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Netanyahu Draws Widespread Criticism after Saying Palestinians Support “Ethnic Cleansing”

Allan C. Brownfeld, Editor
Special Interest Report
December 2016

In a video released in September, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu  
accuses the Palestinian leadership of demanding a Palestinian state free of  
Jews by opposing Jewish settlements on the occupied West Bank. He states:  
“There’s a phrase for that. It’s called ethnic cleansing.”  
The State Department described the language in the video as “inappropriate  
and unhelpful.” Many Israelis were also sharply critical. “There is  
something ridiculous about Netanyahu’s claim against ‘ethnic cleansing’ of  
Jews,” wrote Ben-Dror Yemini, a political columnist in Yediot Aharonot.  
(Sept. 12, 2016)  
Mr. Yenini wrote that population transfers were historically intended to  
ensure the right of self-determination and to establish nation states. He  
maintained that Netanyahu turned that concept on its head. Israelis settling  
in the heart of Arab-populated areas of the West Bank were, he wrote, “the  
antithesis of the idea of self-determination and a Jewish and democratic  
nation state, because instead of separation there is a mix-up of hostile  
Xavier Abu Eid, an adviser to the Palestine Liberation Organization in the  
West Bank, said, “We are not against people of any religion living in the  
state of Palestine.” He described Netanyahu’s use of the “religious card” as  
dangerous, adding, “There is a difference between settlers living in  
exclusive communities on stolen land and someone who is living in the  
country as a citizen like anyone else.”  
Mr. Abu Eid said that some American and Israeli Jews were already living in  
areas of the West Bank under Palestinian control. He said that his neighbors  
in Ramallah included Christians, Muslims, a Druse family from the Golan  
Heights and a Jewish woman.  
Discussing the Netanyahu video, columnist J.J. Goldberg provided this  
assessment in The Forward (Sept. 23, 2016): “Palestinians repeatedly insist  
that the Israeli accusation twists their position. ‘Any person, be he  
Jewish, Christian or Buddhist, will have the right to apply for Palestinian  
citizenship,’ the PLO spokeswoman Hanan Ashwari told The Times of Israel in  
‘Our basic law prohibits discrimination based on race or ethnicity But, she  
added, Palestinians would not accept the presence of ‘extra-territorial  
Jewish enclaves’ whose residents remained Israeli citizens under Israeli  
protection. Privately, Palestinians and Israelis alike call the idea of  
settlers remaining in a Palestinian state a recipe for disaster. …  
Considering all the facts, it’s tempting to call Netanyahu’s talk of ethnic  
cleansing an inflammatory distraction, if not downright dishonest.”  
Haaretz (Sept. 26, 2016) notes that, “Even Palestinians on the West Bank are  
being ‘ethnically cleansed’ … By the time of the Oslo Accords, Israel had  
revoked the residency of 140,000 Palestinians from the West Bank … While we  
are still desperately concealing, denying and repressing our major ethnic  
cleansing of 1948 over 600,000 refugees, some who fled in fear of the IDF  
and its predecessors, some who were expelled by force — it turned out that  
1948 never ended, that its spirit is still with us. Also with us is the goal  
of trying to cleanse this land of its Arab inhabitants as much as possible  
and even a bit more.” •

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© 2010 The American Council For Judaism.