IINZ claims political interference in terror designations threatens security and US FTA

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The latest terror designations in New Zealand have once again failed to proscribe Hamas or Hezbollah. This is out of step with other Five Eyes nations, and in particular with the United States – with whom our Ministry of Foreign Affairs intimate they are trying to obtain a Free Trade Agreement.

The Israel Institute of New Zealand (IINZ) is concerned that politics is trumping national security and jeopardizing free trade with allied countries, says co-director, Dr David Cumin.

“It is hard to believe that New Zealand intelligence and defence experts come to different conclusions to their counterparts in Canada, the UK, USA, Australia, or elsewhere.
Unlike those countries, New Zealand maintains a false distinction between the “military wing” and “political wing” of the groups. The groups themselves don’t even make that distinction. It is a blatant loophole that allows support for terror from New Zealand.

The failure to properly designate Hamas and Hezbollah demonstrates that one of the Five Eyes is wilfully blind. And this wilful blindness is increasingly recognised for what it in fact is, an explicit insult to Washington.

We are concerned that the political nature of some groups on the Terror Designations Working Group results in the overruling of expert opinion and allows terror to grow in or from New Zealand.

This will also surely impact free trade talks with allied countries like the United States who take international security seriously.”

The process for advancing the designation of terrorist entities is managed by a Terrorist Designations Working Group, chaired by New Zealand Police. The Working Group also includes officials from the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet (DPMC), the New Zealand Defence Force, Crown Law, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and the New Zealand Security Intelligence Service. Dr Cumin believes it may be officials from MFAT or DPMC who overrule the security experts.

“We know that MFAT officials, despite their leading the Christchurch Call, have a history of supporting incitement to terror and antisemitism in schools overseas – funding it to the tune of approximately $1m each year and failing to brief the Minister on the issues for many years.

We also know that DPMC officials invited a known Holocaust denier to the counter-terror hui last year, and allowed him to openly voice support for Hamas and Hezbollah terror without challenge.

Thus, it is regrettably reasonable to think that some of our officials might want to keep New Zealand as an outlier nation in preventing support for Iranian-sponsored terror.

However, it is ultimately the Prime Minister who must make the decision, and it is most disappointing that she would ignore worldwide evidence and precedents in this way, especially as she has made other designations recently. It leaves our nation more vulnerable to an attack or to harbouring terror supporters.”

Earlier this year, Prime Minister Ardern designated US groups the Proud Boys and The Base as terrorist entities. Police Minister Chris Hipkins said both those groups posed a “significant threat”, though he had no information suggesting the groups were operating in New Zealand. IINZ claims this is a double standard:

“We applaud the designation of groups that meet the criteria, even if they are not yet operating on our shores. It is noteworthy that the recent designations have not artificially separated the terror groups into a “military wing” and a “political wing”, as New Zealand does for Hamas and Hezbollah.

However, the failure to designate Hamas and Hezbollah, especially when there has been open support for their violence in this country, seems a gross double standard. It is another red flag suggesting that politics is trumping national security in New Zealand.”

There was a rally in support of Hezbollah in Auckland in 2018; and in 2021, at the hui on Countering Terrorism and Violent Extremism, a community leader said that he supported the violence of Hamas and Hezbollah.

Hamas has been responsible for thousands of indiscriminate rocket attacks, kidnappings, suicide bombings, and other violence toward Israeli citizens. Hezbollah has been implicated in numerous terrorist attacks around the world, including the bombing of a Jewish community centre in Argentina. The group has also contributed to the Syrian civil war’s horrific death toll and extended an ongoing civil war by supporting Houthi militias in Yemen.

Both groups are supported by Iran. IINZ suggests this might be part of the reason for not designating them as terror entities.

“New Zealand spends approximately $2m on an embassy in Tehran and has hardly ever spoken up against the Islamic Republic’s human rights abuses or widespread support for terror; and has supported the flawed JCPOA nuclear deal.

New Zealand has long hoped for a return of trade with Iran, which was one of the top five export markets. Does the hope of selling sheep and cattle really mean we should undermine our national and international security by providing a loophole to Iranian-backed terror?

Failing to properly confront Iranian-backed terror also risks pushing a Free Trade deal with the US further away, and upsetting other trading nations like Israel and the Gulf States – particularly in the wake of the Abraham Accords. New Zealand seems somewhat stuck in the past and unable to adapt to a changing Middle East.”