DUBAI: The US State Department has strongly condemned Israel’s national security minister, Itamar Ben-Gvir, for what it described as “inflammatory comments” he made about Palestinians, and said that it denounces “all racist rhetoric.”
Ben-Gvir said during an interview on Israeli TV on Wednesday that his rights in the occupied West Bank are more important than those of Palestinians. His comments sparked a storm of protest online as video clips of his comments spread on social media, the BBC reported on Friday.
“My right, my wife’s, my children’s, to roam the roads of Judea and Samaria are more important than the right of movement of the Arabs,” he told Arab-Israeli journalist Mohammed Magadli during a studio interview.
“Sorry, Mohammed, but this is the reality, that’s the truth. My right for life comes before their right to movement.”
His remarks came against a backdrop of escalating violence in which three Israelis were killed by Palestinian gunmen in separate attacks, one of which happened near Hebron, where Ben-Gvir lives in a Jewish settlement. As they searched for the killers, Israeli authorities imposed greater restrictions on the movement of thousands of Palestinians.
The minister’s comments went viral and triggered a backlash from Palestinians and Israeli opposition figures. He described the controversy as “fake news” and slammed the “radical left” for “misquoting” him.
One of those who shared a video of his comments online was Palestinian American model Bella Hadid. In her post on Instagram, where she has almost 60 million followers, she wrote: “In no place, no time … should one life be more valuable than another’s.”
Ben-Gvir responded by posting a message on X, formerly known as Twitter, on Friday in which he accused Hadid of being an “Israel hater” who had made him sound “racist and dark.”
The minister leads the far-right, ultranationalist Otzma Yehudit, or Jewish Power, political party, which espouses racist, anti-Arab policies. He has convictions for inciting racism and supporting a terrorist organization.
When Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu formed his coalition government in December, he put Ben-Gvir in charge of Israel’s militarized border police force that operates in occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank.
The Palestinian Authority condemned “in the strongest terms the racist and heinous remarks by Israel’s fascist minister Itamar Ben-Gvir, which only confirms Israel’s apartheid regime of Jewish supremacy and racial terror against the Palestinian people.”
Karine Elharrar, an Israeli MP from the opposition Yesh Atid party, described the minister as “the authentic representative of the most racist, messianic and Kahanist government we’ve ever had.”
The roots of Ben-Gvir’s political background lie in Kahanism, an extremist, violently racist ideology that supports the expulsion of Palestinians from their lands.
In response to requests by Israeli journalists for a comment about Ben-Gvir’s comments, a US State Department spokesperson said on Thursday night: “We strongly condemn Israeli Minister Ben-Gvir’s inflammatory comments on the freedom of movement of Palestinian residents in the West Bank.
“We condemn all racist rhetoric, as such messages are particularly damaging when amplified by those in leadership positions and are incongruent with advancing respect for human rights for all.”
On Friday, the EU also “strongly condemned” Ben-Gvir for his comments, saying that “the values of democracy and respect for human rights stand central to the EU-Israel partnership, including as regards the people living under occupation in the Palestinian territory.”
Parties that represent Arab Israelis, Palestinian citizens of Israel, and Israeli anti-occupation groups also condemned Ben-Gvir’s remarks but many pointed out that the comments simply reflect the longstanding reality of life for Palestinians in the West Bank, the BBC reported.
B’tselem, an Israeli nongovernmental human rights organization that provides support for Palestinians living under occupation, said: “This is the reality we see on the ground, every day, for five decades. The rights of the Jews are more important than the rights of the Arabs — this is what apartheid looks like.”
Source : Arab news