Green MP Golriz Ghahraman has been accused of spreading a "disgusting centuries-old anti-Semitic trope" after sharing a social media post accusing Israeli authorities of "medical apartheid" in the fight against COVID-19.
Earlier this week activist group Jewish Voice For Peace shared an edited screenshot of a New York Times article. It originally read, 'How Israel Became a World Leader in Vaccinating Against COVID-19', but the group "fixed it for them" by crossing out 'Vaccinating Against COVID-19' and replacing it with 'MEDICAL APARTHEID' in bright red letters.
The subheading, 'Badly hit by the coronavirus, Israel has distributed the first of two vaccine doses to more than 10 percent of its population,' had the addition, 'excluding the 5 million Palestinians it occupies'.
Iranian-born Ghahraman shared Jewish Voice For Peace's post on her Instagram account, horrifying the Israel Institute of New Zealand, which called it "disappointing" and the comparison to apartheid, "disgusting".
The Middle Eastern nation's vaccine rollout has been hailed worldwide, announcing earlier this week it had already inoculated 15 percent of its 9 million people against the deadly virus - and plans to have most of the rest done in the next month.
"We have a national vaccination registry which was established a few years ago; the whole country is on one database," Itamar Grotto, associate director-general of the Israel Ministry of Health, told CNBC on Wednesday (NZ time).
But there have been claims the Jewish state's left the sizeable Palestinian population out of its reponse. Vaccines delivered into the West Bank have only been given to Jewish settlers, according to media reports.
"The COVID-19 vaccine roll-out plan so far covers only citizens of Israel, including Israeli settlers living inside the West Bank, and Palestinian residents of Jerusalem," Amnesty International wrote in a post on its website on Wednesday.
"It excludes the nearly 5 million Palestinians who live in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, under Israeli military occupation."
The New Zealand Jewish Council was also concerned, saying not only was it not Israel's job to provide healthcare to Palestinians living under Palestinian National Authority (PNA) rule, the Palestinians themselves until recently had not asked for assistance.
"This canard that Israel is withholding the vaccine from Palestinians invokes the disgusting centuries-old anti-Semitic trope that Jewish people spread disease," spokesperson Juliet Moses told Newshub.
The PNA's first request to Israel for vaccines only came earlier this week, the Jerusalem Post reported on Thursday (NZ time), which Israel is considering.
"If you support the self-determination and self-governance of the Palestinians as I believe Golriz does, then it makes no sense to demand that Israel does something that the Palestinian government does not want itself and has not asked for, or now that it has just asked for some help on, Israel has not withheld," said Moses.
The PNA, which has responsibility for healthcare in the West Bank, expects to receive vaccines procured through the World Health Organization's COVAX initiative sometime in February, if they can get emergency approval. Israel - a much wealthier government - has been distributing the pricey Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine.
Amnesty International and other rights groups have expressed concern Israeli authorities might keep the Western-made Pfizer vaccine for Israelis, whilst offering Palestinians the cheaper Russian-made Sputnik V vaccine - which rights groups say would breach "the long-standing policy of the Israeli Ministry of Health to only allow the distribution of medicines in the occupied Palestinian territory which have undergone the necessary scientific and regulatory procedures".
"Golriz is infantilising the Palestinian leadership and taking all agency away from them," said Moses, who told Newshub she's been to the West Bank twice and even spoken to Palestinian Authority leaders.
"That might be convenient to her narrative of wanting to blame Israel for everything, but it is not consistent with wanting the Palestinian people to be self-governing and self-determining."
Ghahraman and the Green Party declined to comment when approached by Newshub, saying her personal Instagram page - blocked from general public viewing - was "mainly used for private use".
Moses - who backs the long-proposed two-state solution - said she has never accused any other MP of anti-Semitism, and it's not something she does lightly.
"Ghahraman repeatedly spreads disinformation and anti-Semitic tropes about Israel. I understand she enjoys the attention that comes with doing so.
"However, if she wishes to criticise Israel, she has a duty, as an MP and someone who professes to be concerned about hate speech and the marginalisation of minority communities in Aotearoa, to do so on the basis of correct, contextualised information. Yet again, the leaders of her party should intervene."
Moses has previously criticised Ghahraman for calling Jesus Christ's parents "Palestinian refugees" rather than Jewish in a tweet. Ghahraman deleted the tweet and apologised, and said she'd "engage in dialogue with the Jewish community about what I could have done better".
"She met with members of the Jewish Council after the above incident and listened to our concerns," said Moses. "Apparently she did not take them on board."