In Paris, Israel’s Smotrich says Palestinian people don’t exist, calls them ‘fictitious’


PARIS – Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich made more aggressive comments, denying on Sunday the existence of the Palestinian people, while speaking to a group of French Jews at a private memorial service in Paris.

“There is no such thing as the Palestinians because there is no such thing as the Palestinian people,” he said. A video of the speech posted online shows the audience applauding Smotrich after the speech.

“Do you know who the Palestinians are? I am Palestinian,” said Smotrich. The leader of the ultranationalist party Religious Zionism insisted that his grandmother, who was born in the northern Israel town of Metula 100 years ago, and his grandfather, a Jerusalemite of the 13th generation, were the “true Palestinians”.

He continued to terrorize even the existence of Palestinian culture. “Is there a Palestinian history or culture? Was not. There were Arabs in the Middle East who came to the land of Israel at the same time as the immigration of the Jews and the beginning of Zionism. After 2,000 years of exile, the people of Israel were returning home, and Arabs were around [us] they don’t like it,” he said.

“So what do they do? They appoint fake people in the land of Israel and demand fake rights in the land of Israel just to fight the Zionist movement,” Smotrich said at the event for Likud activists of the right wing

Smotrich’s story is being falsely propagated by some far-right politicians in Israel who reject the idea that Palestine exists, who advocate for Israel to keep all the territories under occupation and who are against the establishment of a Palestinian state.

“This is the historical truth. This is the biblical truth. The Arabs in the land of Israel need to hear this truth. This truth should be heard here in the Elysee Palace,” he said.

The Israeli minister traveled to the French capital especially for the event, and left immediately after. His trip to France was described as a private trip. The event was heavily fortified, and Israeli journalists who tried to cover the speech were rebuffed by local far-right Jewish activists. The spokesperson of the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs told Al-Monitor more than once that French officials will have no contact with Smotrich, basically because of his comments two weeks ago, calling for the “destruction” of the Palestinian village of Huwara on the West Bank West. Smotrich walked back his call when he visited Washington last week, but he did not express regret about the arrival of the settlers there.

Huwara has become the center of tension in the region in recent months, especially after the murder of two Israeli brothers who passed through the village February 26. Shortly after the killing, settlers stormed the village in revenge, burning down 35 houses, traumatizing residents. and destroying houses and other vehicles. On Sunday evening, Israeli-American David Stern was seriously injured while driving through Huwara. Israeli security agencies now fear that tensions will escalate there.

The Prime Minister of Palestine, Mohammad Shtayyeh, on Monday blasted what he called “inflammatory” statements made by Smotrich. Speaking at the weekly Palestinian cabinet meeting, Shtayyeh said that pf Smotrich’s remarks “are in line with the first Zionist sayings about ‘a land without a people for a landless people’,” adding that the remarks were “conclusive evidence on the extremist, racist Zionist ideology…of the current government of Israel.”

When asked about Smotrich’s comments on Monday, State Department deputy spokesman Vedant Petal said that language refers to Washington. “Of course we would be concerned with that kind of report or that kind of language being used,” said Petal.

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