Zionism is founded on the idea that Jews today have rights to a land they had not inhabited for thousands of years. These rights supersede the rights of the Palestinians, even though they have been living on that land for thousands of years. Zionists have been so successful in selling this absurd idea, that for over one hundred years, they have been able to destroy Palestine, erase its history, kill and forcibly exile its indigenous population and bring to ruin ancient, iconic monuments that were a vital part of the landscape. The poster child of this idea today is a man by the name of Bezalel Smotrich, the man who is slated to become the new Minister for Jerusalem Affairs.
Smotrich is part of a group that was once considered on the fringe of Israeli politics and which calls for building a Jewish Temple on the site of the Dome of the Rock. No longer fringe, now this group has people like Smotrich in positions of power that threaten the very existence of Jerusalem’s most important religious and historical space, the Holy Sanctuary.
Anyone who has had the good fortune to visit Jerusalem and walk around the Holy Sanctuary can attest to its beauty and serenity. Bezalel Smotrich is part of a movement that wants to destroy the Al-Aqsa Mosque and, as I described here in an earlier article, build a Temple, where Jewish fanatics will sacrifice animals in rituals whose time has long passed.
According to the status quo that was established after the 1967 occupation of the Old City of Jerusalem, only Muslims are permitted to worship at the Holy Sanctuary. Jews and other non-Muslims are permitted to visit the Sanctuary but not to worship there. However, there is a sect of fanatic Jews who use the loophole that allows them to visit in order to bring tens of thousands of their followers into the sanctuary as a provocation. It is worthy to note that Jewish law also strictly prohibits Jews from entering the Sanctuary.
In 2019, on the Jewish day of Tisha B’av, the day in which according to Jewish tradition the Temple was destroyed, Israeli security services recommended that Jews be prohibited from entering the Holy Sanctuary altogether. That was because that day coincided with the Muslim holy day of Eid. Smotrich and his supporters were outraged, and pressure from the right flank of the Netanyahu government was mounting. Being a member of the security cabinet he acted swiftly and in the end, was able to lift the prohibition.
The government succumbed to the pressure, Jewish fanatics were permitted to go into the sanctuary and the usual provocation ensued. Riots broke out as a result of this, in which countless Palestinians were injured and arrested.
“If I were Prime Minister I would close the Temple Mount to Arabs and immediately build a synagogue for Jews to pray there,” Smotrcihc said in an interview in July 2017. In May 2018 he posted a video showing young Jewish fanatics with the Israeli flag in the Holy Sanctuary. He wrote, “Very soon our flag will be raised on our Temple, on the Temple Mount.” He congratulated the young fanatics who were in the video, saying, “I congratulate you on your display of courage and national pride.”
In a debate Smotrich had with Palestinian Knesset member Masoud Ghnaim, Smotrich said that Ghnaim should show gratitude for being a guest in Israel. Then he boasted that the Jewish Temple will be built on the site of the Dome of the Rock.
A Rising Star
In recent years, Smotrich has become somewhat of the “right-wing darling” of the Israeli media. Well spoken, youthful looking and reasonable sounding even as he spews vicious lies and racist epithets. Smotrich was born in a settlement in the occupied Syrian Golan Heights and then his family moved to the West Bank where he was educated in fanatic, racist educational institutions that disseminate an ideology known as “Religious Zionism.”
It is a toxic combination of religion and fascism that received a boost after the 1967 war. This education system created fanatic, violent gangs that have been terrorizing Palestinians in the West Bank since 1967. They also created effective political movements that have greatly influenced and indeed shaped Israeli politics. Smotrich himself was arrested for his role in the violent protests trying to stop Israel’s 2005 unilateral withdrawal and removal of settlers from the Gaza Strip.
In 2006 Smotrich was among the founders of the Regavim organization. It is a racist organization of gangsters who are dedicated to terrorizing Palestinians. They have been particularly aggressive in displacing Palestinians in the Naqab, in the southern part of Palestine, and in what is known as Area C in the West Bank.
Smotrich rose through the ranks of various neo-fascist Zionist political movements and in 2015 was elected to the Knesset. In 2018 Twitter temporarily suspended his account after he tweeted that he was sorry Ahed Tamimi was arrested and not shot. Since June of 2019, he has served in the Israeli government as minister of Transportation, one of the largest portfolios in the government, and, what is perhaps more disturbing, he is a member of the government’s inner circle “security cabinet.”
