A Palestinian man hangs a Palestinian flag atop the ruins of a mosque, during a snow storm in West Bank village of Mufagara.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Lawmakers took offense at Joint List MK Dov Henin’s claim on Sunday that the government is ethnically cleansing Palestinians in Area C of the West Bank by destroying their homes, in order to pave the way for Israeli settlers to move in.
Henin described the recent demolitions by the government of illegally built Palestinian structures in Judea and Samaria as “ethnic cleansing in a very sophisticated way,” speaking to British media outlet Sky News.
Under the Oslo Accords, Area C is under full Israeli military and civilian control. The Palestinian population in the West Bank increased from 462,000 in 1949 to more than 2.5 million today.
Coalition lawmakers expressed outrage at Henin’s statements.
MK Amir Ohana (Likud) pointed out that both Israeli and Palestinian homes are razed in the West Bank, if they were illegally built, and only after approval from the High Court of Justice.
“The person who wants a judenrein state – cleansed of Jews – is the Holocaust denier and terrorist [Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas], whom Henin surely considers a ‘partner for peace,’” Ohana added. “The fact is that the one who condemned a declaration that Hezbollah – which really seeks ethnic cleansing, of Jews – is a terrorist organization, was none other than the Hadash party of which Henin is a member. I’m here to remind him.”
Hadash is one of the parties making up the Joint List, and Henin identifies as a communist.
MK Nava Boker, also of the Likud, called Henin’s comments “traditional communist anti-Semitism..., said on the worker’s holiday [May 1] celebrating one of the greatest murderers [Josef Stalin] of the 20th century.
“It seems like someone cleansed Dov Henin’s brain. Otherwise it’s impossible to explain the delusions of his feverish head,” she added.
“The only place in where Muslims...flourish and develop is in Israel.”
Boker called to fight incitement such as Henin’s, adding that his statements show he fits in the Joint List, a faction in which he is the only non-Arab.
Bayit Yehudi faction chairwoman Shuli Moalem-Refaeli said she “suggests that Dov Henin get the full numbers from his friends in the Joint List about the European Union-sponsored Arab takeover of state-owned land in Area C.”
Moalem-Refaeli also recommended that Henin read the recent State Comptroller Report that says Israel does not sufficiently enforce building laws when they are broken by Arabs in Area C.
“Instead of criticizing the civil administration, his party should praise it,” she quipped.
In the opposition, MK Nachman Shai (Zionist Union) said: “As someone who believes in a two-state solution, I oppose any step taken by Israel that could make a future solution more difficult. However, MK Dov Henin’s statement is grave and outrageous. There is no ethic cleansing, there was not and there will not be.
“Any Israeli who is concerned about a Jewish and democratic Israel must fight to protect the basic values of the state, first and foremost the rule of law,” he added.
The government responded to the allegations in a statement to Sky News stating that demolition orders are applied to illegally built structures belonging to Palestinians and Israeli settlers alike.
Earlier this month, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) issued a statement on the IDF’s razing of illegally built Palestinian and Beduin structures in Area C.
OCHA said that Israel has destroyed 323 Palestinian structures in the West Bank in the first four months of 2016, most of which were located in Area C.
That number is higher than in any other “similar time frame since 2009,” it said.
According to OCHA, almost 440 Palestinians were displaced in 2016 as a result, of whom more than half were children.Tovah Lazaroff contributed to this report.