Ben Gvir: A history of incitement and extremism

Yasmine Osama Farag , Sunday 4 Feb 2024

The far-right extremist Itamar Ben-Gvir has sparked international criticism with his racist and inflammatory remarks against Palestinians ever since he joined the Israeli government in December 2022, remarks that have only become more aggressive and hateful during the Gaza war.

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File Photo- Israeli Minister of National Security Itamar Ben-Gvir. AFP

 

Most recently, the Israeli national security minister drew fire for his comments during an interview with the Wall Street Journal published on Sunday. 

Ben-Gvir said that Israel would be receiving more support from the US if former president Donald Trump had been reelected.

“Instead of giving us his full backing, US President Joe Biden is busy with giving humanitarian aid and fuel to Gaza, which goes to Hamas,” Ben Gvir said, adding that “if Trump was in power, the US conduct would be completely different.”

He also encouraged the so-called “voluntary” deportation of Gazans of Gaza to places around the world by giving them financial incentives.

The comments quickly drew criticism from Israeli politicians who worry that it could endanger their country’s relationship with its most important international backer. 

Opposition leader Yair Lapid took the opportunity to slam Prime Minister Netanyahu,criticizing him for being unable to “control any of the extremists in his government."

Netanyahu himself tried to head off any damage to the bilateral relationship during the government’s weekly meeting, offering assurances that his country “deeply appreciates” US support.

Meanwhile, the Palestinian Ministry of Foreign Affairs took to X, formerly Twitter, calling Ben-Gvir “a direct threat to the security and stability of the region” and calling for international sanctions on the minister. 

The Palestinian ministry’s call comes after unconfirmed reports that the Biden administration had considered including Ben-Gvir in an executive order Thursday sanctioning violent Israeli settlers. US officials have denied these reports. 

History of incitement
 

The far-right Israeli minister’s comments to the American newspaper are far from out of character. 

Ben Gvir, who was born in Jerusalem to Jewish Iraqi parents, has been formerly convicted on at least eight charges, including supporting a terrorist organization and incitement to racism against Palestinians.

Earlier in his career, he called for Arabs to be expelled from Israel.

Ben Gvir's criminal and racist record prompted the New York Times to describe him as the "Minister of Chaos," while former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert described him as a more imminent danger to Israel than a nuclear-armed Iran.

The Palestinian Authority and Arab countries have long denounced Ben Gvir's comments, calling him a "fascist" and a "terrorist.”

Since joining Netanyahu’s cabinet, Ben-Gvir’s remarks have sparked backlash inside Israel, regionally, and from the US.

On 1 January 2024: Ben Gavir repeated his call for reoccupying Gaza, building Jewish settlements, and encouraging the deportation of Palestinians from the strip.

In November 2023: Ben Gvir, the head of the Jewish Power Party, threatened to break apart the government if Israel did not restart its war on Gaza when the short-lived late-November truce ended.

In October 2023: Shortly after the war on Gaza started, Ben Gvir said on X: “The only thing that should enter Gaza is not a gram of humanitarian aid, but hundreds of tons of explosives from the Air Force.

He called for occupying Gaza and building settlements there.

In Augst 2023: Ben Gvir claimed that his rights in the occupied West Bank are more important than those of Palestinians.

"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 said using a biblical term for the West Bank.

The US State Department strongly condemned his comments as "inflammatory " and denounced "all racist rhetoric."

In June 2023: Ben Gvir called on his government to construct more settlements in the occupied West Bank and assassinate "hundreds, or if needed, thousands" of Palestinians

"We have to settle the land of Israel and at the same time need to launch a military campaign, blow up buildings, assassinate terrorists. Not one, or two, but dozens, hundreds, or if needed, thousands," he said.

In February 2023: Ben Gvir pledged to ensure Palestinian prisoners are not being treated comfortably

After a visit to an Israeli prison, he told the media he had wanted "to ensure that the murderers of Jews are not getting better conditions" as a result of the construction of new cells.

He said he would make sure Palestinian prisoners no longer received "fresh bread every morning as if they were in a restaurant," ordering the closure of what he said were bakeries being run at two Israeli jails.

He also called for Palestinians convicted of terrorism to face the death penalty -- a matter that falls outside his portfolio responsibilitie

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