The lazy logic of Dr. Cumin and the Israel Institute of New Zealand

Dr-David-CuminThe Israel Institute of NZ, under the leadership of Dr. David Cumin, yesterday gave a press release supporting the United States’ irresponsible decision to claim Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Furthermore, they suggested the New Zealand government make the same declaration.

As is typical for propagandist language and thought, Dr. Cumin attempts to support his fervent wish for this action with distortions of reality and absurd and inaccurate comparisons.

“Although the US Government passed legislation in 1995 that required their Embassy to be moved to Jerusalem, implementing the legislation has been postponed every six months for the past two decades because of national security fears.”

This is misleading. The decision has been postponed by successive governments because it is inconsistent with international law and undermines former declarations that the status of Jerusalem must be part of the overall negotiations for a two-state solution. It is also quite a cynical and illogical comment.

There can be little doubt that the passage of time has not reduced the “national security fears” in the region – the situation remains as volatile as ever. What then has changed to permit this course of action? If Dr Cumin. means what he says, it is an admission that threats to national security and the associated fears of reprisal have been deemed an acceptable cost of this manoeuvre. Hardly a good-spirited policy decision.

Let’s also not forget that after making his statement, Trump then proceeded to do exactly what all previous administrations have done since 1995 – namely sign the waiver that he just denounced.

“Today’s announcement, by Trump, simply formalises that two decade old piece of legislation – but it’s an extremely welcome move which finally recognises that a sovereign state should have the right to determine the location of its own capital and that terror should not win”.

The authors then contend that this is all very logical and normal – don’t all other states have the “right to determine the location of their capital”? This is of course a very lazy sentence, and ignores the fact that half of the capital in question was taken by force in 1967 and is still considered by the United Nations as occupied territory.

For what can only be considered theatrical license he rounds off the paragraph by claiming that this move somehow declares that “terror should not win.” Terror is of course a word that has lost all meaning – one the powerful and those who speak for them use for acts of aggression perpetrated against them. Their own actions are by contrast never “terror”. Examples of Israeli terror and disproportionate aggression are too numerous to mention – we need look no further than here and here , or perhaps here.

Dr Cumin’s arguments then become even more embarrassingly simplistic:

“The current situation is untenable. It’s the equivalent of foreign nations refusing to accept Wellington as the capital of New Zealand and choosing to locate their embassies in Palmerston North or Auckland. We’d be outraged”.

Except of course it’s nothing like that at all – given the fact New Zealand isn’t Israel and Wellington isn’t Jerusalem.

Dr Cumin continues:

“It’s a pity that we weren’t able to lead this as we have done on other issues where we’ve seen injustice taking place – but at least there’s now a precedent that we can follow to correct a decades old snub”

Indeed it is a pity – New Zealand has a proud history of leading when it comes to injustice predicated on racial and ethnic hatred and bigotry, namely against apartheid South Africa. Dr Cumin will predictably denounce any such comparisons, although the United Nations disagrees with him. If apartheid was a system that discriminated against a particular ethnic and racial community, with different rules for each, then the Palestinian oppression has obvious parallels. And if the current Israeli regime’s disdain for a two-state solution is to be accepted then what are the alternatives? The resulting ‘Jewish State of Israel’ will have a Palestinian majority. It can therefore either be a democracy (and not a ‘Jewish State’) or a ‘Jewish State’ but not a democracy.

It is especially twisted and sad that Dr Cumin should call upon New Zealand’s history of denouncing violence and racial or ethnic oppression, to justify support for precisely that kind of oppression.

“The proposed US Embassy will be located in West Jerusalem and will still comply with current international conventions. That means that Arab Palestinians still have the opportunity to have a capital in East Jerusalem. It is up to their leadership to decide if they want to continue political violence and ‘days of rage’ or if they want to negotiate for a better future for all”.

Dr Cumin knows very well that the policies and rhetoric of both the United States and the current Israeli government are in conflict with the professed goal of two states living side by side together in peace. This is often quite openly commented on by politicians in Israel. He is therefore being misleading when he pretends that it is an inevitability that East Jerusalem will be the capital of a Palestinian state.

He is also well aware that the ability to “negotiate for a better future for all” has been an abject failure, precisely because the United States is obviously not a neutral or disinterested arbiter. If there is any clear message from Donald Trump’s announcement, this is it. The United States has disqualified itself from being the negotiator in a so-called ‘Peace Process.’ It strains good sense that they have been able to pretend to be neutral for so long.

As to the comments denouncing a ‘day of rage’ – we need to think openly. If you are already oppressed, living under a military occupation, and forced to negotiate with the occupier by a third party that actively supports and enables that occupier, what reasonable course of action is left to you? I am not supporting violence by any means – but the Palestinians are entitled to feel rage, and are equally entitled to express that via mass protest.

Additionally, the Palestinians have made inroads into utilising other more official mechanisms, most notably the United Nations and the International Criminal Court. But whenever they try to do so, they are criticised by the Israeli state and its propagandist messengers, like Dr Cumin, for taking ‘unilateral action’. They should ‘get back to the table.’ They are told, in not so many words, to go back to begging to their abusers.

Unfortunately for the Israelis, Donald Trump just broke the table. I suspect that should the Palestinians call for negotiations under the auspices of a truly independent nation or body, Dr Cumin would still not be satisfied, because the ‘Peace Process’ has never been about resolving the issues, only buying time for the current perpetual stalemate, while the reality on the ground, slow annexation, continues apace.


The sad reality of these statements is that Dr Cumin either has critical flaws in his intelligence and reasoning, or he is being deliberately obtuse in the service of perpetuating Israeli propaganda. I suspect he is more than educated enough to recognise the faults in his logic.

As I have said on other occasions – the core issues and conflicts in the Israel-Palestine issue are not complicated. A five year old can understand them. Moreover, there is already an international consensus on what to do, supported by the majority of nations on the planet. The only reason obvious realities can appear so complicated or opaque is due to the deliberate misinformation, mischaracterisation and Orwellian trickery employed by people like Dr Cumin in the service of a racist and aggressive ideology.

Peaceful New Zealanders, Palestinians and Israelis deserve better than him.



Author: Todd

Hello, thanks for reading. My name is Todd and I'm a 30 year old NZ Maori trainee doctor in Psychiatry. I have a passion for Mental Health, particularly in low-resource settings, and the existential and humanist schools are what provide me with the organising principles to help understand my patients - their hopes, their fears, their dreams and the inner tyrannies under which they often suffer. I have a background in advocating for evidence-based policy solutions and have always maintained an active interest in NZ and international politics - in particular the dynamics between psychology, politics and dominant power systems. Central to my belief is the sanctity and inherent mana of all people and the need be eternally wary of ideologies that reduce them to simple nodes within enormous and fundamentally dehumanising systems. I feel that the history of modern politics and individual and social psychology is the constant tension of this dialectic. We are "human, all too human" and the affirmation of our essential humanness is the common thread in my work. When I was once overwhelmed by the terrible things people can do to one another, someone important to me said, "don't scream at the darkness, light a candle." I hope these pieces are each a candle - all part of the many I hope to light on this wonderful journey. Many thanks and happy reading Todd

4 thoughts on “The lazy logic of Dr. Cumin and the Israel Institute of New Zealand”

  1. Really enjoy reading you pieces; coherent, fact based and objective.

    I share similar concerns. I would also like to see more than just handwaving by our government and others who share a preference more multilateralism – although, I do not hold my breath!


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