US condemns Ben-Gvir’s ‘inflammatory’ claim on Palestinian freedom of movement

MEE Staff

Middle East Eye  /  August 25, 2023

State Department notably names the Israeli far right minister in its statement.

The United States State Department has condemned remarks made by Israel‘s far-right national security minister, Itamar Ben-Gvir, in which he asserted that some of his rights are more important than those of Palestinians.

In a statement made to online news website The Times of Israel, a spokesperson for the State Department called out Ben-Gvir by name.

“[The US] strongly condemn[s] Minister Ben-Gvir’s inflammatory comments on the freedom of movement of Palestinian residents of the West Bank,” the spokesperson said.

On Wednesday, Ben-Gvir said during a Channel 12 interview that his right to safe travel was “more important” than those of Palestinians, and that more needed to be done to ensure the security of Jewish settlers. 

“My right, and my wife’s and my children’s right to get around on the roads in Judea and Samaria, is more important than the right to movement for Arabs,” said Ben-Gvir, using Jewish nationalist terms for areas of the occupied West Bank.

“That’s the reality. That’s the truth. My right to life comes before their right to movement.”

While the US State Department has criticized Ben-Gvir’s actions and policies in the past, this seems to be the first time it has opted to name the Israeli politician directly.

The State Department went on to condemn “all racist rhetoric” but refrained from calling Ben-Gvir racist. 

“Such messages are particularly damaging when amplified by those in leadership positions and are incongruent with advancing respect for human rights for all,” the statement added.

Ben-Gvir went on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, to lash out at critics he accused of spreading “fake news”, asserting that his comments were taken out of context.

“I said yesterday on a TV broadcast that the right of Jews to live and not be murdered in terror attacks prevails over the right of Arabs in Judea and Samaria [the West Bank] to travel on the roads without security restrictions,” said Ben-Gvir. 

“But the Israeli radical Left selectively cut a section out of my statement, purposefully misquoted even that, and removed the context in order to slander me as if I had made a racist declaration that Jews deserve more civil rights than Arabs.”

History of racism 

Ben-Gvir is a settler in the occupied West Bank settlement of Kiryat Arba, near the Palestinian city of Hebron.

He has a long track record of expressing racist, anti-Palestinian views. 

He was educated in Rabbi Meir Kahane’s Kach party, with its official platform advocating the nullification of Israeli citizenship for the state’s Palestinian citizens.

After Kach – the only Jewish political entity in Israel ever defined as a terrorist organization – was outlawed, Ben-Gvir continued his violent activism against Palestinians and was charged eight times for it, including for incitement to racism and support for a terrorist organization.

For many years, he had a portrait hung up in his home of Baruch Goldstein, the settler from Kiryat Arba who in 1994 murdered 29 Muslim worshippers in Hebron’s Ibrahimi Mosque.