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.



The ‘Peace Process’ has always been a lie – how can the facilitator of injustice be the negotiator for peace?

It’s interesting to watch the fallout from Donald Trump’s brazen move today to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. It is a very cynical one that will have unpredictable and unsettling ramifications for the region. That much is obvious.

But the resolution of this ongoing occupation will only happen when we have managed to dispel a series of Orwellian mantras that obscure the realities of the issue. These are myths which must die before anything can meaningfully change. Chief among these is the façade known as the ‘Peace Process’.

The ‘Peace Process’ is basically the recycled political term for perpetual and deliberate stalemate, which then allows incremental annexation of Palestinian land and stepwise erosion of Palestinian human rights. Central to this lie is the image of the United States as some kind of benevolent, neutral arbiter.

Nothing could be more absurd. The United States has either actively or indirectly supported the crime of Israeli occupation and aggression since 1967. Anyone who’s followed this issue honestly knows this. Democrat, Republican, a ‘Moderate’ or a ‘Hawk’ President, it makes no difference.

The Peace Process is itself the biggest barrier to peace, because it pretends that the United States is a disinterested arbiter.

Enter Trump. One of the potentially useful things about Trump and his administration of cowboys is their lack of nuance. So for example, where Obama may appoint as Secretary of State a seasoned politician with the skill to understand the relationship between foreign policy and the interests of oil companies, Trump just appoints the former head of Exxon Mobil.

It’s the same in this scenario. Trump can’t help but appear completely impartial and biased towards Israel. And this may be the silver lining. Of all the breathless denouncements discussing the threat posed to the ‘Peace Process’ by this new policy, Mahmoud Abbas, the leader of the Palestinian Authority, has made the most useful comment and the one that we need to most urgently heed – the United States can no longer pretend to be a neutral arbiter.

This is a crucial reality. The ‘Peace Process’ may be over, but it is not over just because one side has been unwilling to shake hands with the other. It is over, and always has been, because the party that is supposed to be moderating the negotiations is fatally biased.

This isn’t a surprising or revelatory point by the way. This has long been known by Palestinians who live under occupation. As with anything, the ignorance belongs to us – by which I mean supposedly educated, liberal Western citizens. The Israeli-Palestine issue is not a complicated one – a five year old could understand the basic problem and what needs to be done. More than this, there is an accepted understanding of what needs to be done that is supported by a vast majority of nations.

The reason that reality is so easily denied is, as ever, a matter of propaganda. There is an intricate and systematised propaganda apparatus created by the Israeli state, supported by the United States, and lazily reiterated by Western media outlets.

Consider how powerful and effective this lie-machine is – it has taken a mentally impaired megalomaniac blaring out his untrammelled support for Israel to finally open people’s eyes to a long obvious fact – that having the United State’s play negotiator is the absolute height of absurdity.

This is the great craft of propagandist machinery – to make absurdities seem reasonable. To make obvious facts into their opposite.

But the skill of former US administrations to present a façade of impartiality has allowed the US to hold this role. Which in turn has allowed Israel to continue to degrade the rights of Palestinians and to continue their annexation with impunity. This ultimately has stymied the ability of someone like Mahmoud Abbas to make a comment like the one he made today. Trump’s behaviour has, in part, allowed him to do so.

In the face of such prejudice, the most logical step is for a genuinely neutral country with international respect to take over the job of interlocutor and negotiator. I’ve always thought that New Zealand has the potential to be this kind of country, although the extent of our involvement in a network of illegal surveillance and the loss of our sovereignty to US interests in these domains certainly threatens our image of neutrality. Still, I live in hope. Another nation, perhaps one of the BRICS nations, may be more suitable. This is also an opportunity for the European Union to put into practice its professed discontent over Israel’s expansionist and aggressive actions.

In the world of politics and public relations, words mean everything. People always make comment on why it is this particular issue provokes such strong passion. I don’t think that’s difficult to answer. It is simply staggering in its injustice – and the only reason that injustice is allowed to continue is because the nation pretending to be the negotiator is actually the facilitator. It’s really that simple.

If we consider ourselves responsible people, if we wish to live in an age where we feel enlightened and want to talk about privilege, then we need to stop and examine the language that permits ignorance. We must assess its utility to the powerful.

In this upside-down, frightening hall of Orwellian deceit, the ‘Peace Process’ is just a propagandist term which in the real world means the deliberate maintenance of an unjust status quo: the slow annexation of Palestinian land, the degradation of Palestinian rights and freedoms and the wholesale, periodic slaughter of innocent men, women and children whenever Israel feels it necessary to “mow the lawn”.

The ‘Peace Process’ needs to die an ignoble death – it has been walking dead for a long time anyway. And may Trump’s lack of understanding of the ‘reasonable’ way of talking about these issues and his apparent ignorance of the stifling rules of international diplomacy be the precipitant for its demise.