ISIL: A Copycat of Israel?…asks Sheree Trotter

July 13, 2015 by Sheree Trotter
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‘Israel has really set the benchmark for barbarism in the area and many other despots and dictators, such as the one in Syria, Egypt, and even ISIL are really copycats of the Israeli occupation and siege and brutality.’ [1]  These are the words of Kia Ora Gaza’s Roger Fowler, in his recent appearance on New Zealand’s Māori TV’s Native Affairs programme.

Two Māori TV staff members participated in the recent protest flotilla to Gaza, facilitated by Kia Ora Gaza. Fowler’s comments understandably drew strong protest. A week later David Cumin, representing the NZ Jewish Council appeared on the programme to bring a balancing perspective. When confronted over the offending statement, Fowler was unrepentant.[2] Seeking clarification, interviewer Ward Kamo, stated ‘ISIS throws homosexual men off roofs, they

Sheree Trotter

Sheree Trotter

crucify, they dismember people in village squares. Are you saying that Israel is that brutal to Palestinians?’[3] Any reasonable person can understand the difference between a regime that throws gays off buildings and one in which gay people have the right to stage a gay pride parade; a state that allows ‘honour killings’ of women and one in which women have equal rights and opportunities at every level; a state that executes ‘collaborators’ and one that defends freedom of expression and association. Yet Fowler insisted that Israel is the ‘bully’ of the region, contrary to all evidence.

Lacking a credible argument yet unwilling to concede defeat, Fowler blundered on, stating that former NZ Prime Minister Sir Geoffrey Palmer was ‘totally mistaken’ in his UN commissioned report on the 2010 Gaza Flotilla incident, which stated ‘…the naval blockade was a legitimate security measure to prevent weapons from entering Gaza by sea.’[4] Reminding Fowler of Palmer’s credentials would probably accomplish little, as Fowler seems to have a mindset blinded by dogma.[5] However, in the plethora of conflicting opinions on the Israel/Palestine conflict there are good reasons for taking the Palmer Report seriously. The Gaza Flotilla Panel set up by the Secretary General following the 2010 incident, called for ‘a prompt, impartial, credible and transparent investigation conforming to international standards.’ Palmer, prior to chairing the Panel had little or no involvement with the Middle East conflict. This perceived independence was one of the reasons he was chosen to lead the investigation. Another, of course, was his impeccable credentials as a legal expert.

One of the unique features of the UN Gaza Flotilla Panel was that it gained the cooperation of the opposing parties, both Israel and Turkey. Indeed, Israel rarely cooperates with UN fact-finding missions because of a perception of bias, a perception which is not unfounded. The Human Rights Council which conducts many enquiries and fact-finding missions is a highly politicised group. It is made up of 47 nations ‘based on equitable geographical distribution’ and as such is dominated by the Islamic bloc.[6] The representatives are not independent experts, but representatives of their own governments. So it was significant that the UN Gaza Flotilla Panel gained the confidence of both Israel and Turkey. Given the cooperation of the conflicting parties and the independence of the Chair, Sir. Geoffrey Palmer, and Vice Chair, Colombian President Alvaro Uribe, the Palmer Report should be given a fair hearing.

Fowler mistakenly stated that the purpose of the Palmer Report was ‘to get some sort of peace’ between Israel and Turkey.[7] This was not the main purpose. The goal of the Panel was to ‘examine and identify the facts, circumstances and context of the incident’ and ‘consider and recommend ways of avoiding similar incidents in the future.’[8]

Activists like Fowler do not like the fact that the Palmer Report pointed out certain realities of the situation that are usually overlooked, ignored or minimised, such as the acknowledgement ‘that the thousands of rockets, missiles and mortar bombs launched by militant groups from Gaza since 2001 constituted a real threat threat to Israel’s security.’ [9] The Panel did not find that the naval blockade was a disproportionate measure given the threat Israel faced. The Panel acknowledged that given that Hamas is the de facto political and administrative authority in Gaza and is responsible for the firing of missiles into Israel, the conflict had all the trappings of an international armed conflict. The implementation of a blockade to prevent the flow of weapons into Gaza was considered reasonable.[10] The Palmer report also acknowledged that the ‘Israeli Defence Forces…faced significant, organized and violent resistance from a group of passengers when they boarded the Mavi Marmara requiring them to use force for their own protection.’[11]

