JerusalemCNN — The United States and European Union Friday slammed comments by far-right Israeli National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir that his right to life outweighs Palestinians’ right to freedom of movement in the occupied West Bank.
“We strongly condemn Minister Ben Gvir’s racist, destructive comments on the freedom of movement of Palestinian residents of the West Bank,” a US State Department spokesperson said.
“Such messages are particularly damaging when amplified by those in leadership positions… President [Joe] Biden and Secretary [of State Antony] Blinken have been clear that both Israelis and Palestinians deserve to enjoy equal measures of freedom and security.”
The European Union also strongly condemned the remarks, saying: “All human beings are equal and should be treated the same way.”
Ben Gvir said Wednesday on Israel’s Channel 12 that his right, his wife’s right and his children’s right to walk through the streets of the West Bank was “much more important” than “Arabs’ right to movement and travel – excuse me, Mohammed, but this is the reality. This is the truth. My right to life outweighs your right to move on the streets.”
The “excuse me, Mohammed,” remark was addressed to Palestinian-Israeli journalist Mohammed Magadli, who was sitting across from him in the interview.
Ben Gvir’s far-right Jewish Power party draws support mainly from Israeli settlers in the occupied West Bank, and Ben Gvir is himself a settler.
The EU said in its condemnation of Ben Gvir that “settlements are illegal under international law, constitute an obstacle to peace and threaten to make a two state solution impossible.” Israel argues the settlements are not illegal because it claims the West Bank is disputed, not occupied, territory.
The United States frequently says that it considers settlements in the area Israel captured in 1967 to be an obstacle to peace.
Palestinians want the West Bank to be part of a future Palestinian state.
The Palestinian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said it “condemns in the strongest terms the racist and heinous remarks made by Israel’s fascist Minister Itamar Ben Gvir… Israel’s systematic hate speech, provocative rhetoric, violence and dehumanization of the Palestinian people across decades are fomenting mass violence at unprecedented levels,” and called for sanctions on Ben Gvir and other Israeli officials “for inciting violence and destruction and knowingly leading and contributing to the mass persecution of the Palestinian people.”