An Israeli minister’s speech was criticized by Palestinians for promoting ‘racist ideology’

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The Palestinian Authority condemned the Israeli minister’s statement denying the existence of Palestinians as “conclusive evidence” of the Israeli government’s “racist ideology”. Bezalel Smotrich, a member of Benjamin Netanyahu’s far-right government that came into power in December, is known for his extreme views.

Earlier this month, Smotrich, known for making provocative statements, received global criticism for advocating the destruction of a Palestinian town in the West Bank that is under Israeli occupation.

While speaking at an event commemorating French-Israeli Zionist activist Jacques Kupfer in Paris on Sunday, Smotrich claimed that “there are no Palestinians” since there is no Palestinian people, as per a video that has been circulating on social media.

Mohammad Shtayyeh, the Palestinian Prime Minister, stated on Monday before a Cabinet meeting that Smotrich’s provocative remarks align with the early Zionist slogan of “a land without a people for a people without a land”. He also described Smotrich’s statements as incendiary.

They provided “conclusive evidence of the extremist, racist Zionist ideology… of the current Israeli government”, Shtayyeh argued.

Evoking biblical “prophecies” that are “beginning to come true”, Smotrich said: “After 2,000 years… God is gathering his people. The people of Israel are returning home.”

“There are Arabs around who don’t like it, so what do they do? They invent a fictitious people and claim fictitious rights to the land of Israel, only to fight the Zionist movement,” he said.

“It is the historical truth, it is the biblical truth,” he added.

“The Arabs in Israel must hear it, as well as certain Jews in Israel who are confused — this truth must be heard here at the Elysee Palace [in Paris], and at the White House in Washington, and everyone must hear this truth.”


The minister, who met no French government officials during his trip, was speaking from a lectern which featured a map of so-called Greater Israel, including the West Bank, annexed Golan Heights, blockaded Gaza Strip and Jordan — the neighboring Arab country that signed a peace treaty with Israel in 1994.

Israel has occupied the West Bank since the Six-Day War of 1967, when it also seized east Jerusalem, the Gaza Strip and the Golan Heights.

Smotrich’s comments came as Israeli and Palestinian representatives met in the Red Sea resort of Sharm El Shiekh along with Egyptian, Jordanian and US officials for “extensive discussions on ways to de-escalate tensions between the Palestinians and Israelis”, according to a joint statement.

The Jordanian foreign ministry on Monday condemned the minister’s remarks, calling them “extremist racism” and Smotrich himself an “extremist”.

It warned in a statement that his “use of a map… that encompasses the border of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan” may be in violation of the 1994 peace accord.

Hamas, Gaza’s Islamist rulers, said the comments revealed the “racist and fascist policies” of Israel, and urged the international community to take a “firm stance”.

Asked about what Smotrich had said, Danny Danon, a lawmaker from Netanyahu’s Likud party and former Israeli ambassador to the UN, told AFP: “Lawmakers have the right to say whatever they want.”

Smotrich had called in early March for the Palestinian town of Huwara to be “wiped out” after two Israelis were shot dead there by an alleged Hamas militant.

After the shooting, hundreds of rampaging Israeli settlers torched Palestinian homes and cars in the West Bank town, and a Palestinian man was killed in the nearby village of Zaatara.

Speaking last month, the United Nations’ Middle East envoy Tor Wennesland called for the “cycle of violence” in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to be “stopped immediately”.

Violence has intensified in the West Bank in recent months, coinciding with Netanyahu’s return to office.

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