Israel-Gaza conflict: PM Christopher Luxon says former Shortland Street actor's hunger strike a 'real shame', defends Govt's response

Prime Minister Christopher Luxon is defending New Zealand's response to the Israel-Gaza conflict, saying the Government has "done the right thing".  

It comes after former Shortland Street actor Will Alexander started a hunger strike in protest of Aotearoa's response.  

Alexander, who played police constable Bell in the iconic show, began his hunger strike during a Christchurch rally in support of Palestine on Sunday.   

He said he can "no longer stand by while my own government is complicit in an ongoing genocide committed by Israel against the Palestinian people".   

"Innocent children are being killed in the thousands. Israel has violated international law for decades with full impunity granted by Western governments like New Zealand," the actor said in a press release.   

He also made three demands of the New Zealand Government including withdrawing our troops from the Red Sea, stopping NZ company Rakon from supplying components for weapons used by Israel and resuming and then doubling humanitarian funding for UNRWA (The United Nations Relief and Works Agency).  

A Rakon spokesperson told Newshub the company does not design or manufacture weapons.

"Our products are used in a wide range of applications in many different industries and market sectors including telecommunications, space and defence, and positioning. For our customers in the defence sector, product applications can include radar, communications, and positioning and navigation," the spokesperson said.

"We require additional customer due diligence to be undertaken when we are aware a product may have a military end use. We take this very seriously and have internal procedures to ensure we comply with rules designed to control the export of goods that may have a military end use in all the countries where we do business.

"Our Trade Compliance Policy conforms with New Zealand Government regulations and states that we will not sell products which could be used in weapons of mass destruction (or their means of delivery), or in cluster munitions or for terrorist activity."

Alexander went on to directly call the Prime Minister out saying, “Christopher Luxon is choosing to send support for more bombs while freezing aid for starving Palestinians. It’s a disgrace".  

But speaking with AM co-host Lloyd Burr on Tuesday, Luxon defended his government's response to the war in Gaza.  

He added it's "a real shame" Alexander feels the need to go on a hunger strike.   

"I think that's a real shame that he feels that's his course of action because I am actually very proud of the New Zealand Government's response," Luxon told Burr.  

"I think we have been incredibly sensible and constructive, and we've actually been calling for peace in that situation for some time and it's a chance for me to say what we actually have done because I do want people to understand it." 

The Prime Minister said the Government has been calling for a ceasefire for months along with calling on Hamas to release hostages and calling on Israel to adhere to international law and open up access to aid. 

"We've also lifted our own humanitarian assistance by $17 million beyond the UNRWA $1 million that we typically donate each year and that has been to the Red Cross and the world food programmes.  

"We've also been calling for peace and stability in the region and we supported the Palestinian State having enhanced participation in the United Nations just a couple of weekends ago." 

Luxon said he thinks New Zealand has been "very consistent in our position".  

"We've done that individually as a country but also in concert with Canada and also Australia at times."   

Luxon said he believes the Government has stood up for and articulated New Zealand's values incredibly well during the conflict.   

"I think the things he's [Alexander] referenced, there might be some misunderstanding or an incorrect understanding of actually the issues and what we actually have done.  

"We have increased aid into the region very strongly, we have called for peace and negotiations, and we have very strong export controls around defence companies selling defence things into places.   

"I think we've done the right thing," he concluded.   

Watch the full interview above.