Palestinian Rights Group Challenges City Mayor and Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Pro-Palestine activists in Aotearoa, New Zealand. (Photo: Supplied)

By Neil Ballantyne

A Palestinian rights organization in Aotearoa New Zealand has challenged Mayor Andy Foster of Wellington City Council for his refusal to light up a local council building in the colors of the Palestinian flag.

Councillor Tamatha Paul, a Wellington city councilor and supporter of Palestinian rights, arranged for the Michael Fowler Centre, a concert hall in the capital city, to be lit in the colors of the Palestinian flag to mark Nakba Day and as a gesture of solidarity with the Palestinian people.

In an unorthodox approach to a local issue, Mayor Foster took advice from the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) who strongly urged him to cancel the arrangement as it “could be construed as state recognition” of Palestine, and was reported as advising this “could result in complaints from the Israeli ambassador and other Israeli groups”.

Councillor Paul, commenting on the fact that the council building had previously been lit in the colors of the Ukrainian flag said, “We are more than comfortable to recognize injustices in Ukraine, but we are reluctant to show solidarity with Palestine”.

The human rights organization Justice for Palestine responded defiantly by organizing a guerrilla projection on the walls of Te Papa, Wellington’s national museum. The projection included images of the Palestinian flag and of the slain Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh.

The silencing of the expression of Palestinian solidarity here in Aotearoa New Zealand, has troubling resonance with the repression of Palestinians living under Israel’s illegal occupation. This isn’t the end of it,” Justice for Palestine said in a statement, adding:

“We will be calling for a meeting with the Mayor, asking him to explain his actions and seeking his views on this insult to the sensibilities of the Palestinian community in Aotearoa. We will also be inquiring into why MFAT officials saw fit to interfere in the decisions of a democratically elected city councilor”.

Neil Ballantyne is the Co-Convenor of Justice for Palestine, a Palestinian human rights organization based in Aotearoa New Zealand. He contributed this article to The Palestine Chronicle.

(The Palestine Chronicle is a registered 501(c)3 organization, thus, all donations are tax deductible.)
Our Vision For Liberation: Engaged Palestinian Leaders & Intellectuals Speak Out