Far-right Religious Zionism leader denounced by US pro-Israel groups

Far-right Religious Zionism leader denounced by US pro-Israel groups
Bezalel Smotrich has been criticised for racist comments he made online during an argument with Joint List member Ahmad Tibi.
2 min read
08 April, 2021
Bezalel Smotrich's party secured seven Knesset seats at the recent elections [Getty]

Pro-Israel groups in the US have rebuked comments made on Wednesday by far-right lawmaker Bezalel Smotrich regarding the rights of Israeli Arabs, according to reports by Haaretz

The chairman of the Religious Zionism party took to Twitter the day before Holocaust Remembrance Day to offer his view about Muslims and Arabs living in Israel. 

"I heard that after Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu, may he live a long life, said that a true Muslim must know that the Land of Israel belongs to the Jewish People, Ahmad Tibi opened his mouth against him," he wrote.

"So Ahmad, a true Muslim must know that the Land of Israel belongs to the Jewish people, and over time Arabs like you, who do not recognise that, will not remain here. Rabbi Shmuel and tens of thousands of his students, including us, will make sure that happens." he wrote.

Smotrich lashed out on Twitter following an interview Knesset member Ahmad Tibi, who ran as part of the Joint List in recent elections, gave to Radio 103FM.

Tibi later responded to Smotrich’s comments by branding him as a racist. 

"You and your Kahanist friend [Rabbi Eliyahu] represent a morbid variant of Judaism that only a politically distorted political brain like Netanyahu can ignore or rely on," he added.

US groups such as the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) were quick to respond to Smotrich’s hate speech.

"The Jewish connection to the land of Israel does not erase other people's histories and narratives, and it must never be used to pursue a politics of Jewish supremacy," Carole Nuriel, Director of ADL's Israel Office, told Haaretz.

Smotrich was also admonished by Democratic Majority for Israel (DMFI), who seek to build support for Israel in the Democratic Party and who commonly refrain from commenting on Israel's domestic politics.

"Smotrich, his rhetoric, and the party he represents are despicable," said Rachel Rosen to Haaretz, DMFI spokesperson. 

Read more: How Netanyahu brought Israel's biggest racists seats - and legitimacy - in parliament

The Religious Zionism party received the support of Benjamin Netanyahu at the recent elections, who secured seven seats in the Knesset.

The fourth Israeli election in two years failed to produce a definitive result and Netanyahu, who was chosen by the president to form a government, is seeking support for his coalition. 

Smotrich and the Religious Zionism party are part of the Israeli PM's bloc, but have declared that they will not serve in any government that relies on the backing of Arab parties.  

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