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Asia Pacific Report

Speakers at a Palestine solidarity rally in Auckland’s Takutai Square today hailed the strong stance of Ireland over Israel’s genocidal war against Gaza – in contrast to a weak New Zealand position – while two blocks away in Te Komititanga Square (Britomart) hundreds of revellers were celebrating St Patrick’s Day.

“The Irish have been strong supporters of Palestine because of their experience of British settler colonialism,” Palestine Solidarity Network Aotearoa (PSNA) secretary Neil Scott told the cheering protest crowd.

“The Great Potato Famine starting in 1845 killed a million Irish and caused two million more to flee and become refugees around the world.

“They celebrate today like Palestinians will celebrate here in Aotearoa and in Palestine once the vicious murderous yoke of Zionist domination is taken from their necks.”

The Irish Prime Minister (Taoiseach), Leo Varadkar, has been in the United States for the past week and had a direct message for US President Joe Biden when they met yesterday.

While he was complimentary about Biden and his administration, Varadkar also told the US president about Dublin’s wish for an immediate ceasefire.

“You know my view that we need to have a ceasefire as soon as possible to get food and medicine in and the hostages out,” he told reporters after the meeting.

Permanent ceasefire call
While Varadkar has called for a permanent ceasefire, Biden wants a temporary one of at least six weeks as part of a hostage deal.

This exchange followed a plea in an RTÉ interview by former Irish president Mary Robinson, speaking urgently as chair of The Elders group of former statespeople.

Speakers at the Palestine solidarity rally in Takutai Square 17 March 2024
Speakers at today’s Palestine solidarity rally in Takutai Square in Auckland . . . Billy Hania is standing beside the audio system. Image: APR

She said: “We need a ceasefire and we need the opening up of Gaza with every avenue . . . for aid to get in.”

Acknowledging Ireland’s initiatives over Gaza, including strong speeches by Irish MEPs in the European Parliament, PSNA’s Scott spoke about today’s rally being part of Israeli Apartheid Week called by the global BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) movement.

“Back in the day, NZ voted for the Apartheid Convention, so we have obligations under that law. But to date – nothing.

“So who has written reports and documented Israeli apartheid? Here are some of the reports overtime,” he said, citing at least seven global reports damning Israeli apartheid.

Two of the first reports mentioned were from Israeli NGOs, the 2020 Yesh Din report entitled “The Israeli occupation of the West Bank and the crime of apartheid” and B’Tselem the following year with “A regime of Jewish supremacy from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea: This is apartheid”.

The most recent reports have come in 2022 from Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and the UN Human Rights Council report of the special rapporteur.

“Report after report. Report after report . . .”, said Scott.

“To date, our successive [NZ] governments have refused to condemn Israeli apartheid – a crime against humanity.”

He condemned officials at the Auckland office of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) for refusing on Friday to accept a Palestinian solidarity deputation and statement for Chief Executive Chris Seed and Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters.

Terror business network
Another speaker, Billy Hania, an Aotearoa Palestinian advocate, talked about the importance of supporting the BDS movement and boycotts, which had been vitally important in ending apartheid in South Africa, and he cited several Israeli companies and affiliates operating in New Zealand.

“The list goes on. When the government acts on behalf of business that causes death and harm to our people in Palestine,” he said.

“It’s a terror network of politics and business and that must be opposed.

“You must be vocal and it’s okay to say that we live here on a land that has been colonised and we support with our money and taxes a government that condones terrorism.

“And that’s how it is. You should not be ashamed of saying that or scared of saying that because these are the facts.

“When we invest in an Israeli company in our Super Fund that rains white phosphorus up to the minute it burns our children to the bone, that is terror.

12 killed in attack
Al Jazeera reports
that Israeli attacks on Deir el-Balah in central Gaza have killed at least 12 people and wounded many more, including children, according to videos and witnesses.

Meanwhile, 13 aid trucks have arrived safely in Jabaliya and Gaza City, the first convoys carrying food and supplies to have travelled from the south to the north of the enclave without incident in four months.

At least 31,645 Palestinians have been killed and 73,676 wounded by Israeli attacks in Gaza since October 7, the Palestinian Health Ministry has reported.

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