Historically anti-apartheid New Zealand confronts risks of standing up to Israel

New Zealand Peer Protest
A police officer talks to protesters in Auckland, New Zealand, following Israel’s bombing of a UN school in a Gaza, Jan 8, 2008. (photo: Greg Bowker / AP / New Zealand Herald)

Progress on the Israel question is slowly but surely being made, owing to the strong commitment of places like New Zealand, who continue to move forward unafraid of the consequences.

By Darius Shahtahmasebi | MPN News | Mar 20, 2018

“New Zealand has and has always had an independent foreign policy — we base our decisions on principle, not being bullied. We will always take a principled foreign policy.”
— Jacinda Ardern, New Zealand’s Prime Minister

If we were to truly honor the late, great Stephen Hawking, perhaps it would pay to remind ourselves of the principles the acclaimed physicist really stood for. One of those principles was Hawking’s commitment to the boycott of Israel in response to Israel’s longstanding policy of egregiously violating the rights of millions of ordinary Palestinians.

In 2013, Hawking publicly withdrew himself from a conference in Jerusalem on the future of Israel — stating that he had decided to “respect the boycott,” having received advice from Palestinian academics.

“A people under occupation will continue to resist in any way it can. If Israel wants peace it will have to talk to Hamas like Britain did with the IRA [Irish Republican Army],” Hawking said in 2009, speaking in regard to Israel’s brutal assault of Gaza during Operation Cast Lead. “Hamas are the democratically elected leaders of the Palestinian people and cannot be ignored.” . . .

However, boycotting Israel is nowhere near as risk-free as boycotting and sanctioning states such as Syria, North Korea or Iran. Boycotting Israel comes with unforeseen consequences that shed light not only on the power and reach of the Zionist lobby and to adherents of the Zionist agenda, but also on how weak the argument in favor of promoting Israel’s human rights-abusing agenda is. If their argument were strong, would they need to actively and forcibly silence those who dissent?

States such as New Zealand have found this out the hard way and continue to grapple with the issue to this day. The problem that Israel will always have with New Zealand is that New Zealand has long held itself as a beacon of human rights and individual freedom. Whether or not this is, in fact, the case is irrelevant because New Zealand has to continue to maintain that façade, particularly regarding its approach to the international community. To this day, the country continues to point to its boycott of Apartheid South Africa — not too long ago, mind you — as a moment of historical pride.

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