Israel allies reject ‘displacement’ of Palestinians from Gaza Strip

(Ottawa) Countries traditionally aligned with Israel are warning its right-wing government against the idea of ​​moving residents of the Gaza Strip, while Israeli officials often suggest that Canada could welcome Palestinians.

Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich said this week that his country should “encourage the migration” of Palestinians from Gaza and restore Israeli settlements there, echoing similar comments from National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir.

US State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller condemned the “inflammatory and irresponsible” remarks by the two Israeli ministers. French President Emmanuel Macron called them “unacceptable”, while the German Foreign Ministry rejected the comments “in the strongest possible terms”, with a spokesperson saying they did nothing to promote peace in the Middle East.

Last month, members of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party reportedly discussed which countries would be willing to accept Palestinians from Gaza as refugees.

A daily article Israel Hayom cites anonymous sources who say a Knesset member brought up Canada, mentioning the new federal program that offers limited visas to relatives of Canadian citizens seeking to leave Gaza. The content of the article has not been independently verified by The Canadian Press.

A spokeswoman for Canadian Immigration Minister Marc Miller said Canada would not tolerate the mass displacement of Palestinians.

“In response to the situation in Gaza, our priority is to reunite families in a way that does not hinder their ability to return to Gaza, when circumstances permit,” Mr. Miller, Bahoz Dara Aziz.

Minister Miller said in a social media post last week that he had never discussed moving Gaza residents out of the Hamas-controlled Palestinian territory, and his office did not immediately respond to a request for additional comments.


Canadian Immigration Minister Marc Miller

“Ridiculous that I feel compelled to say this, but at no time have I discussed with anyone in the Israeli government the so-called ‘voluntary transfer’ of Gaza residents out of Gaza,” Minister Miller wrote on 29 December on the X platform. “Anyone who claims otherwise is speaking through their hat,” he continued in English.

Mr. Miller’s office says he has had no contact with the Israeli government.

Ottawa was expected to launch a temporary immigration program next week for extended family members of Canadians stuck in the besieged Gaza Strip. The program would offer three-year visas to up to 1,000 Palestinians who have family members willing to support them during their stay in Canada.

“Ethnic cleansing”?

During the first month of this most recent war between Israel and Hamas, an Israeli government ministry drafted a proposal to transfer the 2.3 million Palestinians living in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip to Egypt and to resettle them in other countries.

The ministerial note specifically noted that Canada’s “lenient” immigration practices could make the country a resettlement destination. Israeli officials confirmed the veracity of the document, but said the proposal did not constitute government policy.

In November, Ram Ben Barak, former deputy director of Mossad, Israel’s intelligence agency, declared on national television that for Palestinians, “it is better to be a refugee in Canada” than to live in Gaza.

Professor Thomas Juneau of the University of Ottawa said recent statements by Ministers Smotrich and Ben Gvir amount to “open advocacy of the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians.”

Last month, the UN special rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced people, Paula Gaviria Betancur, warned that Israel appeared to be seeking to permanently change the composition of the population from Gaza.

“As evacuation orders and military operations continue to multiply and civilians are subjected to relentless attacks on a daily basis, the only logical conclusion is that the Israeli military operation in Gaza aims to expel the majority of the population en masse. civilian population,” Gaviria Betancur wrote in a December 22 statement.

Israeli government spokesman Eylon Levy responded by saying his country had asked the Palestinians to move to a humanitarian zone within the Gaza Strip, from which Hamas then launched rockets.

“We want civilians to be protected in areas where Hamas is not already using them as human shields,” Mr. Levy wrote on social media on December 26.

“The only people who encourage the mass displacement of Gaza residents are those who falsely label most of them as ‘refugees’ and realize their dream of settling in Israel through violent struggle, instead of live in peace alongside us. »

Peace through the ousting of the Palestinians?

The war began after Hamas militants carried out attacks in southern Israel on October 7, killing around 1,200 people and taking around 240 hostages. Since then, Gaza has been subject to near-constant bombardment, with local officials saying the Israeli military response has killed more than 22,300 people so far.

The Palestinian ambassador to Canada, Mona Abuamara, has repeatedly stated that her people fear that Israel wants to oust the Palestinians from the Gaza Strip and take it over.

“You see these ministers talking about destroying cities (or) dropping a nuclear bomb on the Palestinian people,” Abuamara, who represents the Palestinian general delegation to Canada, in an interview last month.

In November, Prime Minister Netanyahu suspended his Heritage Minister, Amichai Eliyahu, who had said in an interview that dropping a nuclear bomb on Gaza was an option. In March, Minister Smotrich called for “wiping out” the village of Huwara, in the West Bank, following violence between Israeli settlers and Palestinians.

“Israel wants – and you hear it every day – to send back all the residents of Gaza. This is a solution that they believe would bring the calm they want,” said Abuamara, who believes many Israelis disagree with what their country’s government is doing. “The Palestinian people do not want to leave their land. »

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