“They’re saying it out loud”: Israeli minister backs mass eviction of Gazans

Israeli National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir on Monday said the Netanyahu government should “encourage the migration” of Gazans out of the besieged Palestinian enclave, which has been devastated by a three-month bombing campaign that has internally displaced around 90% of the territory’s population.

“This is a correct, just, moral, and humane solution,” Ben-Gvir said during a meeting of his Jewish Power party in Jerusalem.

Ben-Gvir, who has previously been convicted of supporting terrorism and inciting racism, called Israel’s current war on Gaza an “opportunity” to remove Palestinians from Gaza and secure the return of settlers who were withdrawn from the strip in 2005.

“Encouraging the migration of the residents of Gaza will allow us to bring home the residents of the Outaf and the residents of Gush Katif,” said the far-right minister.

Ben-Gvir’s remarks followed similar comments by far-right Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, who said during a radio appearance on Sunday that “what needs to be done in the Gaza Strip is to encourage emigration.”

“If there are 100,000 or 200,000 Arabs in Gaza and not 2 million Arabs, the entire discussion on the day after will be totally different,” said Smotrich.

Both Smotrich and Ben-Gvir live in illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank, AFP noted.

“This government must be stopped now, their aim is simple: to wipe out the Gazan population.”

The comments by high-ranking Israeli officials came after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly said in private that he wants the “voluntary migration” of Palestinians from the Gaza Strip but is having trouble finding “countries that are willing to absorb” the people displaced by Israel’s assault.

document from the Israeli Intelligence Ministry that leaked during the early stages of Israel’s latest attack on Gaza proposes the forcible and permanent transfer of all of Gaza’s 2.2 million Palestinian residents to Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula. The Egyptian government has publicly opposed the forced transfer of Palestinians, which would be a war crime.

In recent days, United Nations officials and humanitarian groups have been increasingly vocal in warning about the Israeli government’s apparent desire to force Palestinians out of Gaza, where around 70% of housing units have been damaged or destroyed by Israeli bombing since October 7.

Late last month, the U.N.’s special rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons said that “as evacuation orders and military operations continue to expand and civilians are subjected to relentless attacks on a daily basis, the only logical conclusion is that Israel’s military operation in Gaza aims to deport the majority of the civilian population en masse.”

Smotrich and Ben-Gvir’s remarks intensified such warnings. 

“Anyone defending or denying the clear motivations of Israel’s political leaders is actively enabling the ethnic cleansing and mass murder of Palestinians in Gaza,” Em Hilton, a Jewish anti-occupation activist, wrote on social media. “We have a duty to do everything we can to stop this horror and ensure that [the international] community holds Israel to account.”

Ariel Bernstein, a researcher for the Israeli group Breaking the Silence, echoed that message, writing, “This government must be stopped now, their aim is simple: to wipe out the Gazan population.”

Journalist Mehdi Hasan, whose MSNBC show was recently canceled, asked whether U.S. officials have “any comment” on the Israeli ministers’ statements suggesting ethnic cleansing of the Gaza Strip.

“They’re saying it out loud!” Hasan wrote.

U.S. President Joe Biden has expressed opposition to any “forced relocation” of Palestinians from Gaza but has continued to arm the Israeli army, bypassing Congress to transfer weaponry to the nation’s military as it commits mass atrocities across the strip.

Retired Israeli Major General Yitzhak Brick told Jewish News Syndicate in late November that “all of our missiles, the ammunition, the precision-guided bombs, all the airplanes and bombs, it’s all from the U.S.”

“The minute they turn off the tap, you can’t keep fighting. You have no capability,” Brick said. “Everyone understands that we can’t fight this war without the United States. Period.”

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