Activists for Palestinian liberation have long accused Israel of genocide and ethnic cleansing. Of course, this is a deeply controversial claim to make — so controversial, in fact, that national media has centered the question more so around whether the accusation can be made, rather than if the accusation is true. To publications like The Atlantic, the crimes of the Gaza war would seem to be occurring at American colleges rather than in the strip itself.

Columnists like the New York Times‘ Bret Stephens have characterized the charge of genocide as “a moral obscenity” and stated that “the discussion has turned to genocide […] because it’s the behavior of the Jewish state that’s in question.” This is the standard defense of Israel’s actions in this conflict: Charging its government with genocide is antisemitic. In fact, it is often antisemitic to even acknowledge the pleas of Palestinians for the bombing of their homes to cease.

There is one critical problem with this argument: Israeli officials cannot stop saying how much they want to ethnically cleanse Palestinians. It is an inconvenient fact for liberal defenders of Israel that its government is dominated by right-wing parties. Of the 120 seats in Israel’s unicameral Parliament, the Knesset, only 44 seats are held by parties that can (charitably) be called liberal or left, while the rest are held by parties that range from right-wing, to far-right, to far-right (settler interests), to religiously far-right, to religiously far-right (but different). Of the liberal/left parties, only 10 seats belong to those with a specific commitment to Israeli-Arab rights, despite that group making up over 20% of the population (although hundreds of thousands are not afforded voting rights).

As a result, Israel’s governing coalition is a patchwork of right-wing parties whose reactionary leaders hold powerful ministerial positions. Take, for example, coalition partner Otzma Yehudit (literally “Jewish Power”), an extreme far-right party descended from Kach — a banned political party designated a terrorist group by Israel, the EU, and the US. Its leader is Itamar Ben-Gvir, the current minister of national security. Ben-Gvir is a follower of the terrorist Meir Kahane, a man who advocated, among other things, the enslavement of Arabs. Ben-Gvir also hung in his living room a portrait of Baruch Goldstein, the terrorist and Kach member who massacred 29 Muslim worshippers at a mosque in 1994, removing it only in 2020 when other right-wingers said it was a bad look. A leader among settlers, he once said, “My right, the right of my wife and my children to move around Judea and Samaria [a religiously charged term for the West Bank] is more important than freedom of movement for the Arabs.” This is not a fringe backbencher MK advocating for these genocidal positions; this is the sitting Minister of National Security. Imagine U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin explicitly saying that he believed an ethnic group should be discriminated against.

You can also look at Minister of Finance Bezalel Smotrich, the leader of “National-Religious Party–Religious Zionism,” who once was detained by Shin Bet (Israel’s FBI) for his involvement in a 2005 plot to blow up part of a highway being used to move Jewish settlers from the Gaza strip. He advocates annexing all Palestinian land and forcing the population to either leave or to live as permanent second-class citizens in Israel. He once called for a Palestinian city, already victimized by settler violence, to be razed, saying “I think that Huwara needs to be erased.”

In the center of all this is Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the leader of Likud, and a man indicted on bribery, corruption, and fraud. Throughout his career as the longest-serving PM in Israel’s history, he has worked tirelessly and proudly to expand settlements and to prevent the creation of the Palestinian state, going so far as funding Hamas for decades to hamper the possibility of a Palestinian state. Others in his administration agreed, with Smotrich characterizing Hamas as “an asset.” He recently bragged about his work thwarting Palestinian self-determination, saying, “Everyone understands what would have happened if we had capitulated to international pressures and enabled a state like that in Judaea and Samaria.” Netanyahu’s leadership has shown a clear disdain for peaceful solutions to the conflict, overseeing numerous bombing campaigns against Palestinians, including 2014’s Operation Protective Edge (in collaboration with Benny Gantz, alleged liberal and political frenemy), during which Israel killed thousands of Palestinians, the majority of them civilians.

It is hard to argue that Israel is a rule-abiding member of the international community when, in the immediate aftermath of an International Court of Justice ruling that Israel must suppress and punish genocidal language, 11 cabinet members and 15 coalition members attended a conference that advocated the “voluntary migration” of Palestinians. Many participants carried guns, and shirts were sold bearing the slogan “Gaza is part of the land of Israel.” You don’t have to be a student of history to understand what the far-right intends when it’s arming paramilitaries, claiming lands where ethnic “others” reside, and calling for a policy of “voluntary migration.”

The Israeli government and its leaders have demonstrated time and time again that they have no intention of working towards any amount of Palestinian sovereignty, no care for Palestinian lives, no real concern for international laws against settlements, and that a genocidal hatred towards Arabs does not disqualify attainment of high-level governmental positions. Although Netanyahu is a deeply unpopular figure for his failure to prevent the violence of Oct. 7, his party and its coalition members hold a clear majority in Israeli politics, and radical action against Palestinians, such as calling for them to be starved, is widespread.

Many attempts have been made to satisfy American public concern by hand-waving away the horrifying rhetoric of the current Israeli administration. The uncomfortable truth is that the people making these statements hold state power, and wield it with intent to kill. The United States is damaging its global standing by bankrolling and diplomatically supporting this far-right regime that defies international law and openly discusses its plans for continued expansion.

In a conflict where disagreements run to the core of peoples’ beings, it’s unusual to find shared beliefs between Israeli officials and Palestinians. However, here we might be able to identify one: Palestinians say Israeli officials want to violently expel them from their homes and take their land. Israeli officials agree.

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