An NDP Member of Parliament says he’s “shocked” by accusations that he helped promote antisemitic conspiracies about whether Israel is withholding the COVID vaccine from Palestinians.
B’nai Brith Canada has written NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh to express concerns about “unacceptable” social media posts by Charlie Angus (Timmins–James Bay) and at least one other NDP MP, Leah Gazan (Winnipeg Centre).
Their statements “do nothing but feed the antisemitic conspiracy theories” surrounding COVID, B’nai Brith wrote Singh, calling on the leader to censure the two MPs “without delay.”
The war of words began on Jan. 3, when Angus retweeted a much discussed story in Britain’s The Guardian newspaper. Headlined, “Palestinians Excluded from COVID Vaccines and Jabs go to Settlers,” the article described growing concerns that Palestinians were deliberately excluded from Israel’s successful rollout of the COVID vaccine.
Angus used the hashtag “apartheidstate,” referring to Israel.
B’nai Brith said Gazan cited the same report and accused Israel of “excluding people from being vaccinated based on discriminatory decisions” and of “a clear violation of human rights.”
“These comments cannot go unchallenged,” B’nai Brith said in a Jan. 5 statement that included its letter to Singh.
In his reply, Angus tweeted that “as a parliamentarian involved at the international stage on addressing the crisis of online conspiracy theories, I was shocked by [B’nai Brith’s] accusation. I reject the accusation. If B’nai Brith objects to the tone or the facts presented by The Guardian article, the appropriate channel is to contact the editor of The Guardian.”
Angus said he’s hopeful that Israel will use its “enormous resources to ensure that people who are denied political independence are given the full protection they deserve.”
He said he will continue to advocate for better conditions for Palestinians, including “reminding Israel occasionally of [its] international obligations, particularly in the unprecedented crisis of this pandemic.”
B’nai Brith charged Angus with “declining to defend the substance of the reporting upon which he based his comments. Instead, he suggested that the fault lies with the inaccurate reporting that he cited.”
Said Michael Mostyn, CEO of B’nai Brith Canada: “Mr. Angus should do the right thing and admit that the story he disseminated is insidiously misleading and that describing Israel as an ‘apartheid state’ is morally, and factually, objectionable. If he is unwilling to do so, then federal NDP leadership must do so for him.”
Mostyn’s letter to Singh offers several rebuttals to The Guardian’s claims, including that under the 1995 Oslo Accords, powers and responsibilities in the health sector, including for vaccinations, were transferred to the Palestinian leadership; and that the Palestinian Authority’s ministry of health has said that it is 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 & Health Ministry, and they are making huge efforts to get the vaccine.”
In a statement to The CJN, Shimon Koffler Fogel, president and CEO of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, said it is “imperative that elected officials check the veracity of the information they share online. An experienced MP like Charlie Angus should and does know better. Effectively, his retweet is tantamount to a blood libel, and yet he refuses to take it down despite being made aware of the facts, including that the premise of the story he amplified is demonstrably false. Had the issue been one other than the Jewish state, the tweet would have already been removed, if posted at all. This type of dog-whistle has no place in Canadian politics.”
On Jan. 5, Honest Reporting Canada took CBC News and Globe and Mail health columnist André Picard to task for repeating the claim that Israel has not vaccinated Palestinians.
On Jan. 6, Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center (FSWC) also wrote to Singh denouncing Angus’s and Gazan’s “misleading and libelous” tweets.
The MPs’ statements are “unambiguously untrue” and “solidify and promote antisemitic narratives and conspiracy theories about Jews and Israel,” wrote FSWC Director of Policy, Jaime Kirzner-Roberts.
Israel, she said, “is currently a world leader with respect to the successful implementation of its coronavirus vaccine program. The program is well underway and is inclusive of all Israeli citizens – Jewish, Muslim and Christian alike – and is being delivered to the entire population without regard to ethnicity or religion of the recipients.”
However, Israel does not have jurisdiction over health care provision for non-Israeli citizens in the West Bank or Gaza, under the Oslo Accords, Kirzner-Roberts added.
Michael Levitt, FSWC president and CEO, said he was “disappointed and angered that elected officials have chosen to ignore the facts and instead join the anti-Israel voices spreading false allegations about Israel and its vaccination program.”
The CJN has contacted the offices of Angus and Singh. We will update the story as needed.