Israel’s Smotrich: 'There's no such thing as Palestinians'
"There's no such thing as Palestinians because there's no such thing as a Palestinian people," Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich declared on Sunday at a memorial service for a late Likud activist in Paris.
The far-right lawmaker said that the Palestinian people were "an invention" cooked up in the 20th century to fight Zionism and that it was people like him and his grandparents who were the "real Palestinians".
'Do you know who are the Palestinians? I'm Palestinian'
- Bezalel Smotrich, Israeli minister
Speaking at a podium adorned with a map based on the crest of the Zionist Irgun militia, which shows Israel straddling the West Bank and Jordan, Smotrich said that the French and US governments needed to hear "this truth" about the Palestinians.
“Do you know who are the Palestinians?” the head of the ultra-nationalist Religious Zionism party said. "I'm Palestinian."
Smotrich referred to his grandmother, who was born in the northern Israeli town of Metula over a century ago, and his late grandfather, who was a 13th-generation Jerusalemite.
Smotrich has previously said that his surname is derived from the Ukrainian town of Smotrych, where he has said his ancestors lived.
The map shown on the podium Smotrich was speaking at also showed parts of Syria and Lebanon, regions included in the concept of Eretz Yisrael - Greater Israel - a key part of ultra-nationalist Zionism that claims all of these lands for a Zionist state.
Last week, a team representing the British Consulate General in Jerusalem running in the Palestine marathon was heavily criticised in Israel for wearing t-shirts that showed a map of historic Palestine.
French government won't meet Smotrich
Smotrich's appearance at the memorial of the late Likud activist Jacques Kupfer was supposed to be sponsored by the Jewish National Fund (JNF), but the organisation removed its support because of the minister's appearance, Haaretz reported.
The French foreign ministry announced last week that government representatives in Paris did not intend to meet with Smotrich during his visit to the country.
At the end of February, the minister said that the state of Israel should "wipe out" the Palestinian village of Huwwara, after it was subjected to a violent rampage by Israeli settlers.
Former Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz has said that Smotrich, who has also called himself a "proud homophobe", wants "another Nakba".