The Palmer Report did not let Israel off scot-free either. The report found that there was ‘significant mistreatment of passengers by Israeli authorities after the take-over of the vessels had been completed through until their deportation.’[12] It was interesting to note that Māori TV reporter Ruwani Perera in her post-Gaza Flotilla interview reluctantly admitted that she was treated well by the Israelis. ‘The IDF have learnt definitely from their past mistakes…They were very polite. They’d offer us food and water. Certainly we didn’t have anything to complain about.’[13] It is unfortunate that Kia Ora Gaza has not learnt. The UN Secretary-General has actively discouraged flotillas. He has argued for the need to avoid incidents that may provoke further destabilization of the regional climate and has urged caution and prudence.[14]

Herein lies the crux of the matter regarding Fowler and Kia Ora Gaza. It is not peace in the region that Fowler seeks. In stating his support for a one-state solution, Fowler reveals his true intentions. A one-state solution with the right of return for millions of descendants of the original estimated 5-8,00,000 refugees (depending on your source), would effectively mean the end of a Jewish state. In this Fowler aligns himself with Hamas and much of the Islamic world, who, based on religious ideology, refuse to recognise Israel’s right to exist. This is clear from the statements made by Fowler, by the information disseminated on the Kia Ora Gaza website and by the messages given by speakers hosted by Kia Ora Gaza. Israel needs to be seen as the bully of the region as part of the agenda of demonisation and delegitimisation. So regardless of the facts on the ground, Kia Ora Gaza’s Roger Fowler will spout his dogma. Fowler is not interested in a just, equitable solution to the conflict. In his view the Jewish people do not have a right to a state.

These views however, are not consistent with the official views of the New Zealand government. Ambassador Jim McLay, Permanent Representative of New Zealand made a statement in 15 January 2015 in which he affirmed that ‘New Zealand staunchly supports the existence of the State of Israel; and supports its right to defend that existence in accordance with international law; and we accept that security arrangements will be fundamental to any final agreement.’[15] McLay also said that ‘New Zealand likewise acknowledges that both states comprising the eventual two state solution will be entitled to sovereignty, to security, and to membership of this Organisation…’[16] NZ has always sought to bring a ‘balanced’, ‘even-handed’ approach to the Middle East conflict. The Palmer Report could be seen as part of this tradition of providing a fair and independent NZ voice at the UN. Conversely, one would hope that unrealistic and unbalanced voices like Fowler’s will be drowned out by reason. The ‘Pro-Palestinian movement’ should be seen for what it truly is, an anti-Israel movement.

Sheree Trotter is a Māori New Zealander. She is co-founder of Shadows of Shoah and is currently undertaking an honours history degree at the University of Auckland.

[1]http://www.maoritelevision.com/tv/shows/native-affairs/S09E017/native-affairs ,accessed 13 July 15

http://www.maoritelevision.com/tv/shows/native-affairs/S09E017/native-affairs ,accessed 13 July 15

[3] http://www.maoritelevision.com/tv/shows/native-affairs/S09E018/native-affairs ,accessed 13 July 15

[4] ibid.

[5]*Palmer is a member of Her Majesty’s Privy Council. He was created a Knight Commander of the Most Distinguished Order of St Michael and St George in 1991 and made an Honorary Companion of the Order of Australia in the same year. In 1991 he was listed on the United Nations Global 500 Roll of Honour for his work on environmental issues. He has also sat as a Judge ad hoc on the International Court of Justice in 1995. He holds honorary doctorates from three universities. In 2008 Palmer was one of the first people appointed as Senior Counsel during the temporary change from Queen’s Counsel in the Helen Clark Government. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geoffrey_Palmer_(politician)

[6] http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/HRC/Pages/Membership.aspx, accessed 13/7/15.

[7]http://www.maoritelevision.com/tv/shows/native-affairs/S09E018/native-affairs

[8] http://www.un.org/News/dh/infocus/middle_east/Gaza_Flotilla_Panel_Report.pdf, p.7., accessed 13/7/15.

[9] ibid. p.71.

[10] ibid. pp. 72,3.

[11] ibid. p.133.

[12] ibid.

[13]http://www.maoritelevision.com/tv/shows/native-affairs/S09E018/native-affairs

[14]http://www.un.org/News/dh/infocus/middle_east/Gaza_Flotilla_Panel_Report.pdf. p.149.

[15] http://www.nzembassy.com/united-nations/new-zealands-un-statements/security-council/open-debate-middle-east-new-zealand-state

[16] ibid.

Comments

2 Responses to “ISIL: A Copycat of Israel?…asks Sheree Trotter”
  1. Serge Liberman says:

    I freely acknowledge my ignorance about him, but, truly, who/what is this Roger Fowler? What is his public reach?

    • Steve Lawrence says:

      I’d not heard of him before either but if he gets airtime and influences the media then he’s dangerous! That being said, why are the media giving him a platform?

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