Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel once famously wrote ‘what hurts the victim most is not the cruelty of the oppressor, but the silence of the bystander.’
New Zealand’s actions at the UN General Assembly in December were those of a stand-for-nothing bystander, choosing to have a bet each way rather than follow the moral imperative to unequivocally condemn terrorism in all its forms.
Despite 87 countries, including Australia, supporting a US-backed resolution condemning the terrorist tactics waged by Hamas against Israel, the resolution was sabotaged by an earlier vote instigated by the Arab League that required a two-thirds majority for it to pass.
Although New Zealand voted to condemn Hamas for what it is – an extremist terrorist organisation committed to the destruction of the State of Israel and Western values – it abstained from the Kuwait-driven vote to impose the two-thirds majority hurdle.
New Zealand’s shameful abstention allowed the motion to pass with 75 countries in favour, 72 countries against and 26 countries abstaining. Had New Zealand exercised moral clarity like its other Western allies and voted against the motion, the result could have been very different. As aptly put by international lawyer Hillel Neuer, New Zealand’s ‘vile abstention’ ultimately ‘aided terror’.
Yet, New Zealand’s hypocrisy did not end with its decision to abstain. When the Israel Institute of New Zealand sought clarification from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, officials responded that the decision to abstain sought to prevent procedural motions being used to prevent robust debate.
However, what remains unclear is how abstaining from this procedural motion better protected robust debate. On the contrary, if only a simple majority is needed to pass a resolution, surely a country with a material interest in the matter would be further motivated to engage in robust and lively debate. Additionally, when the ultimate Hamas resolution was eventually introduced to the floor for debate, New Zealand remained silent. This is hardly the behaviour expected of a country which supposedly claims to promote discussion and debate.
To borrow the words of the US Ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, it was a lost opportunity to right a historic wrong of the UN.
Since its inception, the UN has passed over 500 resolutions that condemn Israel. Not one resolution has been passed to condemn Hamas, whose official covenant states that ‘Israel will exist and continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it, just as it obliterated others before it.’ Article 13 of the Hamas Covenant states that ‘[t]here is no solution for the Palestinian question except through jihad.’ Let’s be clear: this Covenant, or Charter, openly and explicitly advocates for a violent and bloody resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the UN has the audacity to ignore this.
There was no UN resolution in the 1990s nor 2000s to condemn Hamas for arming its members with suicide belts to detonate in Israeli restaurants and buses, killing hundreds of Israeli civilians and wounding thousands of others. There was no resolution in 2007, when Hamas seized control of Gaza and where it has since failed to hold free and democratic elections.
There was no resolution in response to Hamas shamelessly employing its own civilians as human targets during the recent protests in Gaza, and hiding rockets beneath schools and hospitals. There was no resolution when Hamas started firing rockets from Gaza, and boasted that they were explicitly aimed at civilian targets in southern Israel.
More than 400 rockets were fired into Israel within a two-day period in November and what did we hear from the UN? Radio silence.
On the contrary, by failing to pass the resolution, the UN has given tacit approval to Hamas’ ‘resistance’, which openly and proudly focuses on annihilating the State of Israel and anyone else it deems an infidel.
New Zealand’s actions are even more alarming when considered in light of recent events. In November alone three terror attacks were perpetrated against Israel. Three innocent Israelis were murdered and dozens were injured. One of the victims was a three-day-old baby, Amiad Yisrael. Amiad’s mother, Shira Ish-Ran, was critically injured when a terrorist opened fire on a bus station. Shira was 30 weeks pregnant and Amiad was delivered by emergency C-section. Both originally in critical conditions, Amiad’s parents only saw their son for the first time hours before he died. This attack was later praised by Hamas as ‘heroic’.
By raising the threshold to condemn terror, New Zealand and its accomplices at the UN have yet again imposed a different standard of proof for terror when perpetrated against Israelis. According to the 101 countries who supported or abstained from the 2/3 majority vote, as an Israeli, Amiad’s death did not warrant the same international condemnation it would have received had he been born elsewhere. The New Zealand Government would do well to reflect on this.
What the UN has also done is to support the continuing oppression of the civilian population in Gaza. No one suffers more at the hands of Hamas than the innocent Palestinians who live under its control.
Since Hamas took over Gaza 11 years ago, only 10 per cent of the population have access to safe drinking water, unemployment has risen to 50 per cent, torture and brutality are regularly used to stamp out dissent, and foreign aid resources ostensibly earmarked for health care – including those channeled into Gaza by the UN – are misappropriated to build rockets and terror tunnels.
And what can the global community now expect in return? This was best summarised by Khalil al-Haya, a senior Hamas official who described the failed resolution as an ‘uplift for the Palestinian resistance’ which ‘will remain committed to the option of resistance’.
So long as countries like New Zealand choose to turn a blind eye on these realities, peace will never be achieved in the Middle East. Once again quoting Elie Wiesel, ‘silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.’
Jeremy Leibler is President of the Zionist Federation of Australia