Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich dismissed the existence of a Palestinian people in a speech he delivered in Paris on Sunday.
“There is no such thing as Palestinians because there is no such thing as a Palestinian people,” said Smotrich who heads the Religious Zionist Party.
“Who are the [real] Palestinians? I am Palestinian,” he said.
He recalled his family’s 13 generations in the Land of Israel, mentioning his grandmother who had been born in the northern border town of Metula over a hundred years ago before the creation of the state.
His ancestors and his grandmother were “Palestinians,” he said
Before 1948, the territory that now encompasses the modern state of Israel had been called Palestine. The Romans used that term to refer to that territory after they conquered the ancient state of Israel.
“This truth needs to be heard by the Arabs in Israel. This truth needs to be heard by the Jewish people in Israel who have gotten confused. This truth needs to be heard in the Elysee and in the White House. This truth must be heard by the whole world because this is the truth.”Bezalel Smotrich
When modern Zionists at the end of the 19th century spoke of a return to their land, they spoke of going to Palestine a name that appeared on all documents and currency relating to pre-state Israel.
Smotrich is among a number of far-right politicians who do not accept the adoption by regional Arabs of the term Palestinian to describe their ethnicity and national movement as well as their aspirations for self-determination in a state which will be called Palestine.
He outlined this philosophy in his Hebrew language speech in Paris, which was translated into English.
Smotrich compared Jewish history in the region which dates back thousands of years with that of the modern-day Palestinians, whose history, he said was absent.
'A fictional nation,' Smotrich charges
“The Palestinian nation has existed for less than one hundred years,” he nothing that they do not meet the international standards for nationhood since they are lacking a unique history, culture, language and currency.
“I ask you who was the first Palestinian King, what [unique] language do they have, was there ever a Palestinian coin. Is there a Palestinian history or culture? There isn’t. There is no such thing as a Palestinian nation.
The Palestinians, he said, are regional Arabs who arrived in the Land of Israel at the same of the first major waves of immigration at the end of the 19th century.
When the biblical prophecies were brought to fruition with the return of the Jews to their land, there were Arabs that did not like this, Smotrich said.
“What happened? They created a fictional nation and then worked for their fictitious rights to the Land of Israel just to battle against the Zionist movement. That is the historical truth and the biblical truth. That is the truth and there is no alternative,” Smotrich said.
“This truth needs to be heard by the Arabs in Israel. This truth needs to be heard by the Jewish people in Israel who have gotten confused. This truth needs to be heard in the Elysee and in the White House. This truth must be heard by the whole world because this is the truth,” Smotrich stated.
United States National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told Channel 12 that such remarks were "unhelpful."
The European Union said it “firmly deplores yet another unacceptable comment by Minister Smotrich ”which should not be “tolerated.”
Such remarks are “wrong, disrespectful, dangerous and counterproductive in a situation which is already very tense,” the EU said.
“We call on the Israeli government to disavow those comments and to work together with all the parties involved to defuse tensions,” the EU said.
“We call on the Israeli government to disavow those comments and to work together with all the parties involved to defuse tensions.”European Union
The Egyptian Foreign Ministry spokesperson said that Smotrich’s words were racist a-historical and fueled anger among the Palestinians and ran counter to efforts by its government to halt a violent outbreak during the month of Ramadan which begins on March 22 and which will overlap with the Passover and Easter.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s office and Prime Minister Mohammed Shytayyeh denounced Smotrich’s remarks as well as the graphic at the podium from which he spoke.
According to the Palestinian news agency WAFA, Abbas’ office said Smotrich’s words were an example of the way that Israeli puts forth a false narrative that continually denies the existence of the Palestinian people who lived on their land “since time immemorial.”
Shtayyeh said that Smtorich was repeating the myth that Palestine is “a land without people and a people without land” in contrast to “historical and archeological evidence” proving ancient Palestinian roots in their land.
Smotrich has already made diplomatic waves by calling for the IDF to wipe out the town of Huwara after a Hamas gunman fatally shot two Israeli brothers in broad daylight as they drove through Huwara on February 26th.
He later walked back his comments, explaining that he had referred only to terrorists and had not meant to insinuate that any innocent people Jews or Arabs would be killed.