The erasure of Palestinians is becoming part of Israel mainstream discourse

Ramona Wadi

Middle East Monitor  /  March 21, 2023

Israeli Finance Minister, Bezalel Smotrich, did not take long to issue another treacherous statement after explicitly calling for the Palestinian village of Huwara to be wiped out. During a private memorial service in Paris, Smotrich stated that Palestinians are an invention. The Palestinians, according to Smotrich, invented “a fictitious people in the Land of Israel and claim fictitious rights in the Land of Israel just to fight the Zionist movement.” To purportedly back up his claim, Smotrich described his statement as “the biblical truth”, even though Zionism emerged in the late 19th century as a European settler-colonial political ideology.

“The State of Israel is a miracle; Israel’s economy is a miracle. Contrary to the lies of the leaders of the [BDS] campaign that are spreading against us in the world, we are spreading good to all the residents of the country, Jews and non-Jews,” Smotrich continued. What good would Huwara’s erasure have done to the ‘non-Jewish” population, Smotrich does not define. Neither does Smotrich refer to the billions that the US pledged to Israel annually, which fuels its military-industrial complex and, as a result, Israel’s economy. There are no miracles, only allegiances and trade deals.

Since the international community prioritized the Zionist narrative to recognize Israel, Smotrich’s rhetoric will not fuel anything other than a diplomatic disagreement. However, Smotrich is overtly signaling to the international community what to expect from the current Israeli government. With annexation back on the agenda, Israeli law makers have the backing of a process that was suspended, as well as the earlier tacit silence in 1948. For international leaders to speak out now against Palestinian ethnic cleansing would undo much of the diplomacy upon which the two-state compromise hinges.

The 1948 Nakba, during which approximately 750,000 Palestinians were displaced from their homes, and 530 villages destroyed, constituted an ethnic cleansing of the indigenous Palestinian population which was known to the Zionist movement and to the paramilitaries who were later incorporated into the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF).

In 1969, Israel’s then Prime Minister Golda Meir contributed to the erasure of Palestinians when she denied their existence. “When was there an independent Palestinian people with a Palestinian state? … It was not as though there was a Palestinian people in Palestine considering itself as a Palestinian people and we came and threw them out and took their country away from them. They did not exist.”

Needless to say, Smotrich’s comments drew much criticism globally, although none of the political actors will call out the Israeli government for making the erasure of Palestinians a mainstream narrative. The EU’s Foreign Policy Chief, Josep Borrell, for example, merely churned out adjectives such as dangerous, unacceptable and irresponsible, while asking what the reaction would have been if a Palestinian leader declared that the Israeli state does not exist.

There is no equivalence, really. Palestinians cannot deny the existence of Israel’s settler-colonial enterprise on their land, as it would not only further erase their history but also delegitimize their anti-colonial resistance. But none of this matters for Borrell, because Palestinians are just a pawn in the two-state diplomacy for the EU. Meanwhile, with no recognition of Palestinians’ collective memory, the EU, along with the international community, is strengthening the Israeli government’s efforts to erase Palestinians.

Ramona Wadi is an independent researcher, freelance journalist, book reviewer and blogger; her writing covers a range of themes in relation to Palestine, Chile and Latin America