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Open Letter To Helen Clark On Palestine

5 April 2002

Rt Hon. Helen Clark
The Prime Minister,
Parliament Buildings,

Dear Ms Clark,

We, the undersigned community leaders, creative artists, and senior academics are writing to express our deep dismay at the rapid escalation of the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, and at the heavy loss of life which it has entailed. Whilst we unreservedly condemn bombing attacks on Israeli civilians, we believe that a major responsibility for the current crisis lies with the government of Prime Minister Sharon whose apparent commitment to a military solution is inflicting intolerable suffering upon the Palestinian people. This, in turn, is inviting further attacks on its own citizens, and endangering the entire world community. Accordingly we urge the New Zealand Government to do everything in its power to help bring the fighting to an end, and to return the parties to the negotiating table. While we welcome the statement from the Foreign Minister in this morning's New Zealand Herald, we would urge Government to take a more active position on this issue. Specifically we recommend:

(1) That the Government express its condemnation of all violent actions against the civilian populations of Israel and Palestine.

(2) That the Prime Minister summon the Israeli Ambassador and make plain to her the unacceptability both of the excesses being committed by the Israeli army in Palestinian territory, and of the larger policies that enable such brutality; and that she express repugnance at the army's treatment of the international press. and its refusal, in contravention of internationally accepted rules, to allow the Red Cross and Red Crescent to assist the wounded.

(3) That the Government seek to persuade the Government of the United States to restrain its Israeli allies in order to rebuild the peace process.

(4) That the Government seek to work with New Zealand's friends and allies in the Commonwealth, Western Europe and elsewhere to achieve a lasting peace in the Middle East.

(5) That the Government instruct New Zealand's representative at the United Nations to support all efforts to secure an immediate Israeli withdrawal from Palestinian territory.

(6) That the Government publicly endorse the Saudi peace proposal with its guarantees for the secure future of Israel, and commit itself to ensuring the rapid implementation of all United Nations resolutions on Palestine.

(7) That the Government express New Zealand's support for those peace groups inside both Israel and Palestine that have struggled for decades to achieve a just solution to this protracted conflict.

(8) That, failing an early cessation of hostilities and an unconditional return to the negotiating table, New Zealand should consider sanctions against those responsible.

In view of the urgency of this situation, we ask you to act as immediately and as publicly as possible.

Yours sincerely,

Michael Neill, Auckland; Rev Keith Taylor, Superintendent, Methodist Mission Northern; Barry Reay, Auckland; Ross Wilson, President, New Zealand Council of Trade Unions; Jan Kemp, Auckland; Rosalind Hursthouse, Auckland; Sukhi Turner, Mayor of Dunedin City; Jocelyn Harris, Dunedin; Elspeth Sandys, Wellington; Robert Nola, Auckland; Judith Binney, Auckland; Albert Wendt, Auckland; Annie Goldson, Auckland; Roger Horrocks, Auckland; Greer Twiss, Auckland; Rod Brodie, Auckland; Jane Kelsey, Auckland; Witi Ihimaera, Auckland; Dr Murray Edmond, Auckland; Gil Hanly, Auckland; Nigel Haworth, Auckland; The Rt Rev Richard Randerson, Dean of Auckland (Anglican); Michele Leggott, Auckland; Jonathan Boston, Wellington; Susan St John, Auckland; Nicholas Tarling, Auckland; Joce Jesson, Auckland.

© the authors

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