© New Zealand Broadcasting School 2021

'Sever ties with Israel', say protesters

Emily Ansell

Christchurch demonstrators call on New Zealand government to close Israeli embassy after the recent escalation in conflict with Palestine.

About 400 people attended the rally in Christchurch, to protest more than 70 years of Israeli occupation in Palestine.

Organised by Palestine Solidarity Network Aotearoa (PSNA), it was one of many demonstrations held across the country on May 22.

The latest conflict between Israel and Hamas has caused widespread devastation in Gaza. At the last count, 248 Palestinians have been killed, including 66 children. In Israel, 12 people including two children have been killed, with hundreds of others injured.

A cease-fire was announced on Friday.

However, activist and PSNA chair John Minto, said Palestinians were still suffering. 

"Despite the ceasefire; racism, apartheid, and brutality against Palestinians continue everyday. Our message to the Government is that we need to see much more involvement by New Zealand in this issue."

John Minto speaks at first Palestine Rally - 15/05/2021
John Minto speaks at first Palestine Rally - 15/05/2021 Emily Ansell

Minto said there were many ways the Government could put more pressure on Israel including banning products made in the occupied Palestinian territories, and recognising Palestine as its own state. 

Mahmoud Abu Hussein, who moved to New Zealand from Gaza 22 years ago, gave a rousing speech to protesters. He said it was important to defend his land through the power of words.

Mahmoud Abu Hussein speaks at Palestine Rally - 22/05/2021

Many members of his family still live in Palestine, including his 94-year-old mother.

Hussein said he was scared for his family, but that they were not concerned about being killed:

"They're defending their right. They know that Israel has a very strong military, but the Gazan people are also strong... I know the price of victory, I know that freedom has a price". 

Protesters were also encouraged to sign a petition urging the goverment to close the Israeli embassy in Wellington, and "sever all diplomatic relations with the State of Israel as New Zealand did in 2004".

The petition has reached 1645 signatures so far.

Since the cease-fire, Israeli police have stormed Al-Aqsa Mosque, and there have been reports of Israeli drones buzzing over the Gaza strip. 

Protesters at Palestine rally, corner of Colombo and Cashel St - 22/05/2021
Protesters at Palestine rally, corner of Colombo and Cashel St - 22/05/2021 Emily Ansell