If the world was in any doubt about what Israel’s endgame in Gaza might be, this (Google translated) Christmas Day report in the Israeli media made it pretty clear:
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu confirmed [today] at the Likud faction meeting that he is working to bring about the voluntary immigration of Gaza residents to other countries. “Our problem is [finding] countries that are ready to absorb, and we are working on it,” Netanyahu said.
The PM responded to [Likud Knesset member] M.K. Danny Damon who noted at the meeting that “the world is already discussing the possibilities of voluntary immigration. The Canadian immigration minister said so publicly and so did [Republican presidential candidate] Nikki Haley.” A state of Israel team must be established to deal with this issue.
Note how the term “voluntary immigration” is being used to describe people fleeing from mass murder. Yesterday, King Abdullah of Jordan reportedly raised concerns with US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken about the forced displacement of Palestinians from Gaza and the West Bank. It would seem that the slaughter of 22,000 Palestinians by the IDF has been in service of a greater goal: Namely, the use of state terrorism to bring about the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from its Occupied Territories, and the creation of a Greater Israel, stretching from the river to the sea.
The vast bulk of the people displaced in this repeat of the 1948 expulsions are likely to be pushed into neighbouring countries – Jordan, Egypt, Lebanon. These countries can be militarily coerced into acceptance of a huge new refugee influx, in addition to the Palestinians they already harbour. The Israeli actions against Hezbollah in Lebanon can be seen as a related exercise in regional intimidation, and as a cautionary prelude to this planned exodus.
Meanwhile, Western countries have given Israel open (or tacit) support to the brutal IDF campaign in Gaza. They can also probably be relied on to give a humanitarian gloss to this exercise by taking in a few thousand Palestinians on “compassionate” grounds within their annual refugee intakes.
Canada is already talking about taking in (from Gaza and the West Bank) some 1,000 relatives of the Palestinian population already resident in Canada. If the US, Australia, and New Zealand governments do likewise, we should be clear about the true drivers of this exercise. Our compassion will have been used to put a happy face onto a relentless campaign of ethnic cleansing.
Invoking the “G” word.
Before Christmas, South Africa laid a complaint of genocide against Israel at the International Criminal Court. The full 84 page document can be found here. There’s a good analysis/summary of the South African document available here. The document sets out in detail how Israel’s actions in Gaza meet the definition of “genocide” under the international treaties on human rights to which New Zealand is a signatory.
If it felt so inclined, New Zealand could lend valuable moral weight to the South African initiative – up to and including becoming a co-sponsor. After all, as this column has previously pointed out, MFAT brags on its website about how in the early 1990s, it was New Zealand that had alerted an uncaring world to the genocide unfolding in Rwanda. South Africa listens when we speak, and notices when we don’t.
Secondly, South Africa’s ICC challenge to Israel is based on the fact that Israel routinely condemns Palestinians to an apartheid-like legal and social regime based on racial identity. New Zealand likes to think that it was our brave stand against apartheid during the 1981 Springbok tour protests that gave heart to the oppressed, and accelerated the demise of the apartheid system in South Africa. That moral stand has become a part of our national self-identity, right up there alongside our commitment to being anti-nuclear.
That being so, we can’t pick and choose. If we condemned apartheid back when it was being imposed on blacks and coloureds by Afrikaners, we can’t condone it today when it is being imposed on Palestinians by Israel. So far however, New Zealand has turned a wilful blind eye to the evils of a system where race fundamentally determines the value given to human life, including to the lives of children.
Red Sea Attacks
The West has been unwilling to call for a ceasefire to the indiscriminate slaughter occurring in Gaza. The violations of international law include Israel’s weaponizing of starvation and thirst, forced displacements, collective punishment of civilians, disproportionate use of military force, targeting of hospitals, schools, mosques and medical personnel etc. etc.
Successive Labour and National-led New Zealand governments have been unwilling to call for a ceasefire, let alone show themselves willing to condemn any of the above list of war crimes. (Former PM Helen Clark has been almost a lone political voice in condemning Israel’s violations of international human rights law.) Yet contrast this abject failure – to date, 8,500 Palestinian children have reportedly been killed by the IDF – with the dazzling speed at which New Zealand has rushed to help defend the international trade routes through the Red Sea.
