Pacific Media Watch newsdesk
About 4000 protesters took part in demonstrations across New Zealand at the weekend calling on the government to take action over the Israel-Palestine conflict, and close the Israeli embassy.
The rallies marked what Palestinians call Nakba Day, or “Catastrophe” – recalling the loss of their homeland in 1948, when Israel was created.
More than 2000 protesters, including many Palestinians, migrants, children, Pacific people and Māori, took part in the Auckland march protesting against Israeli “brutality”, “atrocities”, “ethnic cleansing” and “genocide”.
More than 170 Palestinians, including at least 41 children, have been killed in the Gaza Strip in the past week. More than 1000 others have been wounded.
In the occupied West Bank, Israeli forces have killed at least 13 Palestinians.
Israel has reported 10 dead, including two children.
The conflict has sparked calls for a ceasefire from the United Nations and a visit from a United States envoy as thousands of innocent people suffer the consequences of the worst violence since 2014.
Protests were held at centres around New Zealand with at least one, in Christchurch, being livestreamed to friends and family in Gaza.
A Christchurch-based woman spoken to be Television New Zealand News said it was difficult to contact family back in Israel, saying that “communication is monitored”.
Maha Elmadani has a cousin in Bethlehem, a Palestinian town south of Jerusalem in the West Bank.
“It’s been a little bit difficult when I communicate with him because phones are communicated over there and monitored and I feel that I can’t speak too much about it for fear that they might, I don’t know, get arrested,” she said.
“I have to be careful what I say and how I treat the situation.
“It’s difficult knowing that they have to deal with this and I am outside of the equation and I’m safe and they have to go through this every day.”
Elmadani said the New Zealand Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, needed to “come out and say that what is happening is wrong”.
‘Same as fighting for Māori in NZ’
“In the same way we fight for other ethnic minorities and for the rights of the Māori in New Zealand, we need to stand up and the government needs to stand up and say that what’s happening in Palestine under Israeli occupation is wrong.
“People should be able to return to their homes and live peacefully,” she says.
In Auckland, Green Party MP Golriz Ghahraman also urged Prime Minister Ardern to make a strong statement and denounce the “genocide”.
She asked where was the “kindness and compassion” that characterised the government last year during the covid pandemic.
In Wellington, blogger Marilyn Garson, speaking for Alternative Jewish Voices, told protesters: “I plead with our government to act. Jacinda Ardern, Nanaia Mahuta, where are you? Gaza is in great danger – we need you to stand up and help them. Occupied people are legally protected people and we need you to enforce the laws of protection.
“To our fellow Jews we say, surely this is not the Israel you had in mind. So please join us. Standing here, together, you can see the future. This madness will end when we admit what we have done, when we listen, restore, return – then we can begin to transform this mess together. We who hold the power, we start by saying: ‘Our lives have equal value. Jewish supremacy is not our Judaism. I will not have it done in my name.’
“Occupation is not our Judaism – not in my name. Apartheid is not our Judaism – not in my name. Bomb a million children behind blockade walls – never, never in my name. That is not our Judaism.”