A Decisive Plan
Smotrich, whose name and family come from a small town in Ukraine with no historical ties to Palestine, sees no problem saying that Palestinians have no historical claims to their land. “Palestinians are not a nation,” Smotrich said in a speech at an Israeli high school, reminding his young audience that Zionist icons like Golda Meir said so too. “According to any definition of nationhood, Palestinian are no more than just Arabs.” He tells the students that the Palestinians “have no unique common history, culture, language or heritage. They came here after we made this country prosperous.”
Smotrich is known for a plan he devised to resolve the Israeli Palestinian conflict. He calls it “The Decisive Plan.” Both he and his plan are mere reincarnations of the slain Meir Kahane and his ideology. Kahane was, and continues to be, the spiritual and political guru of violent, racist Jewish gangs like Smotrich’s that became known as the West Bank “Settlers.” Smotrich himself was raised on Kahane’s doctrine and he repeats it, though he is careful to give it his own “reasonable” tone.
“There can never be an equitable resolution to the Arab Jewish conflict,” he claims as he softens his audience with a litany of reasonable sounding lies based on fiction and mythology which he refers to as history. “We didn’t start the 1967 war, they did!” he explains, though clearly the Palestinians had no say or participation in that war. “At Oslo, we gave them everything, and they rejected it,” referring to the Oslo Accords which brought further disaster to Palestinians.
These claims, that he makes with a voice that is quiet and reasonable and peppered with “God willing, and Thank God,” are just the preamble. “I want to offer you, and your friends and your children, real peace, real security, and real coexistence.” He warns them, however, that this peace means “one side will have to give up on their national aspirations.” However, it is not going to be him, because “we are right and they are wrong, this land belongs to us, right?” and the audience responds by clapping, affirming his claim.
“Palestinian terrorism is fueled by the hope that they might be successful someday.” According to Smotrich, nipping the hope for national aspirations for the Arabs in the Land of Israel is how we eliminate terrorism. “We must burn into them the awareness that there will never be an Arab state west of the Jordan River and that Judea and Samaria will forever be part of Israel,” he says to applause.
“Any Arabs who give up their national aspirations will be allowed to live here and enjoy the great wealth that we created in this land.” Smotrich’s plan offers several other options, “they can go to the Arab countries or join the Muslim occupation of Europe.” He says Europe is allowing the destruction of its own identity by allowing unchecked Muslim and Arab immigration for the sake of cheap labor. “We need to develop a plan to create immigration of choice.” And, he says, “The only ones to remain will be people who accept the state of Israel as a Jewish State.”
Smotrich says his plan is hard to grasp because it is out of the box. He must have forgotten that Nazis and other violent, supremacist regimes had rational reasons and even created laws that made their crimes against humanity seem legitimate.
The Smotrich plan offers three possibilities for the Palestinians: incentivized emigration, remaining without rights, or to fight and die.
According to Smotrich, “There is nothing in common between the Nablusi Arab and the Hebronite Arab,” and therefore all they really need are municipal rights, which he says he is happy to give them. However, he clarifies, “I will not give them the right to vote for the national parliament.” He admits, modestly, “This plan may suffer from a “democratic deficiency,” but that’s ok because “life isn’t perfect and there are no perfect solutions.”
“There is no better plan, no plan that is morally superior to this, and no plan that is better suited for us.” If we “burn” in their consciousness that they will never achieve their national aspirations, then most of the Arabs will be reasonable enough to choose to leave or remain to live their lives with us. There will always be those who decide to bang their heads against the wall and they will pay a heavy price for fighting.”
The alarm regarding the destruction of the Holy Sanctuary should have been sounded long ago. Thankfully, it has not yet been destroyed and the Temple which Smotrich and his fellow fanatics want to build in its place, although it is in the advanced planning stages, has not yet been built. Much of Arab Palestine, and indeed Jerusalem, has already been destroyed, there will be no recourse once Smotrich, the designated Minister for Jerusalem Affairs, takes power and gets his hands on the Holy Sanctuary.
Feature photo | Islam’s holy Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem’s Old City is seen trough a door decorated with a Jewish Star of David. Oded Balilty | AP
Miko Peled is an author and human rights activist born in Jerusalem. He is the author of “The General’s Son. Journey of an Israeli in Palestine,” and “Injustice, the Story of the Holy Land Foundation Five.”