Gordon Campbell on five of Luxon’s Gaza absurdities

a5d3ee739d0fc0652dedEarlier this week, PM Christopher Luxon met with 48 public service CEOs to make sure they were on board with his plans to cut spending on public services so that National can proceed to give the revenue away to those New Zealanders least in need.

This wasn’t the only absurdity the PM has been promoting this week. There was Gaza. What a gift. On Gaza, Luxon is playing strictly to the home crowd. The issue gives him an opportunity to look prime ministerial: thoughtful, concerned, a man dealing with weighty matters of state; a peace maker even, for these troubled times.

1. Peace in his time. At Monday’s press conference Luxon was calling for a negotiated settlement whereby Hamas offered to release the remaining hostages, in return for a ceasefire and a prisoner swap. Yep, that’s basically the deal that Hamas offered a week ago, and that Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu rejected last week as “absurd.” He also labelled the Hamas proposals as “ludicrous.”

Rather than criticise Israel for its intransigence, Luxon chose instead to keep on promoting the virtues of a ceasefire and non-existent peace negotiations in which Israel continues to show absolutely no interest. It is a pose – Luxon the peace-maker – struck solely for New Zealand domestic consumption.

2. Hands off Rafah! Luxon called for Israel not to extend its military offensive into Rafah, where 1.5 million Palestinian refugees are sheltering. In reality, Israel had already bombed Rafah, and is conducting aerial bombing and military operations on a scale whereby its further strikes killed somewhere between 57 and 70 Palestinians on Monday morning alone.

3. The “targeting” myth. Incredibly, Luxon said on Monday that Israel needed to conduct “proportionate, controlled, targeted and precise” actions to be in compliance with its obligations under international law.

Hello? As we have all seen on our TV screens for months, Israel has been doing nothing of the sort in Gaza – and that’s why over 27,000 Palestinians have been killed by the IDF, including over 10,000 children. This child was one of them. These babies were part of that toll.

These are war crimes, committed repeatedly over a period of months, while Western leaders profess concern and urge restraint, even as they replenish the IDF arsenal. Instead of protesting, the New Zealand government continues to wag its finger at Israel and urges it not to commit the war crimes that it carries out on a daily basis, regardless.

4. The abuses of international law Luxon in serious statesman mode on Monday: “It’s important that they [the Israelis] act within the confines of international law.” This platitude is negated by the mountain of evidence that Israel has been violating international law for months. For the record, the following list are all well documented IDF violations of international law:

(a) the collective punishment of civilians by the indiscriminate aerial bombing and shelling of civilian centres

(b) the deliberate targeting of schools, mosques, and hospitals, and the related attacks on medical workers and on journalists

(c) the denial of food, water and medical supplies to civilian populations, such that famine, thirst and the risk of water borne diseases (e.g. cholera) are rife (d) the forced displacement of civilians. Lest we forget, the Israeli blockade of Gaza for the past 17 years has also been a crime under international law.

5. The “two state solution” mirage. On Monday, Luxon repeated New Zealand’s commitment to a “two state solution” to the conflict. Ideally, this would involve the creation of a state for Palestinians west of the Jordan River, and alongside the state of Israel.

This proposal emerged from the Oslo peace accords in the early 1990s. It was almost immediately rendered null and void by Israel’s relentless building of settlements on the West Bank. As a realistic diplomatic goal, the “two state solution” has been stone dead for 25 years.

Yet Western countries keep on resurrecting the zombie, in order to fill the policy vacuum on how to respond to the Israel/Palestine conflict. Netanyahu explicitly killed the “two state solution” zombie all over again in January.

But no worries. A fortnight ago, UK Foreign Secretary David Cameron took the logical final step into fantasy. Cameron indicated that the UK could recognise a two state solution, before the deal required to make it happen even exists. The West seems about to recognise a phantom Palestinian state – a hologram for peace – in which millions of real Palestinians would theoretically live. Problem solved!

Reportedly, we’re all now sitting on the side-lines, watching the world’s first live-streamed genocide. Workable solutions are not obvious. But for starters, there is no point in the US deploring the carnage that Israel is creating in Gaza, while giving the IDF the weaponry to keep on generating it.

Ditto for New Zealand… Nothing will change if we keep on saying what Israel should be doing. Our leaders need to show some gumption, and criticise Israel for what it is doing.

Footnote: Thankfully – and we can probably thank Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters for this – New Zealand has not (yet) joined the Western stampede to cut off funding for UNRWA, the aid agency lifeline for the people of Gaza. This stampede was triggered by unverified allegations by Israel that twelve of the agency’s 130,000 employees in Gaza were involved in the October 7 attacks on Israel. Nine UN staff were immediately fired, although the UN has conceded that this was done without ”due process” being followed and before the Israeli claims were even investigated, let alone verified.

Significantly though, Luxon said on Monday that the extra $5 million of aid that New Zealand is giving to assist relief operations in Gaza is being channelled through the Red Cross/Red Crescent, and the UN World Food Programme i.e. our extra aid is not being given to UNRWA. At this point, it is unclear what the New Zealand position is on UNRWA.

Going Country

Beyonce has just released a single (called “Texas Hold ‘Em”) that adds country music elements to her usual r&b dance floor pop. Lana Del Rey is said to be releasing a country music influenced album called Lasso. The latest solo single by Big Thief’s Adrianne Lenker has also been countryfied – much like the “Spud Infinity” track on the band’s last album.

It has happened before. The classic case of black music/country crossover came when Ray Charles released his two volume set of Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music. This had a terrific impact in the early 1960s. Other crossovers go back further.

To take just one example: The definitive version of “Goodbye, Old Paint” was by old cowhand and fiddler called Jess Morris, as recorded

in 1942 by the renowned folk music collector John Lomax.

Yet Morris told Lomax that he’d learned the song at the age of seven in the early 1880s, from a black cowboy and former slave called Charley Willis who had found work on cattle drives up and down the Wyoming Trail at the time- partly because, it was said, his voice would calm the cattle.

Here’s Beyonce’s smooth take on country mannerisms: