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Singling out Smotrich and Ben-Gvir adds to Israel’s impunity

January 6, 2024 at 1:19 pm

Bezalel Smotrich (C), Israeli far-right lawmaker and leader of the Religious Zionist Party [Social media]

Earlier this week, the US State Department released a statement rejecting the forced transfer and resettlement of Palestinians from Gaza, attributing the rhetoric from the Israeli side to Israeli Ministers Bezalel Smotrich and Itamar Ben-Gvir. “We have been told repeatedly and consistently by the Government of Israel, including by the Prime Minister, that such statements do not reflect the policy of the Israeli government,” US State Department’s Spokesperson Matthew Miller declared.

Maybe the US State Department is unaware of the reports that explicitly name Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as making the suggestion during a closed-door meeting for Likud MKs. Or that the former Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations Danny Danon called forced transfer and the international community’s possible complicit participation “a moral imperative”. Going further back, the leaked document by Israel’s Ministry of Intelligence also lists the forced transfer of Palestinians as the preferable option for Israel.

If Israel does not go ahead with the plan, it only means that the international community is not willing to go so far as visibly aiding Israel’s colonisation after public opinion has shifted so much towards Palestine, and rightfully so. Before 7 October, the Nakba could only be imagined or read about in terms of statistics on ethnic cleansing and its related destruction. Zionism has now illustrated to the world what genocide looks like, and governments are paying slight heed, if only to prevent themselves from getting further embroiled in the repercussions of Israel’s fabricated security narrative.

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To make the forced displacement of Palestinians sound like it was just the concoction of Smotrich and Ben-Gvir lends additional impunity to Israel. Israel was built upon the ethnic cleansing and forced transfer of the Palestinian people. Conceptualising the forced transfer of Gaza’s Palestinian population is a continuation of the Nakba, not an innovative idea conjured up by two far-right-wing politicians. The Times of Israel is perpetuating the narrative of forced transfer being the idea of just two politicians, both of them in the public eye for their ongoing incitement. But the Israeli settler-colonial state is an incitement in itself.

Meanwhile, in a brief interlude, an unnamed Israeli official spoke of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) for its delivery of humanitarian aid as doing its work “for the first time in its history”. There is no forgetting, however, that Israel wants to destroy UNRWA and, during the Donald Trump administration, embarked upon doing so, emboldened by the so-called “deal of the century” and the US-Israeli insistence to alter the definition of who can be classified as a Palestinian refugee.

The bottom line here, however, is that Israel’s expectation that the international community clears up the mess after its atrocities knows no limit. Had Israel not bombed Gaza and rendered 85 per cent of the population forcibly displaced, the current humanitarian catastrophe could have been avoided. As things stand, and with Gaza almost completely destroyed, Israel and the international community can maintain the humanitarian paradigm for Palestinians because basic needs will always be perceived as more important than a political process where Palestinians are concerned. Colonisation required complicity, and there is no proposal Israeli officials come up with that can be separated from the narrative of Israel’s settler-colonial existence.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.