France condemns extremist Israeli minister Smotrich over 'no Palestinians exist' comments

France condemns extremist Israeli minister Smotrich over 'no Palestinians exist' comments
France has condemned the extremist Israeli finance minister Bezalel Smotrich over his comment that 'there are no Palestinians' which he made during a trip to Paris.
2 min read
Bezalel Smotrich has made incendiary and racist remarks about Palestinians for years [source: Getty]

France on Tuesday described as "irresponsible" an extremist Israeli minister's remarks denying the existence of the Palestinian people.

"We call on persons who have been called to high office within the Israeli government to show the required dignity, to respect that of others, and to refrain from all action or declaration that could contribute to the escalation of tensions," the foreign ministry said.

Israel's far-right Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich made the comments on Sunday in Paris, on a trip during which he met no French government officials.

"There are no Palestinians, because there isn't a Palestinian people," Smotrich said then, quoting French-Israeli Zionist activist Jacques Kupfer at an event in his memory, according to a video circulating on social media.

Evoking biblical "prophecies" that are "beginning to come true", the Israeli minister said: "After 2,000 years... God is gathering his people. The people of Israel are returning home."

Live Story

"There are Arabs around who don't like it, so what do they do? They invent a fictitious people and claim fictitious rights to the Land of Israel, only to fight the Zionist movement," he said.

The comments sparked condemnation from the Palestinian Authority, Egypt and Jordan.

Farhan Haq, deputy spokesman for UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, dubbed the minister's remarks "completely unhelpful," adding that the Palestinian people "obviously" exist.

Smotrich is part of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's hard-right government that took office in December.

He had already faced international rebuke in early March after calling for the Palestinian town of Hawara in the occupied West Bank to be "wiped out", amid increasing Israeli attacks on Palestinians in the West Bank.