Mondoweiss / March 2, 2023
Activist groups call on U.S. to deny entry to Israel’s finance minister after fascistic comments re Palestinian town. He is due to address Israel Bonds conference in mid-March.
Bezalel Smotrich, Israel’s far-right finance minister and leader of the Religious Zionism party, is scheduled to visit the United States this month to address an Israel Bonds organization.
Smotrich made headlines earlier this week when he condoned recent settler attacks in Huwwara and called for the area to be destroyed. “I think the village of Huwara needs to be erased,” Smotrich told a reporter at the Israeli business magazine The Marker. “I think the State of Israel needs to do this, and not – God forbid – private citizens.”
Smotrich’s comments have been criticized by human rights organizations, U.S-based Jewish groups, and the Biden administration. “I want to be very clear about this,” said State Department spokesman Ned Price this week. “These comments were irresponsible. They were repugnant. They were disgusting. And just as we condemn Palestinian incitement to violence, we condemn these provocative remarks that also amounts to incitement to violence.”
“We call on Prime Minister Netanyahu and other senior Israeli officials to publicly and clearly reject and disavow these comments, we condemn, as we have consistently terrorism and extremism, and all of its forms and we continue to urge that there’ll be equal measures of accountability for extremist actions, regardless of the background of the perpetrators, or the victims,” he added.
Smotrich is scheduled to address a meeting in Washington, D.C., of the Development Corporation for Israel-State of Israel Bonds, which is taking place between March 12-14 and closed off from the press. The group sells Israeli government bonds to investors abroad. The CEO of Israel Bonds is Dani Naveh, a former Likud Party minister and Benjamin Netanyahu’s first cabinet secretary.
The Adalah Justice Project has launched a campaign calling on the U.S. government to revoke Smotrich’s visa. “Smotrich is clearly inciting atrocities against the Palestinian people, and he should not be allowed to come to the U.S. to raise funds to support his racist ideology,” reads its petition. “It is fully within the power of the State Department to revoke Smotrich’s visa immediately and deny him entry.
These sentiments were echoed in a statement from Jewish Voice for Peace Action Political Director Beth Miller. “It is time for the Biden administration to end its hollow words of concern and condemnation and to start taking action. Bezalel Smotrich, an Israeli government official with sweeping power over the occupied West Bank, is publicly and unabashedly inciting genocide and supporting settler pogroms, said Miller. “If Biden fails to take action at this moment, the U.S. will be fully complicit in the violence that comes next.”
Michael Arria is the U.S. correspondent for Mondoweiss