Israeli minister Bezalel Smotrich calls for razing down Palestinian town of Huwara

A long time leader of the illegal settler movement in the occupied territories, Bezalel Smotrich is now a minister in Benjamin Netanyahu’s ultra-right government and also looks after settler affairs. His vicious statements come days after the town of Huwara was attacked by hundreds of settlers 

March 02, 2023 by Peoples Dispatch
Israeli settler violence Bezalel Smotrich
(Photo: WAFA)

Days after it came under attack from illegal Israeli settlers, the Palestinian town of Huwara, near Nablus, was targeted by the Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich on Wednesday, March 1. 

In a TV interview, Smotrich claimed that calls made by some of the extremist settlers to raze the town were just, and that instead of leaving the task to private individuals, “the state [of Israel] should be the one to do that.”

Smotrich has been a leader of the settler movement before becoming a minister in the present ultra-right government in Israel led by Benjamin Netanyahu. He also looks after settler affairs in the occupied West Bank. 

Huwara was attacked by hundreds of Israeli settlers on Sunday. At least one Palestinian was killed and close to 400 were injured. The attacking settlers torched scores of Palestinian homes and burnt their property under the full protection of Israeli security forces. 

The attacks on Huwara have not ceased since. The Israeli security forces shut down all Palestinian businesses in the town, and they remained shut even four days after the attack. A group of settlers reportedly attacked the residents of the town on Wednesday as well, when a US delegation was visiting the town. 

Ever since the attacks on Sunday, Smotrich has been making statements justifying the settler violence. On February 27, he had retweeted a post justifying “collective punishment” (which is considered illegal in international law) as a “necessary tool.” He had also called for attacks with helicopters and tanks inside Palestinian residential areas. 

The Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) reacted to Smotrich’s statement and called him a “racist terrorist” who needed to be prosecuted under international law for calling for “massacres against Palestinians.”   

Reacting to comments made by Smotrich in favor of settler violence, former Israeli defense minister and opposition leader Benny Gantz accused him of wanting to create a second Nakba of Palestinians. 

The Nakba was the mass forced migration of Palestinians caused by Israeli occupation forces at the time of the creation of Israel in 1948. According to various estimates, between 700,000 and 800,000 Palestinians were expelled from their villages and towns at the time. Most of them live as refugees in different parts of the world, including in the occupied Palestinian territories.  

Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh visited the town of Huwara on Wednesday and proclaimed that Palestinians need to form “popular protection committees in the villages, towns and refugee camps as a real response to the settlers rampage,” Wafa reported

Shtayyeh also accused the Israeli government of encouraging settlers to carry out attacks against Palestinians “to carry out crimes of occupation” under full security cover.