A recent talk in Paris by Israeli Minister of Finance Bezalel Smotrich raised eyebrows when he claimed that there are no Palestinian people. In fact, he said that he himself was a real Palestinian, which is a funny thing to say given that his surname, Smotrich, is the name of a town in Ukraine. Golda Meir, prime minister of Israel in the early 1970s, made a similar claim.
It was reported in The Times of Israel that Smotrich stood behind a map of Greater Israel that includes modern-day Jordan. "At a memorial event for a Zionist activist, Smotrich said that the Palestinian people were 'an invention' from the last century and that there was 'no such thing as Palestinians because there's no such thing as the Palestinian people,'" wrote The Times.
Also, according to this report, the French government called his statement "infuriating and irresponsible." In response to a question, French foreign ministry spokeswoman Anne-Claire Legendre said, "We call on those who were called to senior positions in the Israeli government to show the appropriate respect, to treat others with respect, and to avoid any action or statement that contributes to an escalation in tensions."
One has to wonder if the French government would give such a lukewarm response had someone said that there was no such thing as Jewish people, particularly if the same person had also called for wiping out an entire Jewish town. A person such as that would likely not be permitted to enter France.
The symbol printed on the colors of the Israeli flag and hanging from the lectern was that of what is known as "The Greater Israel," or Israel on both banks of the River Jordan. This was the flag of the fascist elements within the early Zionist movement, the predecessor to Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud Party. Later on, it was used by various right-wing Israeli groups to demonstrate that the fight for both banks of the river had not ended.
The part of the symbol which represents the eastern bank of the River Jordan is today, in fact, an independent state; it is the Kingdom of Jordan. There is no record of any official Israeli government member ever displaying this symbol, and particularly since Israel has diplomatic ties with the Kingdom of Jordan, displaying this when an Israeli state official is speaking is a direct threat to the existence of the Jordanian state.
The real issue
While the statements by Smotrich and the symbol should be viewed as not only alarming but as a direct threat to Palestine and Jordan, the bigger issue is the event itself. This was a memorial to the recently deceased French Zionist leader Jacques Kupfer. Kupfer called for the annexation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip and often referred to the former U.S. president as "Hussein" Obama. Already the World Likud movement co-chairman, in 2020, he also became head of the Department for Diaspora Affairs at the World Zionist Organization.
A 2020 article in Haaretz lays out many of Kupfer's most objectionable positions:
He's denounced Arab members of the Knesset as 'terrorists' and 'enemies of the state.' He denies the existence of a Palestinian people and has warned that 'Palestinianism' - that is, support for Palestinian rights - is a virus more dangerous than COVID-19. Addressing a demonstration this summer in support of Israeli annexation of the West Bank, he said he was 'not sure we need so many Arabs in the Land of Israel.'"
It was perfectly appropriate for a racist thug like Smotrich, albeit now a senior member of the government of Israel, to speak at a memorial for Kupfer, who called to extend Israeli sovereignty in the West Bank and supported the racist, violent Jewish settler community in Hebron.
The Haaretz piece also mentions that "Kupfer was the founder and director of a far-right organization called "Israel is Forever," a group that targets the French-speaking Jewish community. Among the organization's key objectives is to, "assert our inalienable rights throughout the Land of Israel and campaign against any further partition plans for the benefit of a nonexistent people and a future terrorist state."
In the context of the event and the man who was being commemorated, the presence of Smotrich, the Arab-hating thug, was perfectly appropriate. His comments, too, were appropriate, considering he was commemorating another racist.
Allowing Smotrich to enter France and then to express shock as what he says is typical Western hypocrisy. Smotrich never hid or disguised his opinions or his violent tendencies, and neither his hate-filled opinions nor his violent past has stood in the way of his meteoric rise in Israeli politics. They did not stop the Israeli Bonds from allowing him to speak at their event in Washington, D.C., earlier this month, and they did not prevent the French government from allowing him to enter France.
The same goes for Kupfer. He never hid his racism or his violent rhetoric, and in his case, too, this did not hinder his rise within the World Zionist Organization. There was no way that the comments expressed in this event were going to be anything but the vilest, racist and hate-filled imaginable.
How far and how long?
The questions to be asked in regard to the latest Smotrich spewing of racist, hate-filled lies are "how long will he be permitted to continue before someone steps in to stop him?" and "will the international community step in once his hate-filled anti-Arab speech is transformed to policies?" Smotrich, like all racist zealots, means what he says and intends to do precisely what he says. When Benjamin Netanyahu gave Smotrich the high-level, sensitive portfolios of finance and special minister in the Ministry of Defense, he knew exactly who he was dealing with. There could be no mistake made as to what Smotrich and the other thugs who now hold high positions in the Israeli government intend to do.
The other question that begs an answer is how will this affect the relationship between Israel and the Kingdom of Jordan. An official of the Israeli government has now made a clear threat to the very existence of a sovereign state with which it shares a border. Silence will only encourage Israel to do more than make statements.
Feature photo | Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich hold a news conference at the Prime Minister's office in Jerusalem Jan. 25, 2023. Ronen Zvulun | Pool via AP
Miko Peled is MintPress News contributing writer, published author and human rights activist born in Jerusalem. His latest books are" The General's Son. Journey of an Israeli in Palestine," and " Injustice, the Story of the Holy Land Foundation Five."