I, Walid Tamtam, a Canadian Muslim student have watched, like much of the Western world, with admiration for the way in which New Zealand has conducted itself in the wake of the terror attack and now in the midst of a pandemic. I feel compelled to share some thoughts about how New Zealand may continue to position itself as a peace-provoking, world-leading nation, specifically with respect to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. 

I am aware that Jacinda Ardern has secured a majority government and so has a strong mandate from the people. I am also aware of New Zealand’s modest size and ‘middle power stance’ as well as your quiet tone on the world stage but like every other nation, has an opportunity to set precedents on issues and take stances that ripple around the globe. 

One of the longest-running issues and not without its complexity is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It is entrenched in the United Nations and calls for votes, recognitions, and deals running in multiple directions. What must be noted in this conflict is that there are certain countries in the globe that do and do not recognise Palestine as a state for many reasons. It is very much undoubted that both societies and sovereign territories exist. However, recognition of Palestine, especially from Western nations such as New Zealand, carries a strong political message.

In every new government, discussions regarding challenging current status quo on issues including foreign policy are bound to arise, and one question is likely to arise: should New Zealand recognise the state of Palestine, and if so, how should it go about it? My quick answer is conditionally. These conditions are targeted towards breaking the political deadlock on peace and promoting talks between Israel’s government and the Palestinian Authority. This is how my country, Canada, has seemed to approach the issue – not recognising the State of Palestine even though we fund infrastructure for the Palestinian Authority (PA). 

Only when the PA can show that they are capable of negotiating in good faith and are committed to peace should we recognise the State of Palestine. It would also help if the PA would take more charge of their own infrastructure and allow their people to elect the government – Mohummad Abbas is in his 14th year of a four year term. This is not worthy of support with statehood. And neither is the PA continuing to incite violence and make claims to the whole of the land while also erasing Jewish connections to Jerusalem and surrounds. To be recognised as a part of the international community, we must first see tangible moves toward peace and we should not recognise the State of Palestine before successful negotiations have taken place – otherwise there is less incentive for Abbas to sit in good faith and make the needed compromises.

My personal experience is that I grew up rather anti-Israel and numb to antisemitism around me. Though I have been transforming myself through education on this issue, and there may very well be some Kiwis who support unconditional recognition of the State of Palestine. I can sympathise with wanting to support the Palestinian people but this should not be conflated with unconditional support for the PA. A political entity meant to represent Palestinians at the government level that is known for their corruption, sponsorship of terrorism, and rejection of peace is no ally to genuinely progressive notions and should not garner support in the form of statehood recognition.

A historic leap forward has happened and will continue to happen as Arab nations recognise Israel and normalise ties; this must be front and centre for liberal, democratic nations such as Canada, the United States, New Zealand, Australia, the United Kingdom, and others who wish to be seen as peace-loving. Our nations must not be hijacked into giving free leverage to a government responsible for creating and preserving the status quo of the political deadlock we find ourselves in right now in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. New Zealand should join nations of goodwill in praising peace between Arab nations and Israel as well as seek to bring both Israel and the Palestinian leadership entities back to the negotiation table.

An optimistic vision for the future is one that includes successful peace talks between Israel and the PA in 2021, and recognition of a Palestinian state or political entity must be recognised and monitored internationally. New Zealand may participate in that future but it must not break away from the road of advantage that 55 nations of the UN hold in not recognising the Palestinian state until the conditions of peace are achieved.

  • Walid Tamtam is a Muslim Canadian Student from the University of Toronto. He aspires to bring people together for forward-thinking dialogue of all backgrounds and carve away at the hateful voices in order to achieve a future of peace.