Gaza war has repercussions for all

Palestinians search for casualties after an Israeli attack on Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip....
Palestinians search for casualties after an Israeli attack on Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip. PHOTO: REUTERS
New Zealand must press for a ceasefire in Gaza, Shaun Greaves writes.

The calls for a ceasefire in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) and Israel are increasing, yet the bombs are still raining down in Gaza. So what next?

The New Zealand Parliament recently voted for a motion calling on "all parties involved in the conflict — as well as countries with influence in the region — to take urgent steps towards establishing a ceasefire".

A fortnight ago the prime ministers of New Zealand, Canada and Australia called for a pause in hostilities and respect for international humanitarian law while expressing their opposition to illegal settlements, siege and blockade of Gaza.

Over the past two months I have been inspired by the thousands of people who have, and who continue to, write to MPs, visit their offices, peacefully protest, show solidarity, sign petitions and call for leadership. Our government has added its voice — to the extent it has — because of this pressure from concerned citizens.

While it’s good to see the need for a ceasefire on the political radar, the steps taken so far are not enough. This unprecedented humanitarian catastrophe continues across the Gaza Strip.

When the US brazenly used its veto on a draft resolution at the UN Security Council calling for a ceasefire, the international community responded. More than three-quarters of the UN General Assembly, including New Zealand, demanded an immediate humanitarian ceasefire.

This resolution has political weight, but it is not binding.

The US veto was morally indefensible. It was a dereliction of duty to prevent atrocities and uphold international law. Meanwhile, the US continues to transfer US-made munitions to the Israeli government, contributing to the decimation of entire families.

New Zealand can exert more influence. It’s time to show we care enough to truly help build a world where every life is valued and all rights are upheld.

So what should we be pushing for?

There must be accountability and justice.

For the sake of all those who have been killed, whose families have been torn apart, whose homes have been bombed to rubble — it’s time for accountability. Those responsible for crimes against humanity must be brought to justice.

Amnesty International has found evidence of violations of international law, including war crimes, by both Hamas and the Israeli authorities throughout this human rights tragedy. But during the ongoing bombardment, imagine how difficult and dangerous it is to gather evidence and conduct rigorous research that can stand up in the highest international courts. A ceasefire could enable full independent investigations into war crimes and other human rights violations by all parties. That is the pathway to accountability. Without it, human rights abusers go free and there can be no justice.

Ultimately, we call for humanity. This means valuing all human life equally. It means acknowledging the roots of this conflict and acting accordingly.

Israel imposes a system of oppression and domination against Palestinians across all areas under its control: in Israel and the OPT. This amounts to apartheid and is prohibited in international law.

This system of apartheid must be dismantled. We know it can be done because we’ve seen it happen before in South Africa. But it will take enormous international diplomacy and pressure. It will take governments and citizens around the world pulling every lever of influence until all Israelis and Palestinians have equal rights and freedoms.

We desperately need countries everywhere to be championing a rules-based international system grounded in human rights. A failure to do so has repercussions that extend well beyond Gaza. We must strengthen the system for protecting civilians in conflict, and New Zealand certainly has a role to play.

The New Zealand government must openly and repeatedly advocate for the US to change tack. We have close and lasting ties with the US that span diplomacy, trade, culture, tourism, art, education, science, technology and more. These are opportunities to engage. And when we remain silent in the face of such suffering, we offer our tacit approval.

That’s the opposite of humanity.

The Aotearoa that I know and love is full of people who care about people. People who are willing to act not just for themselves, but for the betterment of all. Who embrace our interdependence. Who will help paddle the waka towards justice. So let’s keep paddling. Each and every one of us makes a difference.

Because like the saying goes, no-one is free when others are oppressed.

— Shaun Greaves is executive director of Amnesty International Aotearoa New Zealand.