The wording of the US-led joint statement on the Red Sea is deeply ironic:
Ongoing Houthi attacks in the Red Sea are illegal, unacceptable, and profoundly destabilizing. There is no lawful justification for intentionally targeting civilian shipping and naval vessels.
Illegal. Unacceptable. Profoundly de-stabilising? Plainly, the West is more upset when trade is being disrupted, than when thousands of lives are being destroyed. The Houthi rebels in Yemen are routinely written off by the Western media as “Iran proxies.” (Oddly, the media do not call Israel a US proxy, even though Israel is more dependent on the US than the Houthis are on Iran.) Ostensibly, the Houthis are acting in solidarity with the Palestinians, in order to make Western nations pay some price for their overt and tacit support for Israel‘s actions in Gaza.
Yemenis have known first hand what the Gazans are going through. During the civil war that began in 2015, Yemen was subjected to an illegal blockade of essential food and medical supplies by the Saudis and the UAE. As in Gaza, civilians were subjected to indiscriminate Saudi bombing of population centres, including the destruction of essential water treatment facilities that led to deadly cholera outbreaks.
An uneasy truce in the Yemeni civil war was negotiated by the UN in April 2022. Since then, the Houthis have inherited the problems of running much of the country – they have the support of some 80% of the population – and of meeting public expectations. To some observers, the upsurge in shipping attacks after October 7 could well have been intended as a distraction from the mounting domestic discontent.
In the past, the sporadic attacks on international shipping have always been rapidly de-escalated by the Houthis to avoid international intervention. Yet like Hamas on October 7, the Houthis may now have given all of their powerful enemies – the Saudis, the Emirates, the Americans and the Israelis – an excuse for a response that will almost certainly be disproportionate to the actual risk being posed to international trade. Regardless, our new government has rushed to sign New Zealand up to be part of any US-led coalition of the willing. against the Houthis.
Footnote: To be clear: There is no existential threat (a) to the state of Israel from Hamas or (b) to international trade from the Houthis. In both cases, the West and its allies in the Middle East are deliberately inflating the level of risk. As a resistance movement, Hamas has indeed killed and injured hundreds of Israeli civilians. Yet as the eminent US political scientist John Mearsheimer has pointed out, the relatively small number of Hamas fighters pose no existential threat to the state of Israel itself, given that Israel commands one of the most powerful (and nuclear-armed) military forces in the world.
For similar reasons, recent history would indicate that the Houthis would voluntarily de-escalate their threat to international shipping. What New Zealand needs to be wary of is the potential for the US, Israel and the Saudis to exaggerate the Houthi threat in order to justify the military expansion of their own regional interests. (As a consequence of their major role in Yemen’s civil war, the Saudis have occasionally been subjected to missile attacks on their oil fields by the Houthis, as retaliation for the Saudi bombing of Yemen civilian centres.)
Unfortunately, in a situation where scepticism would be healthy, our new government looks more than willing to sign up to whatever its powerful allies have in mind. Yet another retro move from our deeply reactionary new government.
In Verona, we’re all burning
The holiday break provided a chance to catch up with some overlooked 2023 music. “In Verona” is an ambitious eight minute track by Lael Neale that conveys a mounting sense of apocalyptic dread. Using Verona, the city of Romeo and Juliet’s doomed romance as the lyrical anchor point seems an inspired move. Love has to do a lot of heavy lifting these days, and our consecrated spaces of refuge keep on shrinking.
That “In Verona” arrangement is based on the repetition of a cluster of piano chords, and a drum pad. Neale had recorded her 2021album Acquaniuted With Night on cassette, and the tape hiss provided a comforting backdrop to arrangements that were dominated by her beloved 1980s Suzuki Omnichord.
By contrast, her 2023 album Star Eaters Delight comes at least a decade closer to modern times, musically. (More akin to Massive Attack than to 1980s synthpop.) The feelings of dreamlike anxiety on “ In Verona” though, seem utterly contemporary. Finally… From three years ago here’s “Every Star Shivers In The Dark” and the Suzuki Omnichord: