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Israel-Palestine war: Occupied West Bank home to 'two million Nazis' says Smotrich

Far-right finance minister is latest senior Israeli to make broad-brush inflammatory statements about Palestinians
Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich in the city of Petah Tikva on 17 August 2023 (Reuters)

Israel’s far-right Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich claimed on Monday that “there are two million Nazis” in the occupied West Bank.

Smotrich made the comments on X, formerly known as Twitter, in response to an interview given by a Palestinian official belonging to Fatah, which as the main faction of the Palestinian Authority has nominal control over parts of the occupied West Bank.

The Palestinian politician suggested that the 7 October attack did not happen in a vacuum but against the backdrop of the ongoing Israeli occupation. 

“A reminder to those who have not yet sobered up and think that the Nazis in Judea and Samaria are different from the Nazis in Gaza,” said Smotrich, referring to the occupied West Bank by its biblical names. 

“We will strengthen the settlement and cripple the Nazis wherever they are to ensure ‘never again!',” he added. 

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Since the Hamas-led assault on southern Israel on 7 October, Israeli officials have sought to draw a parallel between Hamas and the Nazis.

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In some instances supporters of Israel have even tried to suggest that Hamas members are worse than the Nazis.

Hamas-led Palestinian fighters killed around 1,200 Israelis on 7 October.

Israel has killed more than 15,000 Palestinians in Gaza in retaliation, including more than 6,150 children and 4,000 women. 

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the country’s ambassador to the United Nations, Gilad Erdan, have sought to make similar comparisons internationally.

Last month, Erdan pinned a yellow star to his chest, which the Nazis forced their Jewish victims to do, insisting he would wear it “with pride” so long as the UN Security Council did not condemn the Hamas assault.

Yad Vashem response

But not everyone is happy about such comparisons.

The head of Israel's Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial condemned Erdan for "dishonouring" the memory of Holocaust victims.

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Yad Vashem head Dani Dayan described the stunt as one that “dishonours both the victims of the Holocaust and the State of Israel”.

Netanyahu has also called the 7 October attacks the worst against the Jewish people since the Holocaust.

Yad Vashem, however, has cautioned against making such comparisons.

In a statement it said that while Hamas’s actions were “genocidal in its intents” it didn’t warrant a Holocaust comparison.

“Part of why it differs from the Holocaust is because Jews have today a state and an army. We are not defenceless and at the mercy of others,” said Yad Vashem.

“One must be careful not to jump to conclusions equating the two until sufficient research is done, delving into the underlying aspects of these two ideologies,” Dayan told the Jewish News Syndicate.

“Comparisons to historic events must be addressed carefully, not to belittle or marginalise both the past and present. If everything is a Holocaust, then what is a Holocaust? If nothing can be compared to a Holocaust, how can we learn to recognise certain trends and ensure that they never repeat themselves?” Yad Vashem added in its statement.

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