Anti-Israel vaccine narrative catches on with left-wing MPs

false accusations were spread mostly by activists in the past month, but an article published on Sunday in the UK's 'Guardian' exposed them to a wider audience.

An illustrative photo of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
An illustrative photo of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine.
Legislators in parliaments of several countries have echoed the false reports that Israel is barring Palestinians from receiving the COVID-19 vaccine in recent days.
Charlie Angus and Leah Gazan of Canada's left-wing New Democratic Party both repeated the misleading reports, with the former calling Israel an apartheid state and the latter saying Israel was "excluding people from being vaccinated based on discriminatory decisions and a clear violation of human rights.”
The false accusations were spread mostly by activists in the past month, but an article published on Sunday in the UK's Guardian headlined "Palestinians excluded from COVID vaccines and jabs go to settlers" exposed them to a much larger audience. Other news outlets had also tied Israel’s world-leading coronavirus vaccine rollout to the Palestinians’ slower progress on that front.
Under article 17 of the Oslo Accords, the Palestinian Authority is responsible for healthcare, including vaccines, for Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. Israel has been vaccinating Palestinians in east Jerusalem. In addition, Health Minister Yuli Edelstein told The New York Times he had “no doubt” Israel would help the Palestinians, in an article published two days before the one in the Guardian. When the Guardian article was published, the Palestinians had not asked Israel to help.
The Palestinian Authority has ordered doses of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccines and the AstraZeneca vaccine, and is expected to begin vaccinations in February. The PA is also participating in the World Health Organization’s vaccine aid program.
B'nai Brith Canada accused Angus of promoting antisemitic conspiracy theories by sharing the Guardian article, a charge he rejected in a Facebook post on Monday.
Angus then recounted a visit to Jerusalem in January 2020, mentioning that he visited Yad Vashem and inquired about the situation in Gaza.
"Every day on my Twitter feed I take the time to post a story from the Auschwitz Center... I will continue to be an ally in the fight against antisemitism. I will also continue to advocate to improve conditions for the Palestinians," he wrote.
Canadian Conservative Senator Linda Frum tweeted to Angus: "Now you're just trolling for likes from the Jew-hating crowd, and I see it's working. Daily retweets from the Auschwitz account doesn't change what this is and what you're up to here." 
Israel's Charge d'Affaires in Canada Ohad Nakash Kaynar tweeted to Angus: "Time for you to review the [International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance] definition of antisemitism adopted federally in Canada. Would probably also be smart on your behalf to call [former Canadian justice minister] Irwin Cotler and get a short refresher on what antisemitism is, as well."
Angus then blocked Kaynar on Twitter, which the Israeli diplomat shared in a tweet: "Very disappointing to see that instead of retracting his false statements demonizing Israel, or reaching out to converse, MP Angus found it more appropriate to block me when I suggested he refresh his views on what constitutes antisemitism. I guess pluralism isn't for everyone."
Kaynar wrote in response to a comment on his tweet that he had tried to reach Angus directly for 48 hours before responding publicly.
Seven out of 24 MPs in the NDP faction tweeted the Guardian article. A source in Canada, speaking on condition of anonymity in hopes of engaging with the NDP, said the party's lawmakers constantly start online campaigns against Israel and compared it to UK Labour under the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn, who the UK's human rights commission said allowed antisemitism to fester in the party.
B'nai Brith responded that Angus' social media posts "do nothing but feed the antisemitic conspiracy theories surrounding COVID-19, which are proliferating. Such statements, inaccurate and accusatory as they are, have consequences, whether intended or not."
Across the Atlantic, Israeli Ambassador to Belgium and Luxembourg Emmanuel Nahshon shared a letter published in De Standaard debunking an article in Flemish with a headline similar to that in the Guardian.
"A good reaction by the Belgian Jewish community to the lies spread by haters in the media. The Palestinians have chosen to run their own vaccination campaign. We’re here if needed," Nahshon wrote.
Belgian Deputy Prime Minister Petra De Sutter, a longtime critic of Israel who has the distinction of being the first-ever trans cabinet minister in Europe, responded to questions about the slow rollout of vaccines in her country in a televised interview by saying: "UK and Israel, as well as Russia and China, are vaccinating people with vaccines that are not of the same standard as the ones we use."
Israelis have been receiving the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine that Belgium and the rest of Europe is getting, mostly from a distribution center in Puurs, Belgium.
In an apparent response to De Sutter, Nahshon tweeted: "Seeing the reactions to the extraordinary Israeli vaccination campaign by some officials and 'specialists' in certain countries (no names), I’m aghast at the mixture of jealousy, pettiness and hypocrisy. Don’t blame your failures on us, just don’t!"
Michael Freilich, the first observant Jewish MP in Belgium, of the right-wing NVA party, said "it's disgraceful for a minister to launch such fake news about Israel in order to cover up their own mistakes."
Belgium is "extremely slow," Freilich added. "We have had 700 vaccines administered in the past two weeks. Instead of praising Israel and saying 'how can we learn from Israel, let's work together,' she's going out and disparaging Israel. That is unworthy of a minister and I wonder if the fact that she's from the Green Party, and we know their hostility to Israel, is the real reason for what she is saying."
In Ireland, Patrick Costello, a lawmaker from the Green Party complained in The Irish Times that its coverage of Israel's success with coronavirus vaccine distribution did not mention the Palestinians.
"In the West Bank, the vaccination drive includes only those living in Israeli settlements, which are illegal under international law, and not their Palestinian neighbors," he wrote. "Much like the building of the settlements themselves, the Israeli vaccine program in occupied Palestine falls short of the standards required by international law."
The Israeli Embassy in Ireland has not yet issued a response.
Last month, Senator Lynn Boylan of Sinn Fein called on the government of Ireland to have the EU ensure Israel purchases vaccines for the Palestinians.
"Israeli public health officials have only accounted for the number of vaccines required to vaccinate Israeli citizens," Boylan claimed. "We've heard time and again that the virus does not discriminate. Sadly, for the people of Palestine, the Israeli government does."
A Foreign Ministry source said the vast majority of the media coverage of Israel’s vaccine operation has been overwhelmingly positive, and the lawmakers adopting the Guardian narrative tend to be those who were already highly critical of Israel.
One diplomatic source said the responses are an example of “liberal antisemitism.”