Bezalel Smotrich, Israeli finance minister
Bezalel Smotrich, Israeli finance minister, speaks during a rally with supporters in the southern Israeli city of Sderot on October 26, 2022.
(Photo: Gil Cohen-Magen/AFP via Getty Images)

Israeli Finance Minister Denounced for Calling for 'Total Annihilation' of Gaza

"But… did he say it on a college campus? Otherwise, it's just not news. Sorry, them's the rules," said one journalist sardonically.

In just the latest example of a top Israeli official openly calling for the elimination of Gaza and the 2.3 million Palestinians who live there, Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich on Tuesday demanded the destruction of cities and refugee camps in the blockaded enclave.

"There are no half measures," said Smotrich at a government meeting. "Rafah, Deir al-Balah, Nuseirat—total annihilation."

"'You will blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven,'" he added, quoting the biblical story of the nation of Amalek, whose people God commanded the Israelites to exterminate and which right-wing Israeli leaders have long invoked to justify the killing of Palestinians.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also referenced Amalek in the first weeks of Israel's current escalation against Gaza; Smotrich's comments came as he and other government officials pushed Netanyahu to forge ahead with a planned attack on the southern city of Rafah, where more than 1.5 million people have been displaced as other cities across Gaza have been decimated by Israeli forces.

Ibrahim Hooper, national communications director for the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), called on President Joe Biden to stop condemning thousands of U.S. college students who have demanded a cease-fire and an end to military aid for Israel and direct his ire toward the Israeli government, which he has repeatedly insisted is targeting Hamas despite its genocidal statements and indiscriminate attacks.

"In case the Israeli government's genocidal intent in Gaza was unclear to anyone despite its daily war crimes against the Palestinian people, Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich's words should serve as another wake-up call," said Hooper. "The intent of the Netanyahu government has always been Palestinian land without Palestinians, and violence has always been the route to achieve that heinous goal. Instead of condemning college students, President Biden must condemn Israeli leaders for making and acting on their genocidal threats."

In recent months, Israeli officials have stated that the "migration" of Gaza residents is their ultimate goal in relentlessly attacking the enclave, that all Palestinians in Gaza are "responsible" for a Hamas-led attack on southern Israel in October and are legitimate targets, that the enclave should be "flattened," and that the Israel Defense Forces is fighting "human animals."

Journalist Mehdi Hasan sardonically suggested that Smotrich's comments will be deemed acceptable by the Biden administration, members of Congress, and the U.S. corporate media because he didn't "say it on a college campus."

"Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, a member of the security cabinet, ought to be fired immediately over his latest remarks," read an editorial in Haaretz Tuesday night that was published as police in New York were storming Columbia University to arrest students. "That's how any properly run country would act, and all the more so a country against which the International Court of Justice in The Hague has issued provisional measures requiring it to refrain from genocide, including one requiring it to deal properly with incitement to genocide."

Smotrich and others have objected to what National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir on Tuesday called a "reckless" deal that would allow for the release of scores of Israeli hostages being held by Hamas in exchange for Palestinian prisoners who have long been detained in Israeli jails. The deal would include a 40-day halt in fighting.

CAIR also pointed out Tuesday that five units of Israel's security forces have been accused of committing a "gross violation of human rights," according to a U.S. State Department analysis.

"Our nation's repeated claim that it supports international law and human rights," said national executive director Nihad Awad, "is a cruel illusion."

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