As the reported death toll of the Israeli invasion of Gaza tops 22,000, senior Israeli politicians have grown more explicit in their goal for the Palestinian enclave: the movement of a large number of Gazans out of Gaza entirely.
The rhetoric has garnered charges of ethnic cleansing and forced displacement, and a rare rebuke from U.S. officials. But there are no signs of the calls losing steam within Israel.
“What needs to be done in the Gaza Strip is to encourage emigration,” Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich said Sunday. Referring to Gaza as a “ghetto,” he added: “If in Gaza there will be 100,000 or 200,000 Arabs and not 2 million, the entire conversation on ‘the day after’ will look different.”
The following day, Smotrich referred to the Jewish settlement of the territory as “important” and said Palestinians should be encouraged to leave the Gaza Strip.
The idea of expelling ― or encouraging the “voluntary” migration of ― Palestinians from Gaza, once a fringe view held by extremists like Meir Kahane, has become normalized in Israeli society since the Oct. 7 Hamas attack that resulted in the deaths of some 1,200 Israelis and the abduction of 240 more, according to Israeli officials.
National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir said Monday that the current war presented an “opportunity to concentrate on encouraging the migration of the residents of Gaza.” Such a policy, he added, was “a correct, just, moral and humane solution.”
And last week, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told one lawmaker who’d called for “voluntary immigration” from Gaza that he was working to facilitate that movement. [Continue reading…]