Dec 08, 2021

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MK Bezalel Smotrich, the leader of the right-wing Religious Zionist Party, raised hackles when he spoke from the Knesset podium last Wednesday. Smotrich spoke in defense of a bill that would revise the current immigration laws in order to maintain a Jewish majority in Israel.

Ben Gurion should have gotten rid of the Arabs

“Yes, Jewish, with a Jewish majority,” he said. “With security for the citizens of the State of Israel.”

 After being heckled by the Arab MKs in attendance, Smotrioch responded to the Arab MKs, calling them “enemies”.

“I’m not talking to you — anti-Zionists, terror supporters, enemies. You’re here by accident because [Israel’s first prime minister David] Ben-Gurion didn’t finish the job,” he said.

Smotrich was referring to a letter written by David Ben-Gurion, then head of the executive committee of the Jewish Agency, to his son Amos on 5 October 1937. The handwritten text is difficult to decipher and heavily redacted by Ben Gurion. Scholars are divided as to whether Ben Gurion calls to “Expel the Arabs” or precisely the opposite. 

Knesset member Bezalel Smotrich at a conference in Lod on July 22, 2019. Photo by Flash90.

Bad beginnings

Rabbi Nachman Kahana agreed with Smotrich, emphasizing that the new Israeli state did err when allowing the Arabs to stay.

“It’s like buttoning up a shirt,” Rabbi Kahana explained. “If you get the first button wrong, everything that comes after will be worse.”

“The country began on the wrong foot,” Rabbi Kahana explained. “Ben Gurion and his government ignored the Halachot (Torah laws) as well as the spirit of the Torah. The spirit of the Torah as seen from the beginning of the Bible to the end is that the Land of Israel is for the Jews.”

Rabbi Kahana cited a verse from the Book of Numbers as the basis for what the State of Israel should have done:

Speak to B’nei Yisrael and say to them: When you cross the Yarden into the land of Canaan, you shall dispossess all the inhabitants of the land; you shall destroy all their figured objects; you shall destroy all their molten images, and you shall demolish all their cult places. Numbers 33:51-52

“The laws of non-Jews living in the land of Israel deal with this. Any non-Jew in Israel must have the Biblical status of a ger toshav. He has to declare before a beit din (rabbinic tribunal) that he will keep the Seven Noahide laws which include the prohibitions against idolatry and also against murder. It is up to the bet din to accept or reject them.”

“But even if they are accepted by the bet din, there can only be a limited number of non-Jews and according to Halacha, they must be watched over. There used to be a military government that watched over the Arab towns but that ended by order of Ben Gurion in 1963. Now, there are Arabs taking over Judea and Samaria, non-Jewish immigrants from the former Soviet Union, Bedouins taking over the Negev, and even illegal immigrants from Africa taking over Tel Aviv.”

“The solution may come when there is a great threat to Israel, like Iran. Then all these non-Jews will run away. That is what the Arabs who lived in Israel did in 1947. It could be that we need all these people to help build the country up. But the country is built up now and they aren’t necessary and these people hate Jews.”

“People scream that this sounds racist. But they don’t say anything about the Arabs ethnically cleansing the Jews, or the Palestinians planning to kill all the Jews and leaving a few alive for our brains. The Torah is racist. God chose the Jews. But God isn’t racist. He created all the nations. Racism is not a bad word. Israel is for Jews and Arabia is for Arabs. The Jews have to keep the Torah and the non-Jews have their laws as well.”

Mixed reviews from the other side

Smotrich’s comments were widely decried by the Arab MKs. 

Aida Touma-Sliman of the Joint Arab List said, “Think of how every Arab citizen feels when such a statement is said casually in parliament. How does a young man or woman feel when the right threatens a second Nakba?” 

Nakba, literally ‘catastrophe’ in Arabic, is the term used to describe Israel’s War of Independence in 1948 by people who wish to see Israel destroyed. 


Ironically, Sotrich’s comments were praised by Asa Winstanley, a pro-Palestinian London-based journalist, in an article in the Middle East Monitor (MEMO). While describing Israel’s 1948 victory over seven invading Arab armies as “a genocidal act of ethnic cleansing”, Winstanley went on to praise Smotrich, preferring him to the left-wing Israelis who support a two-state solution.

“Smotrich’s words were hateful,” Winstanley wrote. “But they, at least, had the benefit of a certain honesty and candour. I would take that over the lies of the so-called ‘liberal’ and ‘socialist’ Zionists any day.”

Winstanley noted that, unlike Smotrich who is labeled a “right-wing extremist” by the mainstream media, Ben Gurion, who led Israel in the 1948 war, was left-wing and, while young and living in Russia, was a socialist who claimed to be inspired by Tolstoy. 

“Indeed, Israel’s first Prime Minister, David Ben-Gurion, claimed to be a socialist,” Winstanley wrote. “But his ‘socialism’ had nothing to do with the brotherhood (or siblinghood) of mankind. Palestinian Arabs were not only excluded from his twisted version of socialism but were actively boycotted, expelled, rounded up, and murdered.”

Winstanley refers to Ben Gurion’s letter. 

“Much like other sectarian apologists for war crimes, ethnic cleansing and genocide, Zionist fanatics alternate between denial that the crime [Israel’s victory] took place, and justification of the crime.”

“I would still take Smotrich’s openness about his racism any day, as opposed to the liberal Zionist lies about only wanting ‘peace’ and a so-called two-state ‘solution’,” Winstanley concluded. “The effects are the same, but the fascists are just more upfront about it. At least it has a clarifying effect. Zionism – of any variety – is racism.”

The legislation proposed by the coalition was introduced by MK Simcha Rotman, also representing Religious Zionist party. The proposed legislation is aimed at changing the Law of Return and revising Israeli immigration policies. It aims to limit and restrict immigration to Israel, and provide the state with greater capabilities in deporting those in the country illegally, as well as limit the eligibility for temporary residency, permanent residency and citizenship.