With the horror of the latest Israeli massacre in Gaza is still fresh in the minds of the world, Ngati Kahungungu Inc chairman Ngahiwi Tomoana thought it would be a good idea to invite the Israeli ambassador over for a few drinks.
In the last month, 1800 Palestinians, most of them civilians, have been killed and more than 9000 injured. There have been attacks on United Nations-run schools and shelters, killing many children. Some 66 Israelis have died in battles with Hamas, all but two of them soldiers. With Israel’s reputation in shreds and calls from Mana and the Greens for the ambassador himself, Yosef Livne, to be expelled, its not surprising that Livne leapt at the chance for a bit of positive PR.
Tomoana did not disappoint. He praised Israel’s expertise in dealing with water shortages and Israel’s revival of the Hebrew language. Livne’s contribution to the love-in was sucking up to Kahungungu’s “beautiful fish”. “People tell me that you already export fish to Spain, and when you take into consideration the distance, Israel is a hop, skip and a jump away.”
While the Maori Party have made “a seat at the table” an excuse for any kind of craven crawling to the powers-that-be, Tomoana’s sucking up to a vicious colonial state in the middle of a renewed round of ethnic cleansing beggars belief. Given the timing, there is no way this meeting is meant to be anything but a massive pokokōhua to the people of Gaza, to the Mana movement, the Greens and the left in New Zealand, and indigenous liberation struggles internationally.
The hypocrisy of this move is breathtaking. Israel is a colonial state – a Jewish settler state built on stolen land within living memory. There are Israelis alive now from the Irgun, Stern and Hagana terror gangs who committed the original massacres that “cleansed” Palestine in 1948. In camps in Lebanon and Jordan, those who experienced the terror that accompanied the foundation of Israel 66 years ago are still alive.
Not only is Israeli water stolen, Israel’s environmental policies make Fonterra look good. All colonial regimes try to remake the landscape. In New Zealand, the aggressive importing of oaks, pines, gorse, rabbits, and thistles were an attempt to “terraform” these motu into a little England. In Israel, the Zionist pioneers (who believed the anti-semitic rhetoric that Jews were parasites on the honest German farmer) dreamed of creating their own sturdy peasantry. In a land of deserts and wetlands, they dreamed of the forests of their native Germany and Russia.
Wetlands were converted to farms and aquifers were drained to no gain. Israel uses approximately 63% of its water for agricultural purposes, according to the World Resources Institute; yet, as of 2002, only 2% of the population worked as farmers and produce comprised only 5% of the GDP. Zionism has poisoned Palestine. Aggressive agriculture has resulted in the salination and nitrification of the land. It is only a matter of time before water shortages lead to war with Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, and Turkey – all of which rely on the Jordan River.
And Tomoana is interested in Hebrew language revival as a model for te reo? Hebrew was revived (and is still taught to new immigrants) in the Israeli Defence Force. Universal conscription, the barracks and constant war: that is the Israeli model of language revival.
Tomoana’s sucking up to Livne is meant as an insult to the left. It is meant to underline the new ruling class status of iwi corporate bosses and their independence from protest politics. Tomoana rejects calls for the expulsion of the ambassador, saying “The current leaders of our tribe are ambassadors. Jerry Mataparae, Pita Sharples and Rose Pere, they’re international ambassadors.”
With the exception of Rose Pere, these leaders are not ambassadors. They are ruling class figures in their own right. Their importance to the New Zealand state goes way beyond the interests of Kahungungu – and is against the interests of Kahungungu who are working class and poor. They represent the incorporation of Maori into a racist system.
Iwi corporate types like to forget that all the wealth they have was won through the Treaty of Waitangi settlement process by decades of hard graft and the explosion of protest in the 1970s and 1980s. The allies of Maori protesters were from the left – trade unions, environmentalists and socialists – in fact often enough the left was led by Maori who were themselves socialist trade unionists. Now though, in a context of growing inequality which is hitting working class Maori whanau hardest, the iwi leaders like to pretend they are beyond left and right. Sucking up to Israel is taking sides against the oppressed.