Israeli National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir has sparked a wave of criticism and condemnation for making racist remarks against Palestinians in a televised interview. Ben Gvir, who is a member of the far-right Jewish Power party and a settler in the occupied West Bank, said that his right to life was more important than the Palestinians’ right to freedom of movement.
“Sorry, Muhammad, but this is the reality. This is the truth. My right to life outweighs your right to move on the streets,” he said, addressing a Palestinian-Israeli journalist who was sitting across from him on Israel’s Channel 12.
Ben Gvir’s comments came amid a surge of violence in the West Bank, where Israeli forces have killed at least 12 Palestinians and injured hundreds more in clashes and raids since the beginning of August. The Israeli army has also imposed severe restrictions on the movement of Palestinians, setting up checkpoints and roadblocks and closing off entire areas.
Ben Gvir’s remarks were met with outrage and disgust by many Palestinians, Israelis, and international actors, who denounced them as racist, inflammatory, and destructive. The US State Department said it strongly condemned Ben Gvir’s comments and warned that such messages were particularly damaging when amplified by those in leadership positions.
The European Union also slammed Ben Gvir’s statement, saying that all human beings were equal and should be treated the same way. The EU reiterated that the Israeli settlements in the West Bank were illegal under international law and an obstacle to peace.
Wave of Condemnations
The Palestinian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said it condemned Ben Gvir’s comments in the strongest terms and called for sanctions on him and other Israeli officials for inciting violence and persecution against the Palestinian people. The ministry also accused Israel of systematically violating human rights and international norms in the occupied territories.
Several Israeli groups and individuals also expressed their dismay and opposition to Ben Gvir’s comments, saying that they harmed Israel’s image and values. The Democratic Majority for Israel, a pro-Israel lobby group in the US, said that Ben Gvir’s comments were hateful and unacceptable. The Israel Policy Forum, another pro-Israel advocacy organization, said that Ben Gvir‘s comments were harmful to Israel’s security and democracy.
Some anti-occupation groups in Israel also organized protests against Ben Gvir’s comments and policies. On Saturday, hundreds of Israelis gathered outside Ben Gvir’s home in Hebron, one of the most tense and disputed areas in the West Bank, where he lives among a small enclave of Jewish settlers surrounded by tens of thousands of Palestinians. The protesters chanted slogans such as “Ben Gvir is a racist” and “End the occupation”.
Ben Gvir has not apologized or retracted his comments, but rather defended them as reflecting his ideology and beliefs. He said that he was proud to be a settler and a nationalist, and that he would not compromise on his right to live anywhere in the land of Israel. He also accused his critics of being hypocrites and traitors who supported terrorism.
Ben Gvir is known for his extremist views and actions. He is a follower of Rabbi Meir Kahane, who advocated for the expulsion of Arabs from Israel and was banned from politics for his racist views. Ben Gvir has also been involved in several violent incidents against Palestinians and left-wing activists. He once boasted that he had stolen a sign from then-Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin’s car that read “Peace is made with enemies”. Rabin was later assassinated by a Jewish extremist opposed to his peace efforts with the Palestinians.