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Immigration Minister apologises to Israel over map

Author
NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Thu, 20 Jun 2019, 4:35PM
The offending map has since been taken down but widely distributed online.
The offending map has since been taken down but widely distributed online.

Immigration Minister apologises to Israel over map

Author
NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Thu, 20 Jun 2019, 4:35PM

The Immigration Minister has apologised to Israel's ambassador after an Immigration New Zealand map caused a diplomatic incident by appearing to label Israel "Palestine".

Israel's Ambassador to New Zealand, Itzhak Gerberg, was left offended this week by an online INZ fact sheet about Palestinian refugees he said "completely ignored" his country and used pre-1967 borders to depict the region.

"This official paper of New Zealand incites hatred of the State of Israel as well as anti-Semitism," he wrote to Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway, describing the accompanying language as "abusive".

In a reply posted by the ambassador, Lees-Galloway apologised for offence caused and said immediate action had been to take the diagram down.

"I can assure you the fact sheet did not reflect New Zealand Government policy and has been removed," he wrote.

"The map was clearly inaccurate and did not label the State of Israel as it should."

Foreign Minister Winston Peters on Thursday described the incident as a "rather careless and shoddy mistake".

"The way it was handled was an affront to the Israeli people ... It started out from innocence," Peters told a Parliamentary Select Committee.

Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters has described the map as a Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters has described the map as a "careless and shoddy mistake". Photo / Mark Mitchell

He later told reporters a minister-to-minister apology could also be in order.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs secretary Chris Seed added a new procedure to check maps would be taken up.

"It was a human error. There was nothing untoward about it, so we are trying to understand where the map itself came from," he said.

Israel Institute of New Zealand director Ashley Church this week called for an investigation.

"The most immediately obvious of the errors was a map labelling the whole of modern-day Israel as 'Palestine'," he said.

"This is incredibly offensive and the equivalent of New Zealand Immigration displaying a map of the United Kingdom which removed Scotland and Wales and referred to the entirety of the British Isles as England."

An INZ spokeswoman said the document was meant to give additional information about the humanitarian situation in Palestine and New Zealand's refugee programme.

New Zealand has long supported a two-state solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

Tensions between New Zealand and Israel soured in 2016, when New Zealand co-sponsored a United Nations Security Council resolution in 2016 condemning Israel over continued settlement of the West Bank – a resolution the Labour Party supported but New Zealand First did not.

Israeli's ambassador was recalled for about six months during the stoush.

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