French rights NGO says Israel minister 'not welcome'

AFP , Tuesday 14 Mar 2023

A human rights organisation said Tuesday that Israel's controversial finance minister Bezalel Smotrich was "not welcome" on a planned visit to France this week.

Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich arrives to attend the weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister s office in Jerusalem, Sunday March 5, 2023. AP


The Human Rights League (LDH) described Smotrich as "arabophobic, homophobic, ultra-colonialist and ultra-religious", adding that it felt "outrage" at the visit planned for Sunday and "condemns everything this character represents".

Smotrich last year became a member in the cabinet of Israel's veteran leader Benjamin Netanyahu, which analysts have called the most right-wing government in the country's history.

Smotrich and his Religious Zionism formation have a history of inflammatory remarks about Palestinians.

As part of his portfolio, Smotrich is in charge of Israeli settlement policy in the West Bank, where he himself is one of 475,000 Jewish settlers established in defiance of international law.

He called for a Palestinian town to be "wiped out" after two Israeli settlers were killed there in February.

Although he later said "it is possible that the word was wrong" and he "did not mean harm to innocents", Smotrich's comments drew international condemnation.

UN human rights chief Volker Turk denounced them as "an unfathomable statement of incitement to violence and hostility".

The United States, an ally of Israel, also condemned the comments, with a State Department spokesman saying they were "irresponsible, they were repugnant, they were disgusting".

The French foreign ministry told AFP no official contact with the Israeli minister was planned.

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