Govt needs to take much stronger stand on Gaza conflict — David Shearer
Labour Foreign Affairs spokesperson David Shearer told TV1’s Q+A programme today that the Government needs to take a much stronger stand on the latest conflict in Gaza.
“I haven't heard very much from Murray McCully, and I believe that we should be emphatic. We should be divesting ourselves of any type of investment like we've seen in the paper this morning, where we are investing through our Superfund into Israeli chemical factories. That should absolutely be off the table.
"Any products that come out of the occupied territories, where Israelis are operating in the occupied territories, we should be stopping those absolutely. And we should be pulling in the Israeli Ambassador wherever we can throughout the world and saying this is unacceptable," Mr Shearer said.
“New Zealand has always stood out in the past. I mean we're the mouse that roared if you like, and we are listened to, and we are seen as a clean open player on the international circuit, and I think we need to have our voice heard out there, and to be quite emphatic in the sense of being able to say, this is unacceptable.
"We need to have a ceasefire yes of course. But we also need to address the fact that for nearly 50 years now the Palestinians have been occupied by Israel, and the conditions that you have put people in, inside of Gaza is breeding the kind of extremism that we're seeing right at the moment, rather than trying to resolve it.”
Watch the full interview here.
RAW DATA: Q+A TRANSCRIPT: Michael Parkin interviews David Shearer
SUSAN It took just three hours for the ceasefire in Gaza to fail, and the bloodshed to begin again. Israel has made it clear it will continue its offensive as long as it deems necessary. Labour's Foreign Affairs spokesman ran humanitarian operations for the UN in the West Bank in Gaza and he joins Michael now.
MICHAEL David Shearer thank you for joining us this morning, you spent four years working out of Jerusalem, you’ve got friends in the area. What are they telling you about life there at the moment?
DAVID SHEARER – Labour Foreign Affairs Spokesperson
I spoke to a colleague on Thursday, he was saying he'd spent the night in his basement of his apartment in Gaza with his six year old son, who couldn’t stop screaming. And he said look this is so horrible, and I don’t think anybody can really understand the terror of being in an apartment which may come down around your ears, while outside bombs are falling. It is truly terrifying, and it is completely unacceptable that those civilian areas inside of Gaza, schools, some of the hospitals and other places are being targeted as a result of this campaign.
MICHAEL So if you were Foreign Minister, what would you be doing that the New Zealand government isn't doing right now?
DAVID Well the first thing I'd do, for example this week, the Israeli Ambassador was in my office and I spoke to him, I obviously heard his side of the story, but told him pretty emphatically that I thought what Israel was doing was disproportionate, it was indiscriminate, so yes there's Hamas, but yes it's disproportionate and indiscriminate, and some of what they are doing is bordering on what the UN is defining a war crimes. That we needed the ceasefire. However that ceasefire wasn't enough, in of itself you could not keep and maintain people – 1.6 million people – in a tiny little wee strip which effectively is an open air prison. But I also think that what New Zealand needs to be doing is putting its voice out there. We are respected in the international community, and international relations is not just about saying things. We stand up for an independent foreign policy in human rights. It's about taking those decisions and saying those things when events like this happen. You get measured on what you do rather than what you say.
MICHAEL On the Ambassador, the Greens are obviously calling for him to be expelled from New Zealand. Do you support that call?
DAVID There's a move across the world that is growing in this direction. The disadvantage that you have when you do that is of course you don’t have an avenue to be able to voice your opinion back to the Israeli government in a formal sense…
MICHAEL So you wouldn’t kick him out?
DAVID I think that is perhaps something that you would look at further down the track, but certainly what we need to be doing right now as a matter of urgency, is in every one of our missions overseas is telling the Israeli Ambassador that we meet, that this is New Zealand's position, we think that what they're doing is completely unacceptable and they need to get back to the negotiating table.
MICHAEL As you say you gave the Ambassador a bit of a serve, but is there a reluctance on the government's part to do that, because Israel is supporting the Security Council bid of New Zealand's do you think?
