Understanding the Impact of Calls for Forced Migrations in Gaza

The conflict between Israel and Gaza has long been marked by periods of intense violence and strained relations. The Oct. 7, 2023, Hamas attacks and the subsequent Israeli retaliation have once again brought this conflict to the forefront of international attention. Amid the escalating violence, a growing number of Israeli politicians, including cabinet members, have used a language that Jews who want just piece should unequivocally condemn. A few weeks ago, 11 ministers and 15 parliamentarians within Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition government participated in a conference advocating for the resettlement of the Gaza Strip by Israelis and the promotion of forced migration of Palestinians to other locations.

Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich recently advocated for drastically reducing Gaza’s Palestinian population. The chairman of the Religious Zionism Party asserted that regaining security requires Israel to control the Gaza Strip, emphasizing, “in order to control the territory militarily over time, you must also have civilian presence there.” Smotrich’s proposition to significantly decrease Gaza’s population under the pretext of security considerations reflects a perilous mindset prioritizing territorial dominance at the expense of the rights and dignity of the Palestinian people.

Jews who want just peace should unequivocally condemn calls for the forced migration of Palestinians to other locations.

Likud Knesset member Danny Danon called for the facilitation of Gazans leaving for South America and Africa. While framed as a humanitarian gesture, Danon’s suggestion ignores the fact that many Palestinians in Gaza have ties to the land and these Palestinians’ connections to their cultural, historical and familial roots. Furthermore, the notion of external countries absorbing Gazan refugees as a solution to the conflict fails to address the root causes of the conflict and absolves Israel of its role in the suffering of Gazan civilians.

In a similar vein, Intelligence Minister Gila Gamliel’s proposal for countries to take in the residents of Gaza under the guise of “voluntary migration” is equally problematic. Such suggestions not only undermine the right of Palestinians to self-determination but also perpetuate the narrative of dispossession and displacement that has characterized the Palestinian experience for decades. The severe psychological and emotional trauma that forced migrations can cause is of no concern for Gamliel either. While Netanyahu distanced himself from such calls and insisted that Israel will not force migration, there are still several government officials and political leaders in Israel calling for the forced displacement of Gazan Palestinians.

Throughout history, forced migrations have been marked by profound negative consequences, causing enduring impacts on affected populations, and exacerbating tensions and conflicts. The mass movement of populations between the newly formed states of India and Pakistan led to mass violence in 1947. The Darfur conflict in Sudan has led to forced migrations and displacement of millions, creating a humanitarian crisis and contributing to ongoing tensions in the region. Widespread violence and ethnic cleansing by the Myanmar military have forced hundreds of thousands of Rohingya to flee to neighboring Bangladesh, creating a humanitarian crisis with overcrowded refugee camps and inadequate living conditions. The scars of these forced migrations persist to this day, contributing to enduring tensions in the respective regions.

The Israeli government representatives’ calls promoting the ideas of expulsion and resettlement are reprehensible and counterproductive to peace and stability in the region.

Forced migration would not resolve the current humanitarian crisis in Gaza but would further exacerbate human suffering. The Israeli government representatives’ calls promoting the ideas of expulsion and resettlement are reprehensible and counterproductive to peace and stability in the region. Our Jewish tradition places a strong emphasis on the sanctity of life and the inherent value of every human being as being created in the image of God. The forced displacement of Palestinians from their homes not only violates their basic human rights but desecrates the sanctity of life and undermines the fundamental dignity of every individual. A forced migration disregards the inherent value and dignity of Palestinian individuals, treating them as pawns in a larger geopolitical game.

The forced migration discourse within Israeli politics reflects a complex interplay of ideological motivations and strategic considerations. At its core, it intersects with various strands of Zionist thought and political agendas, each with its own vision for the future of Israel and the Palestinian territories. One significant ideological thread is the influence of messianic Zionism, which seeks to hasten the coming of the Messiah through the possession of the entire Land of Israel. This perspective often advocates for expansive territorial claims and is rooted in religious beliefs about the Divine promise of the land to the Jewish people. For adherents of this ideology, the forced displacement of Palestinians from Gaza and the West Bank may be seen as a means to fulfill a larger religious and historical mission, regardless of the humanitarian consequences.

Messianic Zionism seeks to hasten the coming of the Messiah through the possession of the entire Land of Israel.

Alongside messianic Zionism, there exists a strain of right-wing tribalism that prioritizes the safety and well-being of Jewish Israelis above all else. This perspective tends to view security concerns as paramount and is often inclined towards forced migration to mitigate perceived threats. Both of these ideologies stand in contrast to the principles outlined in Israel’s Declaration of Independence, which envisions a state founded on the values of democracy, pluralism, and equal rights for all its citizens, regardless of ethnicity or religion. The forced migration discourse, with its focus on population displacement and territorial control, challenges this vision and raises fundamental questions about the future character of the Israeli state. Even talking about forced migration reinforces divisions and perpetuates injustice. As Israel grapples with its identity as both a Jewish state and a democracy, the forced migration discourse serves as a stark reminder of the challenges inherent in reconciling these competing aspirations.

One Response

  1. Thank you Rabbi Armin. (I enjoyed your series on YouTube on Recon 101, btw. Very helpful for me.) I share your concerns and perspective. I am very suspicious of the pier being built by the US, which Netanyahu recently referenced as an avenue for Palestinians to leave Gaza.

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