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Palestinian advocate says New Zealand should be the ‘conscience of the Western world’

23 April, 2024

Interview by Castor Chacko, adapted by Oto Sequeira

National Chair of the Palestine Solidarity Network Aotearoa, John Minto, says the government’s response to Iran’s attacks on Israel is 'hypocritical' and ‘embarrassing’. Image: Wikimedia Commons

On 15 April, Iran launched over 300 drones and missiles at Israeli territory, two weeks after Israel's suspected bombing of the Iranian embassy in Syria, which killed 13 people. 

The retaliatory aerial attacks are the first direct strike by Iran on Israeli territory, from Iran. According to the Israeli military, a majority of the projectiles aimed at Israel were intercepted with assistance from the US, UK, and France, with only minor damage to infrastructure.

Western countries, including New Zealand, have condemned Iran for targeting Israel.

In a statement, Prime Minister, Christopher Luxon, and Deputy Prime Minister, Winston Peters, called the attacks “shocking” and “unprecedented”.

National Chair of Palestine Solidarity Network Aotearoa, John Minto, told 95bFM’s The Wire that Aotearoa’s involvement in the Western-led condemnation of Iran is 'hypocritical' and “embarrassing” for New Zealand.

"Israel has been attacking Iran for years. It launched a missile attack on the Iranian consulate in Damascus and killed several leading members of the Iranian military and Iranian political leaders."

“Our government talks about New Zealand following an international-rules based order, but that is simply not true. If we were doing that, we would call out all crimes under international law, not just crimes committed by people the US regard as enemies.”

According to the Ministry of Health in Gaza, at least 34,000 Palestinians have been killed since 7 October 2023, when Israel began its assault on the besieged enclave.

A United Nations-backed report has found that 70 per cent of Gaza’s 2.3 million population is facing “catastrophic hunger” and heading towards famine, as Israel has blocked the delivery of aid supplies, including food.

Minto says New Zealand should not blindly follow other Western countries including the US and the UK in refusing to speak out against Israel's war crimes.

He says New Zealand should join South Africa's genocide case against Israel at the International Court of Justice, which determined there is a plausible case Israel is committing genocide in Gaza. 

“We have a duty under international law to help not only prosecute genocide crimes but prevent them from occurring in the first place.”

“New Zealand should be the conscience of the Western world in speaking out."

The Palestinian Solidarity Network has urged the government to call for an immediate permanent ceasefire in Gaza.

“That is what the vast majority of people in the world want, it is what New Zealanders want, yet our government will not do it.”

Minto says New Zealand should close its Israeli embassy in Wellington and place sanctions on Israel, similar to its response when Russia invaded Ukraine two years ago.

“We had a Russian sanctions bill rushed through Parliament. We had the Minister of Foreign Affairs and our Prime Minister condemning Russia. We should apply the same thing to Israel's illegal occupation and siege of Gaza, and the occupied Palestinian territories.”

Listen to the full interview

Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air