Israel-Hamas conflict: New Zealand arts community urges Government to demand ceasefire

Over 350 artists from New Zealand's creative community are demanding an immediate humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza. 

In a letter handed to the leaders of both the outgoing Labour Party and the incoming National Party, Aotearoa Artists 4 Ceasefire made an "unequivocal call" for an "end to violence against all civilians regardless of their identity". 

The group also advocated for "immediate unimpeded humanitarian aid access in and out of Gaza and the West Bank".  In total, it made nine requests.

Those signing the letter included Reb Fountain, Danielle Cormack, Keisha Castle-Hughes, Jemaine Clement, Otis Frizzell, David Farrier, Moana Maniapoto, The Beths, Hinemoa Elder, Rob Ruha, Troy Kingi, Kate Elliott and others. 

"I do not believe there is any justification for us, as human beings, to condone the killing of children; to betray our humanity whilst witnessing the most egregious acts of violence against the innocent," singer Reb Fountain said in the letter.   

"As artists we wield the power of our platforms to amplify the voices of others and affect change.   We unite in solidarity to call on our government to act on our behalf, to promote peace and stop the murder of innocent civilians.  Being on the right side of history will never atone for allowing the suffering of others to continue." 

The letter also urged others within Aotearoa's creative community to co-sign. 

New Zealand has requested a "humanitarian pause" in Gaza, but outgoing Prime Minister Chris Hipkins has said a ceasefire is "unrealistic".

On October 25, after an emergency debate was held at the United Nations Security Council, New Zealand's permanent representative to the UN Carolyn Schwalger gave a statement, saying the "protection of civilians and delivery of humanitarian assistance is the most urgent priority".

"New Zealand joins calls for a humanitarian pause to provide neutral, impartial, and independent humanitarian organisations an opportunity to provide assistance and protection to those in Gaza who desperately need it," she said at the time.

Schwalger also called for the establishment of designated safe areas that are "strictly off limits as targets, or for military use, and also call for humanitarian corridors to ensure the vital assistance reaches where it is most needed".

On Thursday morning, Reuters reported a first group of civilian evacuees from Gaza crossed into Egypt under a Qatari-mediated deal while Israeli forces bombed the Palestinian enclave from land, sea and air anew as they pressed their offensive against Hamas militants. 

Another blast shook Jabalia, Gaza's largest refugee camp, on Wednesday (local time), a day after Palestinian health officials said an Israeli air strike killed about 50 people and wounded 150 there, with Israel saying it killed a Hamas commander in the attack. 

Separately, Palestinians said a bomb had hit an eye hospital in Gaza City on Wednesday, causing a fire, though there were no immediate details on casualties or the extent of the damage.