Israel Institute of New Zealand co-director, Ashley Church, is seeking a full retraction and an investigation following the publication of an Immigration New Zealand ‘fact sheet’ which contained politicised distortions of the truth and totally erased Israel from the map.
The ‘fact sheet’, which has now been removed following outrage on social media, was on the Immigration New Zealand website and claimed that its purpose was to inform people about Palestinian refugees coming to New Zealand.
However, according to Mr Church, it contained significant errors of fact.
“The most immediately obvious of the errors was a map labelling the whole of modern-day Israel as ‘Palestine’. This is incredibly offensive and the equivalent of New Zealand Immigration displaying a map of the UK which removed Scotland and Wales and referred to the entirety of the British Isles as England.”
Mr Church also highlighted other errors in the document.
- East Jerusalem is described as being ‘the designated capital of the State of Palestine’ – but there is no explanation of who has designated it as such. The Palestinians’ seat of government and administration in the West Bank is in Ramallah; Hamas rules Gaza from Gaza City.
- According to Immigration New Zealand, Israel “gained control of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip” following the Six-day War in 1967. This is correct but it fails to mention that Israel won the territory in a defensive war against Jordan and Egypt (there was no such entity as ‘Palestine’ in 1967).
- Immigration New Zealand also claims that the period of the second intifada saw “massive Israeli repression of Palestinians…” but fails to mention that security measures were undertaken in response to attacks by Arab Palestinian suicide bombers which murdered more than 1,000 Israelis.
- The document describes Israel’s “economic sanctions and a blockade on Hamas-controlled Gaza” but fails to mention that Hamas is a terror group and the blockade was put in place to prevent rocket attacks (as the Palmer Report to the UN makes clear). It also fails to mention that the Egyptians also have a blockade on Gaza – or that Israel facilitates the transport of thousands of trucks carrying aid and provisions into Gaza each week.
Mr Church describes the document as ‘worthy of the best and most dishonest efforts of some of the more extremist anti-Israel groups in the country’ but says that it has no place on a New Zealand Government website.
“Immigration New Zealand is a Government Agency which projects a view of New Zealand to the world. It is completely unacceptable for them to publish an image that erases Israel from the map. Who wrote it? Who approved it? Where were the checks and balances that should have prevented this scurrilous exercise in fiction and propaganda?
It is alarming and embarrassing that information provided by a New Zealand government department can be both wildly inaccurate and so heavily politicised”.
Mr Church says that he does not accept that the information on the site was the result of an accident or human error.
“Anyone with the most basic understanding of the geography should have realised that the area marked ‘Palestine’ is actually Israel. That the error was printed in a ‘fact sheet’ on the topic means it was no accident.
What we now need to know is whether it was an activist on the staff of Immigration NZ seeking to erase Israel – or whether it was sanctioned by senior Ministry officials. Either way, the issue highlights gross deficiencies in the editorial process of a New Zealand government office.”
Mr Church says that several steps are now required to restore confidence in Immigration NZ and to avoid any damage to the relationship between Israel and New Zealand:
“Our Immigration Minister needs to immediately apologise for the offending image and confirm that it does not reflect Government policy; Immigration New Zealand needs to issue a statement confirming that the website does not represent the views of the Ministry; and an investigation needs to be undertaken to find out who was responsible and to put in place measures to ensure that this does not happen again”.
Mr Church says that the Israel Institute of New Zealand has written to Immigration New Zealand to raise this matter with them but notes that there has not been a response to date.