First published in Dominion Post and Stuff

John Minto has wasted no time in attempting to lecture the incoming Minister of Foreign Affairs, MP Nanaia Mahuta, on what he thinks she should be doing in the Middle East and in urging his followers to bombard her with emails.

He has no compunction in spouting a distorted picture of what is a complex conflict.

Minto fails to mention that the so-called ‘Great March of Return’ consisted of a series of violent riots, organised, coordinated and directed by Hamas, an internationally designated terrorist organisation that is in an armed conflict with Israel.

A case study undertaken by the Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights found that:

The mass violent events that took place in the area of the security barrier were “unusual in their scope and in the intensity of the threat that they posed”. Tens of thousands of people participated. Under the cover of the riots, grenade and explosive devices were hurled towards the Israel Defence Forces troops, live ammunition was fired at the soldiers and explosive devices were hurled towards Israeli territory, in addition to the flying of incendiary kites intended to harm towns and residents of Israel near the Gaza periphery.

The riots continued uninterrupted from the morning hours until the evening hours and occurred simultaneously at a number of geographical focus points. Some of the participants in the riots acted with the clear and determined goal of breaching the security barrier between the State of Israel and the Gaza Strip, infiltrating into Israeli territory and harming the security forces. Some of the rioters equipped themselves with arms.

The report also noted that Hamas hoped to achieve a military benefit from a breach of the security barrier, which would have assisted the infiltration of terrorists into Israel. In order to promote this objective, a significant number of participants in the violent events and of the casualties, were Hamas activists, including its military mechanisms. They were sent in to disturb public order and security, to excite crowds and encourage them to advance towards Israel’s territory, to breach the security barrier, and to carry out terror attacks.

None of this context matters to Minto, who for some reason sees the Palestinian cause as his raison d’être. He should realise by now that the Israel/Palestinian conflict is nothing like the South African situation where he won his spurs as an activist.

Lecturing the new foreign minister with a distorted narrative about a conflict on the other side of the world is deeply counterproductive to the achievement of a solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict, as desired by so many on both sides.

An honest assessment of this seemingly intractable conflict is necessary and I have every confidence that Mahuta will approach this issue with the fairmindedness and gravitas for which she is known.