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Israeli finance minister denies existence of a Palestinian people in Paris speech

“We need to tell the truth without bowing to the lies and distortions of history,” says Bezalel Smotrich.

The head of Israel's Religious Zionist Party Bezalel Smotrich speaks during a conference in Jerusalem, on Aug. 2, 2021. Photo by Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90.
The head of Israel's Religious Zionist Party Bezalel Smotrich speaks during a conference in Jerusalem, on Aug. 2, 2021. Photo by Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90.

Israel’s Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich on Sunday denied the existence of a Palestinian people, saying that it was Jews such as his own family that were the true Palestinians.

Speaking in Paris at a tribute to Likud activist Jacques Kupfer, who died of cancer in January 2021 at the age of 74, the leader of the Religious Zionist Party said, “Jacques’ truth must be told with all our might and without confusion: He said there is no such thing as Palestinians—because there is no such thing as a Palestinian people.”

He continued: “We need to tell the truth without bowing to the lies and distortions of history, and without succumbing to the hypocrisy of BDS and the pro-Palestinian organizations.”

Smotrich went on to say that he is a Palestinian.

“My grandfather, who was the 13th generation in Jerusalem, is the real Palestinian. My grandmother, who was born in Metula more than 100 years ago to a family of pioneers, is Palestinian.”

The Palestinians claim that they descend from the Canaanites—the Semitic civilization that inhabited the southern Levant region before it was called Israel. “The Palestinian Arab people have existed on this land since the history of their Canaanite ancestors,” Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh said recently in a speech.

“The Palestinian people are the real owners of the land and not the Jewish people,” Shtayyeh said, echoing what P.A. President Mahmoud Abbas has said on multiple occasions.

(Smotrich’s claim is not a new one: Former Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir famously claimed in a 1969 interview that she was a Palestinian, and said that “there was no such as Palestinians.” She later clarified that she meant that “there never was a Palestinian nation.”)

In his address on Sunday, Smotrich said that international law sets out five characteristics of a state: history, culture, language, currency and historical leadership.

“Who was the first Palestinian king? What language do the Palestinians have? Has there ever been a Palestinian currency? Is there a Palestinian history or culture? There isn’t any,” he said. “There are Arabs who are in the Middle East and who arrived in the Land of Israel at the same time as the Jewish aliyah and the early days of Zionism.”

The source of Arab Palestinian nationalism, he continued, is opposition to the existence of Israel.

“After 2,000 years of exile, the people of Israel are returning home, and there are Arabs around who do not like it. So what do they do? They invent a fictitious people and claim fictitious rights in the Land of Israel just to fight the Zionist movement,” he said.

“This truth should be heard here in the Elysée Palace. This truth should also be heard by the Jewish people in the State of Israel who are a little confused. This truth should be heard in the White House in Washington. The whole world needs to hear this truth because it is the truth—and the truth will win.”

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