NZ Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade promotes BDS event featuring supporter of terror group

The Auckland office of the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) promoted an event entitled “The One-State Solution and the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign: Civil society responses to governmental failure on Palestine/Israel” by retweeting the event on twitter:

The New Zealand Institute of International Affairs is hosting University of Auckland Associate Professor of Dance Studies, Nicholas Rowe, who joined other New Zealand academics in praising New Zealand’s co-sponsorship of 2334 – a move that National Party leader, Simon Bridges, recently said was “wrong” – and urging the New Zealand government to sanction the IDF and actively support other BDS steps designed to destroy the Jewish state.

Associate Professor Nicholas Rowe is married to a Palestinian woman and called the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) “the tribe my family belongs to” at a 2017 Sydney BDS conference. The PFLP is a revolutionary socialist organization that takes a hard line on Palestinian national aspirations. It does not recognise the State of Israel, it opposes negotiations with the Israeli government, and favours a one-state solution to the Israeli–Palestinian conflict.

The PFLP is well known for pioneering armed aircraft-hijackings in the late 1960s and early 1970s and is designated as a Foreign Terrorist organisation by the US Department of State, European Union, CanadaAustralia, and the United Nations.

The Israel Institute of New Zealand asked MFAT why they were promoting the NZIIA event endorsing BDS and a one-state solution, especially when they had not promoted all NZIIA events. MFAT responded to an email, saying:

“The NZIIA is an independent organisation. Retweets of their events do not constitute an endorsement of their views. Over the past year or so MFAT has promoted their events via the @MFATinAuckland twitter account in order to boost attendance at NZIIA events and encourage foreign policy discussion in Auckland.

New Zealand has a commercial and trade relationship with Israel, supported through our Embassy accredited to Israel. Total trade between our two countries grew 51% from 2016 to 2017 making Israel our 49th largest trading partner. The New Zealand Government continues to support a two state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.” New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade”New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs

MFAT’s promotion of Professor Rowe’s talk sends some mixed diplomatic messages. While it says it does not support the one-state solution that Prof Rowe, PFLP, and others prefer and implies it is not in favour of BDS, it would seem odd to select this talk for promotion.

Especially at a time when New Zealand’s record of voting at the UN has been out of step with our traditional allies, including naming only Israel for condemnation over the recent violence in Gaza. MFAT officials are also responsible for providing advice to New Zealand representatives on how to vote at the United Nations.

The Israel Institute of New Zealand could not find any other event promoted by MFAT that:

  • is clearly antithetical to any longstanding New Zealand policy position or goal; or
  • has a keynote speaker who has openly identified with a designated terror organisation; or
  • endorses actions that are designed to destroy an allied nation.

In fact, in 2015, MFAT issued a warning to MPs against attending World Falun Dafa Day events because of China’s “sensitivities”. Furthermore, in promoting BDS (and not explicitly condemning it), MFAT may come close to breaching anti-BDS provisions that President Obama signed into trade deals.

Professor Rowe is free to support PFLP in New Zealand and lecture on their behalf. However, the New Zealand government should not be promoting such talks. It may have been understandable if the person in charge of the MFAT Auckland Twitter account did not entirely understand what they were doing but the response from MFAT seems to be that they are comfortable promoting this event.

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