An Open Letter to New Zealand

Four nations (Senegal, New Zealand, Malaysia, and Venezuela) stepped forward to lead the battle cry against Israel at the United Nations Security Council. That this resolution came about in the waning days of the Obama administration speaks volumes. But that is for another post (wait for it, please). For now, I’d like to explain. As I did for Senegal, now I do for New Zealand.

Senegal was easy. Senegal is a nation in need, ready to take but apparently unable to comprehend that a relationship that does not feature mutual benefits to both sides, is likely to fail. Put simply, Israel gave; Senegal took. That was okay, so long as we didn’t have any expectations and Senegal was happy taking and taking and taking. For pretty much the first time, we needed something in return and Senegal gave us the proverbial finger and so it is logical that we offer the same to them. Have a nice life, Senegal, and the next time your people are suffering, your crops failing, yeah, call Abu Mazen.

New Zealand, now. That’s a bit hard. Harder to tell New Zealand to go jump in a lake (especially as they are an island nation) and harder to suggest that the relationship between New Zealand and Israel matters as much as that of other nations.

On the one hand, I have friends in New Zealand and a dream to go there some day. On the other, there is a great saying in Hebrew. When giving directions to a remote and hard to reach location, you tell them that the place is “at the end of the world, and then left.”

Israel and New Zealand are on relatively equal footing in terms of quality of life, modern conveniences, and social status. Unlike Senegal, which was established years after Israel, New Zealand took a part in helping Israel to be re-established in 1948. They were one of the honorable nations who voted for the Partition Plan in 1947. There would be two nations, the plan offered – a Jewish one on about half the land. Yeah, we got the desert and the swamps, but never mind because we took lemons and made lemonade. We took desert and made it bloom; we took swamps and drained them. And an Arab one on about half the land (not including 2/3 of the land of “Palestine” that had already been given to the Jordanians).

We said “Yes, thank you.” The Arabs said “No, yalla, let’s have a war.” And for almost 70 years, we have been living the horrors of that choice. For most of that time, New Zealand has been pro-Israel, honorably signing trade agreements, sharing research and knowledge.

With a few noticeable glitches. For example, in February of 2011, after a massive earthquake hit New Zealand, Israel offered to send search and rescue and medical teams, while Israelis living in New Zealand rushed to help as well. At first the help was refused but as the extent of the disaster became apparent, New Zealand accepted Israel’s offer. Then, they turned around and accused one of the Israeli victims of being a Mossad spy (four months and a lot of investigating later, New Zealand admitted there was no evidence to back their claims).

According to the resolution sponsored, in part, by New Zealand, Israel has no legal right, no claim, to the land our forefathers walked, the place where they are buried, where they worshiped and where, to this day, we pray every day.

It seems New Zealand wants to ignore the fundamental rights of the indigenous people of this land and it seems that in looking at why the United Nations Security Council voted as it did, we should look at motive. Senegal was easy – they are prostitutes looking for the highest bidder, the most comfortable bed partners.

New Zealand…what motivates them? Well, I’ve got two theories, but I’ll only present one here. It has to do with that indigenous people thing.

According to Wikipedia, here’s the definition of “indigenous people”:

Indigenous peoples…are ethnic groups who are descended from and identify with the original inhabitants of a given region, in contrast to groups that have settled, occupied or colonized the area more recently. Groups are usually described as indigenous when they maintain traditions or other aspects of an early culture that is associated with a given region.

Ignoring Palestinian attempts to rewrite history and claim a heritage that doesn’t exist (um…no, Jesus was not a Palestinian and they haven’t been in this land 300 years, never mind one million), it is very clear that the Jewish people and ONLY the Jewish people meet the criteria in the previous paragraph. The same can be said not of the Europeans who settled in New Zealand (largely at the expense of the local indigenous Maori people).

What irks the New Zealand government is that the indigenous people of New Zealand are the Māori and the indigenous people of the land of Israel are the Jews. So, if you sanction Israel, reject their claim and their history, perhaps that will excuse them for all they have done to the Maori…or not.

Dear New Zealand,

From the time I was a little girl, I remember hearing the phrase, “people who live in glass houses, shouldn’t throw stones.” Indigenous people.

We, the Jewish people, have called this land home for over 3,000 years. It is our bones that we discover when we dig, our ancient relics. It is the symbols, the coins, the pottery of Jewish people, of Judea, of Israel. Indigenous people.

It is the Jewish people who have lived in this land, built cities, planted forests, put out the fires set by Palestinians. We, the Jewish people who cherish life and peace. Speaking of life, did you know that the average life expectancy (of Jews AND Arabs) in Israel is HIGHER than in the Arab world, and that healthcare which we extend to Palestinians is far better and that infant mortality is lower.

I researched your history and found, according to Wikipedia’s basic description: “The history of New Zealand dates back at least 700 years to when it was discovered and settled by Polynesians, who developed a distinct Māori culture centred on kinship links and land. The first European explorer to sight New Zealand was Abel Janszoon Tasman on 13 December 1642.”

Seven hundred years. Indigenous people. None of this can you say you have offered to the Maori population, the indigenous people of the land you occupy. According to Wikipedia:

Disproportionate numbers of Māori face significant economic and social obstacles, with lower life expectancies and incomes compared with other New Zealand ethnic groups. They suffer higher levels of crime, health problems, and educational under-achievement.  Source Wikipedia.

Here in Israel, people who hold one standard for themselves and another for others are called hypocrites. Apparently in your country, they are called politicians.

I think your rejection of our connection to the land of Israel isn’t based on anti-Israel beliefs but is likely an indication of a fundamental problem you have, a deep-seated fear that the Maori people might think they are entitled to their land, as we believe we are entitled to ours. Perhaps you identify more with the Palestinians than Israelis because ultimately, they, like you, are the true occupiers.

Your island is surrounded by glass and the stones you hurl at Israel merely strike back at you. Our rights to this land date back long before your island was even discovered. While it was a barren rock surrounded by sea, my people were building communities, practicing their religion, raising their children. They were exiled and returned, exiled and returned. We have fought off bitter enemies far more cunning than you.

Sometimes the greatest evil lurks in those who would claim they have no interest. But you have an interest. You don’t want the world to see the plight of the Maori; better to divert attention against Israel.

Shalom, New Zealand. I hope the rewards you get balance out for the integrity you lost, the honor you abandoned.

In real life, in political life, in its relations with its own people, New Zealand seems to be on very shaky ground while here in Israel, we walk on soil that has withstood countless enemies, liars, and hypocrites.


Paula R. Stern

Paula R. Stern is the CEO of WritePoint Ltd, a leading technical writing company in Israel. She is also a popular blogger with her work appearing on her own sites, A Soldier's Mother and PaulaSays, as well as IsraellyCool and a number of other Jewish and Israeli sites.

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