It came to my attention in September 2023 that all local body councils in New Zealand had been approached by Pro-Palestinian activist John Minto. He was asking them to divest from any business to do with Israelis who live in the disputed territories. Part of his communication stated:
“That the Council declares it will support Aotearoa New Zealand government policy, as expressed through UNSC (Resolution) 2334, and will develop its own policy to ensure it distinguishes between goods and services produced by Israel and goods and services produced in illegal Israeli settlements on Palestinian land. In particular Council will refuse to purchase goods and services produced in illegal Israeli settlements.“
My letter to Councils in Response:
It has come to my attention that John Minto, a pro-Palestinian activist, may have approached your Council in an attempt to vilify the State of Israel. Having read a copy of a letter he may have sent, please allow me to clarify a few points if you don’t mind. By the way, I have been a Church pastor in Hastings for over forty years and am well integrated into the community in Hastings and the surrounding area. I am known for my defence of Israel, but at the same time I am not anti-Palestinian. I pray for a peaceful solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and I believe in a negotiated settlement which is done in good faith by both sides.
Please let me succinctly bullet point where John Minto is wrong:
- Of the UN Security Council Resolution 2334 (23 December 2016) Bill English was PM and not John Key.
- The National Party, who were in government, no longer supports the resolution and regrets the underhanded way in which it was slipped in without Cabinet consent. This was stated by Simon Bridges when he was their leader in 2018 https://youtu.be/Et5aJq3CWf0?t=3
- Israel does not practice “brutal repression” of Palestinians. Such slanderous lies are made by opponents of Israel who wish to smear Israel with this and other outlandish statements such as “Israel is an apartheid state”. The State of Israel is fully democratic and not apartheid. It does its best in the difficult political reality to treat the Palestinians in the disputed territories with respect. There are activists on both sides of the conflict, however Israel is constantly under attack by terrorists from the Palestinian side who are incited by their leaders to do so.
- The Israelis have stated and they wait for the Palestinian leaders to rejoin them at the negotiating table, a table the Palestinian leadership vacated years ago.
- The Israelis do not consider Jewish settlements in some parts of the West Bank as illegal simply because it is their ancestral and historical homeland. It would be like telling the Māori people that some parts of Aotearoa are out-of-bounds for them. The Palestinian Authority has stated they want no Jews living in the disputed territories at all, whereas within Israel there are some two million Arab citizens of Israel who happily co-exist with the Jewish population.
- Israeli technology and expertise in many areas of interest to New Zealand should be counted as something to be embraced and not to be boycotted. Your Council could benefit greatly from the innovations that Israel has to offer.
- John Minto’s vitriol and bias against the State of Israel should disqualify him from offering any advice on this matter to your council.
If I can be of any further help then please do not hesitate to contact me. I can not only answer your questions but can put you into contact with people of expertise.
Mayoral Responses to my email
Have no fear, John Minto’s email was duly filed in the trash bin.
Kia ora Nigel
I am Mayor S… advisor and vet all the email traffic sent to him to ensure he only sees correspondence that he needs to deal with. Some I deal with on his behalf and some I delete. He receives a wide range of political correspondence on international affairs which I generally read and decide that he does not need to see for a range of reasons. This is the case with the correspondence from Mr Minto we received on the 26 September. Mayor S… has not and will not see Mr Mintos email.
Kia ora Nigel,
Thanks for your email. As yet, I haven’t seen anything from John Minto, but take most comments about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict with a grain of salt… I have a reasonable understanding of the history behind it and the reasons why Israel is as committed to controlling the situation as they are.
Like you, I am also hopeful that a peaceful resolution can be found and though it doesn’t look likely for now, I think that the right combination of leadership could make it happen.
Thank you that is helpful.
Thank you for your email raising your concerns about the correspondence I have received from John Minto. I have discussed this with the Councillors and we have no intention of engaging with John Minto. We do not see it as a role of local government to intervene or become involved in matters of international diplomacy.
Thanks, you for your email this is the response sent to John from our CEO.
“Thank you for your email sent to Mayor B…. She has asked me to respond.
You have predicted correctly that we see that national policy is the place for the action you are suggesting.
We are a small local authority with a short reach internationally in terms of procurement and a focus on buying local where possible.
I cannot envisage a circumstance where your draft resolution has any practical meaning.”
Thank you for your email. You may take comfort from the fact that I have been around long enough to know, to pick my sources for accurate information. John Minto is definitely not one of them now and never will be in the future.