Palestinian Authority PM pans Smotrich for saying his people doesn’t exist

Mohammad Shtayyeh says remarks by Israeli finance minister claiming Palestinian nation is ‘an invention’ show ‘extremist, racist, Zionist ideology’ governing Israel

Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh holds a briefing with foreign press at his office in the West Bank city of Ramallah, November 10, 2021. (Abbas Momani/AFP)
Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh holds a briefing with foreign press at his office in the West Bank city of Ramallah, November 10, 2021. (Abbas Momani/AFP)

Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh said Monday that remarks from a senior Israeli minister denying the existence of a Palestinian people is evidence of what he called the “racist ideology” governing Israel.

Far-right Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich had said that the Palestinian people were “an invention” from the last century and that people like himself and his grandparents were the “real Palestinians.”

Shtayyeh, responding at the start of a government meeting in Ramallah, said Smotrich’s “inflammatory” remarks demonstrate the “extremist, racist, Zionist ideology that governs the current Israeli government,” according to the PA’s official Wafa news agency.

Shtayyeh further claimed that antiquities and history prove the tie between the Palestinian people and the land “since the dawn of human history,” the report said.

The Palestinian people “are not shaken by the statements of the falsifiers of history and their false claims,” he declared.

“We are the ones who gave Palestine its name and the land, its value and status,” Shtayyeh said. “This land is ours, and Israel is a colonial state established by the colonialists and settlers.”

Speaking in Paris at a private memorial service for prominent Likud activist and Jewish Agency board member Jacques Kupfer, Smotrich said Sunday there was “no such thing as Palestinians because there’s no such thing as the Palestinian people,” a comment that was met with applause and cheers from attendees, as seen in a video from the event posted online.

“Do you know who the Palestinians are?” asked the head of the ultranationalist Religious Zionism party as he stood at a podium bearing a map of “Greater Israel” that included the territory of modern-day Jordan, as well as the West Bank, in accordance with hardline aspirations by some early Zionist groups.

Religious Zionism head Bezalel Smotrich speaks on March 19, 2023 at a memorial service in Paris for prominent right-wing Likud activist and Jewish Agency board member Jacques Kupfer, who passed away after a long battle with cancer in 2021. (Screenshot via Ynet, used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

“I’m Palestinian,” he said, also mentioning his grandmother who was born in the northern Israeli town of Metula 100 years ago, and his grandfather, a 13th-generation Jerusalemite, as the “real Palestinians.”

Smotrich has a history of making inflammatory statements against Palestinians, Arab citizens of Israel, non-Orthodox Jews, and the LGBTQ community, including once declaring himself a “proud homophobe.” In 2021, he said David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s first prime minister, should have “finished the job” and kicked all Arabs out of the country when it was founded. Earlier that same year, he said members of Israel’s Arab minority communities were citizens “for now at least.”

Earlier this month, the minister — a senior figure in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s hardline coalition — stirred international outrage with a call to “wipe out” a Palestinian town in the West Bank following a deadly Palestinian terror attack that killed two Israeli brothers. He later backtracked the comment and apologized.

His comments Sunday came hours after Israeli and Palestinian Authority delegations met for a relatively rare albeit low-stakes regional summit in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, where they recommitted to de-escalating tensions days before the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

The meeting, with accompanying delegations from the United States, Jordan and Egypt, was a follow-up to a similar gathering held in Aqaba, Jordan, last month — the first such high-level confab of Israeli and Palestinian leaders in years. The sides have agreed to meet for a third time next month.

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