COMMENTARY: By John Minto
Aotearoa New Zealand Prime Minister Chris Hipkins is correct to condemn Hamas killing Israeli civilians in its attacks on Israel this week.
The killing of civilians or taking them hostage is a war crime under the Fourth Geneva Convention and should be universally condemned.
However, the Labour government has been deathly silent on the war crimes committed by Israel against Palestinians under Labour’s watch these past six years.
- READ MORE: War on Hamas: Gaza health ministry appeals for ‘safe corridor’ amid heavy bombardment
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- What is Hamas? A simple guide to the armed Palestinian group
- Systemic NZ misreporting on Israeli occupation of Palestine and Palestinian resistance
- Al Jazeera coverage of the war
- Other Palestine reports
Under his prime ministerial watch this year, Chris Hipkins has looked the other way while Israel has built more illegal Israeli settlement homes on Palestinian land; killed more than 250 Palestinian civilians; supported Israeli settler pogroms against Palestinian towns and villages across the occupied West Bank and encouraged highly-provocative Israeli ministerial and settler incursions into the Al Aqsa compound in occupied East Jerusalem.
Why does he only wake up when Israelis are killed? Why does he think Israeli lives are more important than Palestinian lives?
The Prime Minister’s pro-Israel stance is one-sided and blatantly racist.
New Zealand, along with other Western countries, bears heavy responsibility for the deaths of Palestinians and Israelis in recent days because we have never held Israel to account for its crimes against the Palestinian people.
We have given Israel a free pass to murder and abuse Palestinians and this led to the inevitable tragedy last weekend.
It is precisely the attitude of Western leaders such as our Prime Minister which has meant so many lives have been lost.
The Prime Minister has the blood of Palestinians and Israelis on his hands.
John Minto is national chair of Palestine Solidarity Network Aotearoa (PSNA).
The besieged Gaza Strip
The Palestinian enclave — home to about 2.3 million people — has been under an Israeli air, land and sea blockade since 2007, reports Al Jazeera.
More than 100,000 Palestinians in Gaza have been displaced and thousands have taken shelter in UN schools as Israeli attacks intensify, forcing Palestinians to flee their homes.
Buildings, mosques and offices have been targeted as Netanyahu promised “mighty vengeance” for the deadly attacks that has sent shockwaves across Israel.
Harrowing images from inside Gaza have emerged with 19 members of a family killed when an air strike on Sunday hit their residential building. More than 60 percent of Gaza’s population are refugees who were ethnically cleansed from their homes currently in Israel.
Israel has maintained a land, sea and air blockade on Gaza since 2007, a year after Hamas was democratically elected into power. The voting came nearly two years after Israeli troops and settlers withdrew from the enclave.
The blockade gives Israel control of Gaza’s borders, and Egypt has stepped in to enforce the western border.
Israel has stated it has blocked the borders to protect its citizens from Hamas, but the act of collective punishment violates the Geneva Conventions and has long been considered illegal by groups including the International Committee of the Red Cross.