DAVID Well Israel is supporting us, but at the end of the day we have to stand up for what is right. We're a small country, we stand by a rules base system, the adherence of international law, and that means human rights law. And if something like this happens which violates human rights law and we're not out there vocally saying quite strongly that this is completely unacceptable, then you question what it is on the Security Council what we are going to be able to do. And I don’t believe the government's done sufficient in that respect.
MICHAEL So could we do anything, because it really seems like the Security Council has been proven impotent over this issue that we've seen over the past few days.
DAVID To some extent it is, and it's largely because of the machinations between the United States in particular and its connection with Israel. But nevertheless New Zealand has always stood out in the past. I mean we're the mouse that roared if you like, and we are listened to, and we are seen as a clean open player on the international circuit, and I think we need to have our voice heard out there, and to be quite emphatic in the sense of being able to say, this is unacceptable. We need to have a ceasefire yes of course. But we also need to address the fact that for nearly 50 years now the Palestinians have been occupied by Israel, and the conditions that you have put people in, inside of Gaza is breeding the kind of extremism that we're seeing right at the moment, rather than trying to resolve it.
MICHAEL And so are we making those noises to a satisfactory level?
DAVID No I don’t think so. I haven't heard very much from Murray McCully, and I believe that we should be emphatic. We should be divesting ourselves of any type of investment like we've seen in the paper this morning, where we are investing through our Superfund into Israeli chemical factories. That should absolutely be off the table. Any products that come out of the occupied territories, where Israelis are operating in the occupied territories, we should be stopping those absolutely. And we should be pulling in the Israeli Ambassador wherever we can throughout the world and saying this is unacceptable.
MICHAEL If we keep with Murray McCully but move to this Malaysian Diplomat you’ve drawn attention to this week to the fact that he got this email to say Muhammad Rizalman had left New Zealand but that he hadn’t opened it despite having access to it. What does that matter? I mean if the diplomat had left the country what difference does it make if Murray McCully hadn’t seen that email?
DAVID Well Murray McCully has initiated an investigation into what happened and why he wasn't told about Mr Rizalman leaving the country. Clearly he was told, and then he went on to say that there was an email out there but it's all the fault of Foreign Affairs. Well what it's shown is that he was told about it, he got an email about it, the email wasn't opened. He said there was problems about opening the email because he was travelling or had communication to the building. He was in New York and there's an item on his Visa card for internet connection in the room. When you start making excuses for your inability to cope with a situation, or to react to a situation in the appropriate way, and then those excuses are found to be failing, it's time to take a look at yourself and say I need to take responsibility for this. It's my Ministry and this investigation is actually doing everything except looking at me, it's looking at everybody else for fault, rather than myself.
MICHAEL And do you think that the government is delaying the return of Mohamed Rizalman until after the election, because Key said early in the week it is going to be months rather than weeks before we see him return.
DAVID Look it's difficult to understand what's happening within Malaysia, it's complicated. I'm sure that we're getting reports back from our High Commission in Malaysia. Then the government should be coming up and telling us what is going on, not simply refusing to answer. I know that a number of journalists have asked the question, we've asked the question, what's going on, we haven't heard any news, and this is an area of real significance and importance for New Zealanders.
MICHAEL And just finally, you’ve been quite prominent obviously because of this case and because of your expertise in Gaza over the last few weeks. Do you regret giving up that Labour leadership?
DAVID Well look we've got one leader.
MICHAEL But do you regret having given up.
DAVID Oh look you have regrets in life, but I mean the focus is that we get on with the election. We've got an election in exactly seven weeks, and that’s the only focus that I've got.
MICHAEL And after that would you seek the leadership again? Can you rule out putting up your hand for that spot again?
DAVID I'm simply looking at this election, and I hope that we are in government. That’s what I'm working towards, and working very hard towards. And if we do that'll be terrific for me, I've certainly enjoyed that.
MICHAEL Seems like there might be a bit of interest there. David Shearer thanks very much for your time.