By: Zanvy Lesnoy  | 

Unpack With YUPAC: Smotrich’s Controversial Remarks

Israel's far-right Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich has stirred controversy once again by denying the existence of a Palestinian people or nationhood. “Who was the first Palestinian king? What language do the Palestinians have? Was there ever a Palestinian currency? Is there a Palestinian history or culture? Nothing. There is no such thing as a Palestinian people,” said Smotrich.

This statement follows his recent call for a Palestinian town to be "erased." Smotrich, a Jewish nationalist, claimed that the notion of Palestinian nationhood was a recent invention in response to the Zionist movement. He questioned the existence of a Palestinian king, language, currency, history, or culture, stating that "there is no such thing as a Palestinian people." The United States has rebuked his comments, which were made during a speech in Paris.

The US National Security Council Spokesman, John Kirby, expressed his disapproval of the comments made by Israeli politician Bezalel Smotrich on Monday. Kirby stated that such language would not aid in calming tensions in the region and would hinder efforts toward finding a viable two-state solution. He emphasized that any rhetoric or action that could impede progress toward this solution would not be tolerated. The Palestinian Authority presidency also condemned Smotrich's remarks as "racist" and an attempt to falsify history. Hamas, the militant Palestinian Islamist movement, also criticized Smotrich's comments as reflecting the fascist policies of colonial settlement expansion and forced eviction of the Palestinian people.

Smotrich's presence in Paris sparked a diplomatic dispute between Israel and Jordan. The stage he stood on featured a flag resembling the Israeli flag with an enlarged map of Israel that included the occupied West Bank, Gaza, and most of Jordan. Smotrich's spokesperson claimed that the flag was "set decoration" arranged by the conference organizers and that Smotrich was only a guest. Jordan summoned the Israeli ambassador to Amman to protest Smotrich's use of the map, citing his previous calls for the erasure of a Palestinian village. Jordan's foreign ministry warned that Smotrich's actions violated the Jordanian-Israel peace treaty. Israel's foreign ministry responded that it was committed to the treaty and recognized Jordan's territorial integrity. Tzachi Hanegbi, head of Israel's National Security Council, spoke with Jordan's Foreign Minister to reaffirm Israel's commitment to the treaty. Smotrich has a history of denying the existence of a Palestinian nation and making controversial statements, including recently calling for the erasure of a Palestinian town. He later apologized for the remarks.

These comments from a government minister reflect fears that many have had that this administration, the most right-wing one in Israel’s 75 year history, might push the country in a direction that not everyone is happy with. A number of issues besides this one have already emerged, though the government appears to continue to have the support of its voters.

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Photo Caption: Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons