Activists Protest Smotrich’s Visit to Washington


Several hundred concerned human rights, pro-Palestinian activists and Zionists demonstrated outside of the Grand Hyatt Hotel in downtown Washington on the evening of March 12 to protest the presence of Israel’s pro-settlement, far-right nationalist, Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, whose recent comments called for the annihilation of the small Palestinian village of Huwara. The village located near Nablus on the occupied West Bank was the scene where on February 26 two Israeli brothers while driving through were shot and killed by a Palestinian gunman. In the aftermath of the killings, several villages in the West Bank were attacked and burned by rampaging settlers seeking revenge and inflaming tensions further.

After concluding that collective punishment is a just means of “wiping the village out” Smotrich the leader of the Religious Zionist Party who calls himself a “fascist homophobe,” commented that the villages destruction should be done by the State. Worldwide condemnation soon followed that Smotrich responded to by blaming the press for taking his comments “out of context.”

Israeli former Prime Minister Yair Lapid reacted to Smotrich’s comments by characterizing them as an “incitement to a war crime.” While here in the US over 120 Jewish leaders and organizations have distanced themselves publicly from Smotrich by condemning him as a persona non grata.

Demonstrators reflected their disgust for Smotrich’s and his visit here this week to attend the Israel Bonds conference along with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu in comments on their signs and chants calling for an end to Israeli apartheid and for a free Palestine. The demonstration was divided into two parts one at each entrance of the hotel with the groups united in their disgust for Smotrich but divided on the question of Israel and Palestine.

A large group of Zionists carrying Israeli flags corralled behind police tape called for Smotrich’s removal from office while voicing concerns about Netanyahu and his right-wing government’s march towards an “undemocratic” Israel. One sign warned that in reference to the right-wing legislative attack on Israel’s Supreme Court, the country is in grave danger, while another large group of protesters marched in the street holding identical signs noting that there is “No Democracy Under Occupation.”

Pro-Palestinian activists across the street from the hotel chanted while displaying signs calling out Israel Bonds for its invitation to Smotrich in attending its conference and their complicity by investing in the increasingly apartheid fascist state. The demonstrators’ disgust for Smotrich was palpable as expressed in their signage along with chants and calls for divestment from Israel.

Activists and others who had demanded that the US State Department not issue a visa for Smotrich to attend the Israel Bonds conference here this week were bitterly disappointed when he received his visa. This was contrary to an earlier statement issued by the department characterizing Smotrich’s comments as “irresponsible, disgusting and repugnant” and that “…We condemn these provocative remarks that also amount to the incitement to violence” while calling for “Netanyahu and other senior Israeli officials to publicly and clearly disavow these comments.”

Israel Bonds in an attempt to defend their position for inviting Smotrich issued a statement reported by All Israel News saying, “We are a nonpartisan financial organization, which sells Israel bonds issued by the State of Israel through its Finance Ministry…One of the organization’s most unique and paramount attributes is that it remains unbiased with regard to any political party or affiliation, enabling all to show unwavering support for the wellbeing of Israel and its people, through investments in Israel bonds.”

With their stated intent of maintaining the “…wellbeing of Israel and its people” the group’s lack of moral and ethical courage in not condemning Smotrich’s morally repugnant, inhumane and racist comments has instead failed to meet their objective.

© 2023 nuzeink all rights reserved worldwide

Photo: Phil Pasquini

(This article has previously appeared in Nuzeink.)

Phil Pasquini is a freelance journalist and photographer. His reports and photographs appear in the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, Pakistan Link and He is the author of Domes, Arches and Minarets: A History of Islamic-Inspired Buildings in America.

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