Immigration New Zealand has apologised to the Israeli government after the country was left off a map outlining New Zealand’s work to resettle Palestinian refugees.
Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters has panned the error as “a rather careless and shoddy mistake”, and said the Government would apologise at a ministerial level if it was deemed necessary.
Last week, the Israel Institute of New Zealand raised concerns about the Immigration NZ document, saying it “totally erases Israel from the map” and presented a one-sided narrative of the Israel-Palestine conflict.
The fact sheet, which outlined New Zealand’s work with the United Nations to resettle Palestinian refugees, spoke about “vulnerability and protracted instability in the State of Palestine” with the Israel-Palestine conflict “still far from a politically-agreed and sustainable solution”.
A map in the fact sheet labelled as “Palestine” an area which incorporated Israel’s pre-1967 boundaries, which Israel Institute of NZ co-director Ashley Church said was the most obvious error.
“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,” Church said.
He also expressed concern at what he said were a number of other errors in the document relating to the ongoing conflict.
“It is alarming and embarrassing that information provided by a New Zealand government department can be both wildly inaccurate and so heavily politicised”.
Immigration NZ refugee division manager Andrew Lockhart said the department had taken down the fact sheet from its website after it was contacted by a member of the public last week.
“We want the information in these fact sheets to be absolutely correct and clear and have taken the precaution of temporarily removing this fact sheet on Palestinian refugees from the site to review the information.”
Lockhart said the fact sheet, which was intended to provide information on the humanitarian situation in Palestine in the context of New Zealand resettling Palestinian refugees, would be restored once the review was completed.
Peters expressed his displeasure when asked about the mistake by Parliament’s foreign affairs, defence and trade committee, saying the error came from the fact the document was speaking about refugees in the region.
“It was, how should I put it without being too condemnatory, it was a rather careless and shoddy mistake.”
Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade chief executive Chris Seed said there had been “follow-up” between his ministry and Immigration New Zealand, with a new verification procedure to be put in place before maps were placed on the latter’s website.
Seed said Immigration New Zealand had also written a letter of apology to Israel’s ambassador in New Zealand.
Speaking to media afterwards, Peters said the Government would make an apology at a ministerial level if it was deemed necessary.
“I think we’ve made a whole lot of apologies but perhaps you’re right … if there’s got to be a minister-to-minister one for a mistake that wasn’t made by my ministry, then we’ll do that.”
Peters has previously defended Israeli positions in the ongoing dispute.
New Zealand First’s coalition agreement with Labour included a commitment to record a Cabinet minute “regarding the lack of process” followed by the National government when it sponsored a United Nations Security Council resolution criticising Israeli settlements in occupied Palestinian territories.