Israeli ministers’ shocking call for mass expulsion: Gaza faces threat of forced eviction

Ben-Gvir's statements have brought attention to the plight of the area's population, severely affected by a three-month bombing campaign that has displaced approximately 90 percent of the territory’s residents.

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Image Credit: Oren Ziv/Activestills

Israeli National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir has sparked a significant debate with his recent advocacy for the migration of Gazans. Amid the ongoing conflict in Gaza, Ben-Gvir’s statements have brought attention to the plight of the area’s population, severely affected by a three-month bombing campaign that has displaced approximately 90 percent of the territory’s residents.

Ben-Gvir, during a meeting of his Jewish Power party in Jerusalem, described the migration of Gazans as a “correct, just, moral, and humane solution.” This stance comes at a time when Gaza faces unprecedented challenges due to continued military actions.

Ben-Gvir’s proposal involves leveraging the current conflict as an “opportunity” to remove Palestinians from Gaza and repopulate the area with Israeli settlers who were withdrawn in 2005. “Encouraging the migration of the residents of Gaza will allow us to bring home the residents of the Outaf and the residents of Gush Katif,” Ben-Gvir stated, framing the situation as a strategic move for Israel.

His stance is not isolated within the Israeli government. Far-right Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich echoed similar sentiments, suggesting the reduction of Gaza’s Arab population to change the narrative surrounding the region’s future.

Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, in a recent radio appearance, reinforced the idea of encouraging Gazan emigration. “If there are 100,000 or 200,000 Arabs in Gaza and not 2 million Arabs, the entire discussion on the day after will be totally different,” Smotrich argued, suggesting a significant alteration of Gaza’s demographic composition.

Both Smotrich and Ben-Gvir, who reside in illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank, as noted by AFP, have voiced their controversial views amid growing tensions and ongoing military operations in the region.

An official document from the Israeli Ministry of Intelligence, dated October 13, 2023, and leaked by Local Call, proposes the forced transfer of Gaza’s 2.2 million Palestinian residents to Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula. This document, confirmed as authentic by the ministry, assesses three options for Gaza’s future, recommending a full population transfer as the preferred course of action.

The document’s existence does not necessarily imply its adoption by Israel’s defense establishment. However, it reflects how the concept of forced population transfer is being raised to the level of official policy discussions within the Israeli government.

The proposed forced transfer of Palestinians, if executed, would constitute a serious war crime under international law. United Nations officials and various humanitarian groups have raised alarms about the Israeli government’s apparent desire to force Palestinians out of Gaza.

The document’s recommendations for transferring the civilian population during the war and preventing their return are particularly contentious. Such actions, if implemented, would likely draw significant international condemnation and legal challenges.

Reactions to the proposed transfer have been vocal and varied. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, in a recent speech, firmly rejected any displacement of Palestinians from Gaza or the West Bank. United Nations officials have expressed concern over the increasing attacks on civilians and the potential for mass deportations.

Israeli activists and journalists have also responded strongly. Em Hilton, a Jewish anti-occupation activist, stated on social media, “Anyone defending or denying the clear motivations of Israel’s political leaders is actively enabling the ethnic cleansing and mass murder of Palestinians in Gaza.” Ariel Bernstein of Breaking the Silence emphasized the urgency of stopping the Israeli government’s plans.

U.S. President Joe Biden has opposed any “forced relocation” of Palestinians from Gaza. However, his administration has continued to provide military support to Israel, including bypassing Congress to transfer weaponry to Israel’s military amid the conflict.

Retired Israeli Major General Yitzhak Brick highlighted the crucial role of U.S. support in a statement to the Jewish News Syndicate: “All of our missiles, the ammunition, the precision-guided bombs, all the airplanes and bombs, it’s all from the U.S.” He added, “The minute they turn off the tap, you can’t keep fighting. You have no capability. Everyone understands that we can’t fight this war without the United States. Period.”

The proposed mass displacement of Palestinians has historical precedents, notably the 1948 Nakba, which saw the displacement of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians during the founding of the state of Israel. These historical parallels are being drawn as fears of a new wave of displacement rise.

Arab leaders and Palestinians have condemned the idea of a new “Nakba,” stressing its unacceptability. The proposal, if pursued, would likely exacerbate tensions in the region and complicate the prospects of Palestinian statehood.

The Israeli government and military strategists have discussed various approaches to Gaza’s future. Alternative proposals include allowing the Palestinian Authority to govern Gaza under Israeli oversight or cultivating another local Arab authority. However, these options are viewed as strategically and security-wise undesirable for Israel.

These discussions reflect the complex web of military, political, and social considerations that Israeli policymakers are navigating in dealing with the Gaza conflict. The range of proposals indicates the ongoing debate over the most effective long-term strategy for the region. Journalist Mehdi Hasan, commenting on the Israeli ministers’ statements, encapsulated the gravity of the situation: “They’re saying it out loud!”

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