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Israeli ministers call for ethnic cleansing of Palestinians and colonization of Gaza at ‘Victory of Israel Conference’

Photo: Minister of National Security Itamar Ben-Gvir speaking at the “Victory of Israel Conference”. Credit: Screenshot from Channel 4 News.

Let’s be clear. Israel’s genocide against the Palestinian people since Oct. 7 has been about one thing and one thing only: the permanent resettlement of the Gaza Strip. Israeli authorities are themselves open about this, and this fact was never more apparent than on Sunday, Jan. 28 when thousands of participants attended the “Victory of Israel Conference — Settlement Brings Security” event held in occupied East Jerusalem. 

While Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has claimed publicly he has “no intention of permanently occupying Gaza or displacing its civilian population,” Sunday’s conference brought out Israeli cabinet members and key policy-makers in his own coalition government, including fascist Minister of National Security Itamar Ben-Gvir — a settler himself who lives in the Kiryat Arba settlement in the occupied West Bank.

At the conference, presenters discussed details and plans to resettle the Gaza Strip and unveiled a new map displaying a plan for the re-establishment of fifteen Zionist settlements, plus the addition of six new ones, to be built where recently destroyed Palestinian residences and buildings once stood. 

A map unveiled at the “Victory of Israel Conference” which shows plans for resettlement of Gaza. Credit: X/@EpshtainItay

Expulsion of Zionist settlements, 2006 elections, Israeli siege

In 2005, after a 38-year-long military occupation, sustained armed resistance by Palestinian forces during the Second Intifada drove the Israeli government to dismantle all its settlements in the Gaza Strip and unilaterally withdraw.  

Then after Hamas decisively won the majority of parliamentary seats in the January 2006 Palestinian Legislative Council elections, Israel responded by imposing a suffocating siege around the enclave as a form of collective punishment. As part of this siege, Israel has enforced a brutal land, air, and sea blockade on the strip, controlling two of its three entry points (with Egypt controlling the third, the Rafah border crossing). 

Through this siege, Israeli authorities dictated and controlled every aspect of Palestinian life in Gaza: from how far fishermen could fish off the coast, to how much aid and food could enter, to who could and could not leave Gaza, even for medical treatment. Israel even calculated the precise number of caloric needs for the Gaza population and allowed just enough food supplies in to keep them on the brink of starvation. It is these conditions which led to many rights groups to call Gaza an “open air prison.”

‘The Arabs will move’

The expulsion of Zionist settlements from Gaza was a controversial event in Israeli society, with many believing it to be the political miscalculation that led directly to the Palestinian Resistance counter-offensive of Oct. 7. The planned Israeli land grab of Gaza and permanent displacement of the Palestinian population from it, then, is presented as a “security” measure which corrects that sin.

In fact, at the conference, Ben-Gvir even told the audience, “We must encourage voluntary migration. Let them leave. Part of correcting the mistake of the sin of the preconception that brought us to Oct. 7 is to return home to Gush Katif [southern Gaza] and to northern Samaria [West Bank]. We have to return home, because that is the Torah, that is morality, that is historic justice, that is logic and that is the right thing.”

Other conference participants echoed Ben-Gvir’s sentiments. Daniella Weiss, former mayor of Zionist settlement Kedumim in the occupied West Bank, encouraged starvation as a measure to  expel Palestinians from Gaza.

“The Arabs will move,” Weiss stated to an interviewer at the conference. “We don’t give them food, we don’t give the Arabs anything, they will have to leave. The world will accept them.” 

Israeli authorities were open about their plans to displace the Palestinian population and colonize Gaza.

“Even if this war turns voluntary migration into a situation where it is forced, we must settle Gaza with security forces and settlers,” declared Israeli Communications Minister Shlomo Karai. “Encouraging emigration from Gaza is a necessity.”

And Minister of Finance and Additional Minister of Defense Bezalel Smotrich declared that, “Israeli soldiers waging war in Gaza will remain as settlers and rebuild settlements, we have come back to inherit the land.”

These calls for mass expulsion, starvation of the population and ethnic cleansing fly in the face of the recent International Criminal Justice provisional ruling, which ordered Israel to “take all measures within its power” to prevent genocide in Gaza, “prevent and punish the direct and public incitement to commit genocide in relation to members of the Palestinian group in the Gaza Strip,” and “enable the provision of urgently needed basic services and humanitarian assistance to address the adverse conditions of life faced by Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.”

And just days after the ICJ ordered Israel to allow humanitarian aid into Gaza, the United States, UK, and Germany suspended their funding to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, which provides humanitarian aid and key services to the Palestinian population. This move was prompted by an Israeli intelligence dossier which baselessly alleged UNRWA had been infiltrated by members of Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

Next phase of genocide

Make no mistake: While this resettlement plan unveiled at Sunday’s conference may be presented as a “security” necessity, it is nothing more than open colonization and land theft. Since Oct. 7, not only has Israel killed over 26,000 Palestinians in Gaza, it has destroyed hospitals, residential buildings, schools, mosques, and other critical infrastructure in a deliberate attempt to make life uninhabitable for those remaining in the strip. 

Resettlement of Gaza is Israel’s planned next phase of this genocide. The demands raised by the Palestine solidarity movement remain all the more urgent and imperative: End all U.S. aid to Israel! End the occupation!

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