A petition, titled Māori Call for Palestine, has gained more than 5000 signatures, calling for action from the New Zealand government to further support Palestinians.
The petition calls for the government to “demand an immediate ceasefire and expel the Israeli Ambassador until that demand is met; impose economic sanctions targeting companies, assets and services involved with Israel’s illegal war of aggression; recognise the state of Palestine as it recognised the nation of Israel in 1949; and demand an end to the occupation, blockade and continued confiscation of Palestinian lands”.
Tā moko practitioner, writer and cultural advisor Sian Montgomery-Neutze is one of the authors of the petition.
“We have a responsibility as tāngata whenua to call upon our Treaty partners, call upon our current government to represent our values as Māori and as a wider nation internationally, and so that’s why we’ve come together to put this petition forward,” says Montgomery-Neutze of Ngāi Tara, Muaūpoko.
The authors hope the petition will “spread awareness of the genocide; demonstrate that as iwi members, people and a united collective, we are in total opposition to genocide, apartheid and systemic colonisation of all indigenous peoples; and put pressure on our government to represent our values internationally.”
On Thursday, Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters submitted a motion in Parliament that the House call all parties involved in the Gaza conflict, including countries with influence in the region, to take urgent steps toward establishing a ceasefire.
Montgomery-Neutze says the motion was a good first step but “it’s not enough”.
“As Whaea Debbie [Ngarewa-Packer], Te Pāti Māori, the Green Party and others highlighted, there needs to be further steps from the government to put some weight behind those words and that’s what this petition is calling for.”
Montgomery-Neutze says Māori can’t compare their experience of colonisation with what’s happening in Palestine or Gaza “but certainly they are always connected”.
“They are connected through imperialism, through colonialism, the ongoing extraction of whenua. So colonisation and imperialism is a global project and requires a global response from our indigenous communities and also our allies.”
Spokesperson for the Indigenous Coalition for Israel, writer and researcher Dr Sheree Trotter says Māori do have a place in supporting Palestinians, “in the struggle against their own [Hamas] leaders” but criticises the petition saying it is “deeply misguided”.
“I think it doesn’t really show a recognition or understanding of the geopolitics of the region or the history of the region. It throws around some pretty provocative terms that I would challenge as being incorrect and I think it fails to recognise what Israel is dealing with with Hamas,” says Trotter, of Te Arawa.
Trotter says the terminology used such as colonisation, genocide and apartheid are “deeply problematic terms to use in this context”.
“For a start Jews are the indigenous people of that land. They’ve had a continuous connection there for over 3500 years. So that in itself upends that whole narrative. They had colonisers who came over the centuries, many colonisers over that land, including the Muslims who came about a thousand years later… but it’s actually the Jewish people who have the only people who have ever had sovereignty in that land.”
Meanwhile, the authors of the petition will continue to work toward gaining more signatures for it.
“Many of us believe and feel that as tāngata whenua we have a responsibility to support our whanaunga in Palestine to support our indigenous whanaunga around the world as well and their struggle for liberation.”