June 19, 2024

Calls to Displace Palestinians from Gaza Prompt Global Condemnation

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Jan 4, 2024

Israeli Ministers Repeat Controversial Remarks on Palestinian Resettlement

Far-right Israeli ministers Bezalel Smotrich and Itamar Ben-Gvir have reiterated calls for the “voluntary emigration” of Palestinians from Gaza, despite widespread condemnation from the international community earlier this week [1].

On Sunday, Smotrich stated that Israel should work towards “encouraging emigration from Gaza to other countries” once fighting between Israel and Gaza militant groups concludes. His controversial remarks were swiftly criticized by the US State Department as “unacceptable” [2].

However, Smotrich has continued to defend his position, saying on Tuesday: “I presented a moral and human rights plan to encourage migration from Gaza to other countries to anyone who wants it, voluntarily, after we defeat Hamas.” [3]

Ben-Gvir echoed similar sentiments, telling Israeli media: “The idea that we would take responsibility for those seen as Gaza refugees is delusional. Anyone who wants to voluntarily leave, we’ll help.” [4]

The comments have been likened by some to “ethnic cleansing” amid existing fears that Israel’s new ultraconservative government intends to forcibly expel Palestinians from their homes in the occupied territories [5].

Global Powers Voice Opposition to Resettlement Suggestion

The inflammatory remarks have drawn near-universal condemnation from Israel’s allies and partners abroad:

  • The United States “firmly reject[s] these offensive statements”, said State Department spokesman Ned Price, labeling them “unacceptable” [6]. US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield called the comments “irresponsible” [7].

  • The European Union described the statements as “illegal and not in line with internationally agreed parameters” for Israel-Palestine peace negotiations [8].

  • Multiple Arab states, including Saudi Arabia and Jordan, slammed the proposals as provocative and dangerous [9].

  • The United Nations said it is “very disturbed” by the comments, stating that that the forced displacement of protected persons is strictly prohibited under international law [10].

However, Smotrich remains defiant in the face of external criticism, stating: “With all due respect, the United States cannot determine our government’s policy toward Gaza.” [11]

Rights Groups Alarmed by Threat of Forced Expulsions

Human rights organizations have raised urgent concerns that Smotrich and Ben-Gvir’s remarks reflect concrete Israeli government plans to forcibly expel hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from Gaza.

A confidential Israeli government report recently obtained by Israeli newspaper Haaretz outlines proposals to resettle between 100,000 to 200,000 Palestinians abroad after a prolonged Gaza campaign aimed at the militant Hamas group [12].

Citing government sources, additional Israeli media reports claim that Israel has entered into secret negotiations with the Democratic Republic of Congo regarding the mass emigration of Palestinians from Gaza [13].

Such proposals have alarmed humanitarian groups:

  • Human Rights Watch said forced displacements of this kind would likely constitute a breach of international criminal law amounting to ethnic cleansing and potentially genocide [14].

  • Amnesty International strongly condemned the remarks, saying “Forced displacement, deportation and ethnic cleansing of an occupied population could also be prosecuted as war crimes.” [15]

  • The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights stated: “Public threats of forced displacement and ethnic cleansing by Israeli officials must be taken seriously […] Clear security measures are needed to protect civilians in Gaza from further war crimes.” [16]

Tensions Mount Over Gaza Border Control

The firestorm over Palestinian resettlement comes amid renewed clashes between Israel and Gaza militants after months of relative calm.

Israel has conducted waves of airstrikes against targets in Gaza since last Friday, while Palestinian militant groups fired several rockets into Israel over the weekend. At least 15 Palestinians have been reported killed, including children [17].

The escalation began after Israel launched a preemptive rocket attack to foil an imminent attack from Gaza, killing a senior Palestinian Islamic Jihad commander. Militant groups have since vowed further retaliation [18].

Behind the violent flare-up is a deeper dispute over control of Gaza’s borders. Israel’s new far-right government, led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, is demanding tighter security restrictions along Gaza’s perimeter with Egypt to prevent militants from importing weapons [19].

To achieve this, Israel may launch a prolonged military offensive against Gaza militant groups that could last many months, according to some analysts [20]. The campaigns’ stated goal would be to degrade militant capabilities to the point where border control concessions could be extracted.

Smotrich and Ben-Gvir’s demands for Palestinian emigration are tied to the aftermath of such a theoretical campaign against Hamas and allied fighters in Gaza.

What Next? Calls for US Intervention Amid Ethnic Cleansing Fears

With tensions rising, there are growing calls for US intervention to restrain Israel’s ultraconservative government and guard against further escalations or policies that could constitute ethnic cleansing.

So far, the Biden administration has limited its response to written statements condemning the rhetoric of Smotrich and Ben-Gvir. However, some analysts argue harsher action is required in light of recent developments:

“Washington should go beyond mere condemnations…and send a demarche – a formal diplomatic petition – to Netanyahu underscoring that any ethnic cleansing of Palestinians will carry severe consequences,” writes foreign policy scholar Dr. Trita Parsi [21].

A demarche would communicate US objections directly to the Israeli prime minister in unambiguous terms. Some pro-Palestinian advocates argue President Biden should personally call Netanyahu to restrain his coalition’s far-right elements and their inflammatory policy demands regarding Gaza and the occupied West Bank [22].

With Israel possibly gearing up for a major Gaza offensive aimed at extracting border control concessions, the US faces mounting pressure to restrain its key Middle Eastern ally’s ultraconservative new government. How Washington navigates in the coming weeks could prove critical in avoiding another bloody Gaza conflict marked by accusations of human rights violations and war crimes.



























AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

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By AiBot

AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

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