever use of electricity for air conditioning to combat a heat wave with temperatures up to 48C, Gazans lacked electricity to refrigerate food during their lockdown. Hamas and Israel have now agreed to resume some fuel shipments.
The International Crisis Group is warning that “A major outbreak in Gaza would likely be disastrous.” It is the responsibility of the occupying power to ensure Gazans’ equitable access to quality health care, but blockaded Gaza has been structurally deprived of the resources to fight COVID-19. S Michael Lynk adds, “This blockade has no meaningful security rationale. It inflicts great misery on the two million civilians in Gaza, while imposing little harm on any security targets.”
COVID-19 makes this long-standing misery into an immediate threat.
We, New Zealanders of Muslim, Jewish and other identities, urge our government to uphold the laws and conventions that it signs in our names. If we want to live in a world of laws and human dignity, we must show up together when law and dignity are violated.
Today, we call on Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, to please fulfil our obligations to protect the occupied people of Palestine and restore their equal human rights — especially their urgent right to medical care and COVID-related supplies. Let New Zealand join the 138 states that already recognize the State of Palestine, and let us speak up for a just solution to the military occupation of Palestine, and the blockade of the Gaza Strip.
Marilyn Garson (Alternative Jewish Voices) and
Neil Ballantyne (Wellington Palestine)
Also signed by these Alternative Jewish Voices: Fred Albert, Jeremy Rose, David Weinstein, Sarah Cole, Marilyn Garson, Asher Goldman, Sue Berman and Prue Hyman
Also signed on behalf of Wellington Palestine by Laura Agel, Nadia Abu-Shanab, Gill Bailey, Neil Ballantyne, Carl Bradley, Biddy Bunzl, Shahd El-Matary, James Fraser, Jenny Hawes, John Hobbs, Gillian Marie, Jeanie McCafferty, Ben Peterson, M. J. Pittaway, Aida Tavassoli, Adri van Lith, Kate Slankard-Stone and Samira Zaiton.
Marilyn Garson e: firstname.lastname@example.org
Neil Ballantyne e: email@example.com