The Israeli Parliament—the Knesset—held a special meeting on October 24 to specially honor one of Israel’s greatest champions of ethnic cleansing, assassinated former minister Rehavam Ze’evi, who was notorious for his anti-Arab politics and his open calls for the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu gives a speech during a Knesset session commemorating the assassination of former minister Rehavam Ze’evi, whose picture was displayed during the speeches.
Ze’evi was so hated by the Palestinians that he was the subject of a targeted assassinated in 2001 by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.
Speaking at the Knesset session, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hailed Ze’evi’s “great actions” and “clear Zionist vision”, saying that nothing can “erase his contributions to the struggle to establish the state and ensure its security”.
Isaac Herzog, leader of the left-wing Zionist Labour Party, also praised Ze’evi’s commitment to Israel’s “security”, adding: “His contribution in this regard will forever be remembered, and it will accompany the State of Israel in its struggle against those who seek to harm it.”
Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein said Ze’evi was “a man who devoted his entire life to the defence of the homeland”, describing him as “among an elite group of people who grew hand-in-hand with the State of Israel, who paved its way with their spirit and in their work.”
Ze’evi moved from the army into politics in the 1970s, going on to establish the Moledet (Homeland) party. Uniting with another small nationalist faction, Herut, to form the National Union, Ze’evi became a minister in Ariel Sharon’s 2001 government.
As reported at the time in the Guardian newspaper at the time of his appointment to the Sharon cabinet, Ze’evi wanted millions of Palestinians “expelled from the West Bank and Gaza Strip”, and thought “that Israel’s 1m Arab citizens should not be allowed to vote, because they do not serve in the army.”
Ze’evi believed that the “transfer” “could be accomplished by making the lives of Palestinians so miserable they would relocate”, and during a war “could be carried out by force”.
Ze’evi also demanded that Jordan was “part of Israel’s birth right,” and that all visitors to Israel must speak Hebrew.
“The Arabs living in the West Bank and Gaza have to be transferred to their forefather’s land,” he said, adding that he saw his (then) job in Sharon’s government as “encouraging emigration by banning Palestinians from working in Israel and closing factories and universities in the West Bank.”
His image was put on an Israeli postage stamp in 2002, a year after Palestinians assassinated him in Jerusalem.
During the latest commemoration ceremony, Netanyahu said Ze’evi’s years of public service stand in opposition of those who try to sully his name.
“The claims against him hurt all of us, and anyone who knew him and his great actions, but more than anyone, they hurt his family, because Gandhi [Ze’evi’s nickname] is unable to have his say,” Netanyahu said.
“This is a clear attempt to blur or erase his merits and his legacy, but it won’t happen. Boycotts won’t erase his contributions to the struggle to establish the state and ensure its security.”
Netanyahu vowed to memorialize Ze’evi, including in Samaria, in the West Bank, which the prime minister said Ze’evi considered “the cradle of the history of our nation.”