Two Israeli officials have advocated for the mass displacement of Palestinians from Gaza and the declaration of war on all civilians in the besieged enclave, in two separate articles published in Israeli media outlets.
The first article, written by Agriculture Minister Avi Dichter, a member of the security cabinet, appeared in the Jerusalem Post on Saturday. In it, Dichter proposed a “Gaza Nakba” plan, referring to the Arabic term for the 1948 mass expulsion of Palestinians from their homes. He said that Israel should “help” the Palestinians in Gaza to emigrate to other countries, by offering them financial incentives and diplomatic assistance. He also said that Israel should annex the West Bank and ban Muslims from the al-Aqsa mosque complex in Jerusalem
The second article, written by Knesset member Bezalel Smotrich, the leader of the Religious Zionism party, appeared in the Israel Hayom on Sunday. In it, Smotrich argued that Israel should wage a “total war” on Gaza, and treat all its residents as “enemy combatants”. He said that Israel should not distinguish between civilians and militants, and that it should show the world that there are no innocent civilians in Gaza. He also said that Israel should destroy Gaza’s infrastructure and economy, and prevent any reconstruction aid from reaching Hamas.
Both articles have sparked outrage and condemnation from Palestinian leaders, human rights groups and some Israeli politicians, who accused them of inciting ethnic cleansing and violating international law. They also warned that such proposals could fuel more violence and hatred, and undermine the prospects of peace and coexistence.
“These are racist and fascist statements that reflect the true face of the Israeli government, which is based on settler-colonialism, apartheid and genocide,” said Nabil Abu Rudeineh, a spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. “The Palestinian people have the right to live in their homeland, and no one can deny them that right or force them to leave.”
“These are war crimes and crimes against humanity that cannot be tolerated,” said Hagai El-Ad, the executive director of B’Tselem, an Israeli human rights organization. “These are not isolated opinions, but the result of a systematic policy of dehumanization and oppression of the Palestinians by the Israeli state.”
“These are dangerous and irresponsible ideas that threaten the security and the morality of Israel,” said Merav Michaeli, the leader of the Labor party, the main opposition party in the Israeli parliament. “These are not the values of Judaism or democracy, but the values of extremism and fanaticism.”
Fanning the Flames of War
The articles come amid the ongoing war between Israel and Hamas, the Palestinian armed group that controls Gaza. The war, which began on October 7, when Hamas gunmen stormed into southern Israel and killed more than 1,400 civilians and soldiers, has claimed more than 13,000 Palestinian so far, according to health officials. The UN has said that more than half of Gaza’s population lacks access to basic services and humanitarian aid.
The international community has urged both sides to de-escalate the situation and resume negotiations for a lasting peace. However, both Israel and Hamas have rejected any calls for a ceasefire without meeting their conditions.
Israel has demanded that Hamas stop firing rockets and disarm completely. Hamas has demanded that Israel end its blockade of Gaza and its occupation of East Jerusalem.