REVEALED: Israel’s Plan for Ethnic Cleansing of Palestinians from Gaza (Urgent Policy Brief Update)

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Urgent Policy Brief - UPDATE – 25 October 2023

The UN Secretary General addressed the Security Council on October 24th recognizing that the recent crisis “did not happen in a vacuum.” The crucial context includes 16 years of an illegal Israeli siege, 56 years of a brutal and unlawful Israeli military occupation, and 75 years of Israeli apartheid. Israel’s ongoing “genocidal” war on Gaza is rooted in this history and linked to the ongoing forcible displacement and dispossession of Palestinians in the occupied West Bank (most aggressively in and around East Jerusalem, the Jordan Valley, and South Hebron hills), as well as in the Galilee and Naqab (Negev). 

Ethnic Cleansing Plans In Gaza

On October 25th, a prominent Israeli newspaper revealed an Israeli plan to ethnically cleanse the 2.3 million Palestinians, or most of them, from the occupied and besieged Gaza Strip to Egypt. The leaked document, produced by the office of the Israeli Minister of Intelligence, recommends the forcible transfer to follow Israel’s current offensive in Gaza, for its “positive and long-term strategic” outcomes.  

Israeli current and former officials subscribe to similar plans. Giora Eiland, former head of Israel’s National Security Council, proposed that Palestinians in Gaza be instructed to “leave for Egypt or gather on the seashore” while Israel renders the territory “temporarily, or permanently, impossible to live in.” Former Israeli ambassador to the US, Danny Ayalon, argued that “Gazans have large areas in the Sinai into which they can evacuate” and where the international community can “set up tent cities for them.” Energy Minister Israel Katz instructed “[a]ll the civilian population” in Gaza “to leave immediately.” Likud MK Ariel Kallner wished for Gaza “a Nakba that will overshadow the Nakba of 48.” In 2014, deputy speaker of the Israeli parliament Moshe Feiglin presented a similar plan. 

Around the time when Israel ordered the 1.1 million Palestinians to “evacuate” the north of Gaza and head south, a think tank closely linked to Israeli PM Netanyahu’s Office and headed by ex-national security officials proposed a plan for “resettlement and final rehabilitation in Egypt of the entire population of Gaza.” In reaction, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights Situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories warned of “mass ethnic cleansing.”

Egypt, supported by the Arab League and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, has resolutely rejected these Israeli plans, reminding Israel, the Occupying Power, that forcible displacement of Palestinians constitutes a war crime.

These current and previous Israeli plans for ethnic cleansing reflect what Palestinians call, an “ongoing Nakba” of never ending forcible displacement and dispossession. Last March, Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, a self-declared “fascist,” called for the Palestinian town of Huwara to be erased. Later that month, he said “there is “no such thing” as a Palestinian people. In 2017, he had proposed the creation of “a clear and irreversible reality [of Jewish theocracy] on the ground” to end any “illusions of a Palestinian state.”

Deadly Year in the West Bank

Over the summer, three Palestinian communities in the West Bank have been ethnically cleansed. Since October 7th, under the cover of “war” and with unprecedented impunity based on military, financial and diplomatic support from the US and major European powers, fanatic Israeli settlers, emboldened and enabled by Israel’s far-right government, have forcibly displaced at least 82 Palestinian households from villages across the occupied West Bank.

While at an entirely different scale, Israeli ongoing war crimes in the West Bank have accelerated since October 7th. But even before, 2023 was already one of the deadliest in terms of Israeli forces and settlers’ killings of Palestinians, and the deadliest year on record for Palestinian children in the West Bank. Since October 7th, over 100 Palestinians, including children, have been murdered in the West Bank by Israeli forces and settlers. While Israel’s policy of arbitrary detention and torture has been rampant for decades, following October 7th, such criminal practices have taken a horrendous turn comparable only to torture at the US Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. 

Starvation As a Weapon

Israel’s ethnic cleansing plan is one expression of its “genocidal intent,” as noted by prominent international scholars, including genocide experts, as well as by US and Palestinian human rights organizations. Oxfam just released a report confirming Palestinian organizations’ evidence of Israel’s “use of starvation as a weapon of war” against civilians in Gaza. Israeli genocide scholar Raz Segal has described the Gaza situation as “a textbook case of genocide,” while UN experts have called for the “prevention of genocide.” 

States including South Africa and Algeria have condemned Israel’s genocidal war in Gaza at the UNSC debate on October 24th. Other states have pointed to systematic violations of international law including war crimes and crimes against humanity by Israel against Palestinians. 

“With the establishment of a relationship of oppression, violence has already begun. Never in history has violence been initiated by the oppressed….violence is initiated by those who oppress, who exploit, who fail to recognize others as persons—not by those who are oppressed, exploited, and unrecognized.” – Brazilian philosopher Paulo Freire

Ceasefire an Urgent NecessityIsrael’s 75-year-old regime of settler-colonialism and apartheid, the root cause of the current violence, must be addressed to end all violence and for the Palestinian people to exercise its inalienable right to self-determination and the return of refugees as per UNGA resolution 194. A ceasefire in Gaza  and upholding international law are an immediate necessity. If Israel refuses, the UN expert on housing rights suggests for the UNGA to “unseat Israel to bring about a ceasefire and [its compliance] with international law,” as it did “in 1974 to apartheid South Africa.” 

This update is to the URGENT Policy Brief of October 23rd, which details Palestinian civil society demands.