Chlöe Swarbrick refuses to apologise for chant that Jewish community member said felt like 'death threat'

Green MP Chlöe Swarbrick is refusing to apologise for making a comment deemed antisemitic at a pro-Palestine rally.

That's despite a Jewish person telling Newshub it felt like a death threat and it made them feel unsafe. The ACT Party says Swarbrick should apologise.

But she isn't backing down.

"The point has to remain that what we are talking about presently unfolding is tantamount to genocide in Gaza," Swarbrick told Newshub.

"Yet for some reason there seems to be greater focus on the words that we are using to advocate for Palestinian freedom than that literal genocide."

But it's the words she used at a pro-Palestine rally that have caused controversy.

"From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free," she said.

The phrase refers to the land between the River Jordan and the Mediterranean Sea, land which is now Israel.

Justice for Palestine spokesperson Samira Archer Zaiton said the chant "calls for the liberation of Palestinians from the chokehold that they've been living under for 75 years".

Jewish Council spokesperson Juliet Moses said "it is offensive".

"It is widely understood to be a call for the annihilation of Israel and quite possibly the Jewish people," Moses said.

Newshub has been contacted by another Jewish person concerned about Swarbrick's use of the chant.

They said they felt the chant was "a direct death threat" and "as a Jew... I no longer feel safe in New Zealand".

"I am now always watching my back, watching if there are any immediate threats to myself or family".

They want Swarbrick to resign.

Asked for her response to that, Swarbrick said: "My first response is that I take my lead from Jewish and Palestinian peace activists."

The ACT Party also wants an apology.

"That they won't do it again and that they're sorry for doing it this time," ACT leader David Seymour said.  

Swarbrick said: "I think if David Seymour should be doing anything with his time right now, it is calling for a ceasefire, it is calling for a return of hostages."

Seymour said it "would be great if there was a ceasefire".

Swarbrick is refusing to say sorry.

"I want to acknowledge that of course different people are taking different interpretations from the utilisation of this phrase."

Amelia Wade analysis

Swarbrick is yet to acknowledge her words have made some members of a minority community feel scared and unsafe.

She said the focus needs to be on the conflict but Kiwis can be informed and horrified by what's unfolding in Gaza as well as expecting politicians to find less contentious ways to condemn the atrocities.