The Arab Palestinian leadership refused offers of coronavirus assistance but that hasn’t stopped fake news spreading around the world. New Zealand mainstream media and even a politician have also spread the modern-day libel.

It was early December when AP and Reuters, the largest news wires in the world, wrote articles about Israel’s successful start to inoculate the country’s population against the coronavirus. The headlines and articles from those outlets and others, however, incorrectly implied that Jerusalem was responsible for the Palestinians’ purported lack of access to vaccines.

On December 19, the NZ Herald and other New Zealand papers printed the AP story that ignored important context like the public offer made by Israel on December 04 and a PA official stating that they wanted no help:

“”We are working on our own to obtain the vaccine from a number of sources… We are not a department in the Israeli Defense Ministry. We have our own government and Ministry of Health, and they are making huge efforts to get the vaccine.”PA official

In May, the PA also refused medical aid from the United Arab Emirates because PA officials said they didn’t want to be used as a “tool for normalisation”, referring to the historic Abrahamic peace accords. Though, earlier this week, Israel sent some vaccines to the PA earlier for ‘humanitarian cases’ after the PA requested them.

It is also important to note that none of the Palestinian news sites were demanding Israel provide vaccinations. Yet, the lie spread to the BBC and the Telegraph, and then to the Guardian. The Guardian even used a picture of an orthodox Jewish man as the header image. Nothing like fake news infused with antisemitism to help transmission.

Facts don’t seem to matter to once-respected news outlets. The offer made by Israel wasn’t even technically needed – it was a goodwill gesture.

The Oslo Accords are widely considered the international legally binding agreement between Israel and the Palestinians and they clearly stipulate that the Palestinian Authority is responsible for healthcare, including vaccinations, for Palestinians in Judea and Samaria and Gaza.

Furthermore, even under The Geneva Conventions that Israel voluntarily applies, the International Red Cross have noted that controlling epidemics is a task “for the competent services of the occupied country itself [and not the occupier].”

These facts haven’t stopped the fake news spreading. And NZ Herald editors have also published two letters which reinforce the lie – one from Marie Leadbeater falsely claiming the lack of vaccinations in the Palestinian Authority territories is “…an example of the callous disregard for legal obligations to the five million Palestinians…”; and one from Janfrie Wakim claiming that the world “…ignores or connives at the cruelty imposed by Israel…”.

Not even the state-owned broadcaster was immune from spreading fake news. Radio New Zealand also interviewed someone who repeated the same narrative about Israel not buying vaccines for Arab Palestinians ruled by Hamas or PA.

Most concerning, though, is that a sitting Member of Parliament in New Zealand – Green MP Golriz Ghahraman – repeated the lie on Instagram. She reposted an image that claimed Israel was practicing “medical apartheid”.

This is a libel on top of a libel. As if it wasn’t bad enough to suggest that Israel is denying vaccinations to people – a lie that echos old antisemitic canards of Jews spreading diseases – there is also a false charge that Israel is an apartheid state.

This particular libel has been well debunked previously (and here and here and many other places), but the irony in this particular case is that Israel, of course, vaccinates all her citizens. In fact, out of a concern that not enough eligible Israeli Arabs have been showing up at the vaccination sites, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited two Arab cities to encourage participation.

Furthermore, Israel has also vaccinated Palestinians – the ones in east Jerusalem who are residents of Israel whose healthcare is under Israel’s purview per the Oslo Accords.

In summary:

  1. Palestinians refused Israeli help.
  2. Israel is not responsible for the healthcare of people under PA or Hamas rule.
  3. Israel has the most successful vaccination program in the world for all her citizens and residents.

The post by Ms Ghahraman was condemned on social media, including by the spokesperson of the New Zealand Jewish Council, Juliet Moses, who said Ghahraman was engaging in “…modern antisemitism. It’s not contextual criticism of Israeli policies. It’s demonising the Jewish state in a way she does with no other state…”

This isn’t Ms Ghahraman’s first antisemitic comment.

In 2018 she accused Israel of committing ‘genocide’ and was condemned by the Holocaust Centre of New Zealand. In 2019 Green Party spokespeople had to say she wanted to improve dialogue with the Jewish community after the NZ Jewish Council called her out for referring to Jesus as a Palestinian.

Ms Ghahraman also proudly stated her first post-election meeting in 2020 was with Roger Fowler, Don Carson, and John Minto. Fowler associates with terrorists and runs a group the Human Rights Commission said tolerates abhorrent antisemitism and that Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern distanced herself from. Mr Minto runs a group with a secretary who posts content no different to neo-Nazis and Minto has tolerated and posted antisemitism on his social media. Mr Minto also regularly posts anti-Israel articles on The Daily Blog, which recently published a cartoon comparing Zionism to both Nazism and COVID-19. Twice.

And the antisemitic lies associated with COVID-19 have been spreading beyond Kiwi blogs, mainstream NZ media, and MPs. The Jewish community in Switzerland is concerned by the spread of antisemitic conspiracy theories connected to the coronavirus pandemic, including Nazi and Holocaust-related images at anti-lockdown demonstrations.

The Simon Wiesenthal Center announced its top ten outbreaks of antisemitism for 2020, with various conspiracy theories blaming Jews for the COVID-19 pandemic earning the lead spot.

And a report from the Kantor Center highlighting such conspiracy theories, including that “accusations that Jews, as individuals and as a collective, are behind the spread of the virus or are directly profiting from it” was, ironically, reported on by some of the same outlets involved in spreading the same accusations about Israel being responsible for the PA.

The Palestinian Authority expects to receive four million doses of a coronavirus vaccine from Russia soon. But there seems no vaccine for the spread of malicious lies, especially when they are infused with antisemitic canards.