Deputy Economy Minister Yair Golan of the Meretz party came under widespread criticism after he dubbed settlers at the West Bank Homesh outpost “subhuman” on Thursday, in response to the vandalism of gravestones by Jewish settlers in a nearby Palestinian village.
Golan said in an interview with the Knesset's television station that “We, members of the Jewish people, which has suffered pogroms throughout history, come and perpetrate a pogrom on others. These aren't people. They're subhuman.”
The Meretz lawmaker also called for the settlers to be removed from the site by force, and for "law and order" to be restored to the area. "This extremist, nationalist wild behavior will bring disaster upon us," he said, calling the settlers "a malfunction of the Jewish people."
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The Homesh settlement was evacuated by the Israeli government in 2005 at the time of Israel's withdrawal from Gaza, but a yeshiva has been operating at the site. One of its students, Yehuda Dimentman, was killed in a shooting attack there last month. Since then, West Bank settlers have perpetrated a number of violent incidents against Palestinians living in nearby villages. In the village of Burqa gravestones were smashed and homes and cars there and in the town of Sebastia were stoned.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett took to Twitter, calling Golan's comments “shocking generalizing and bordering on blood libel. Settlement activity in the West Bank represents modern-day pioneering.” Quoting the 2nd century B.C.E Hasmonean Jewish Simon Thassi, Bennett added: “We didn't take a land of the gentiles…but rather the inheritance of our forefathers.”
In response to the criticism, Golan said “I commented in my remarks on those vandalizing, attacking innocent people and destroying property that is not theirs. What is the correct way to relate to those people? How should these people be described? The time has come to tell the truth. This isn't our Judaism.”
Opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu said Golan's comments were “taken from Nazi terminology,” and called on Bennett to dismiss Golan. “Those settling in Judea and Samaria are not 'subhuman,'” Netanyahu said, “The settlers are Zionist pioneers who are settling the inheritance of our forefathers. “Bennett must dismiss Yair Golan this very day,” he said.
Defense Minister Benny Gantz said he roundly condemns Golan's comments. “In addition to the fact that one must act according to the law, these are people with values, who love the land and the country no less than anyone else. As elected officials, we have a duty to promote unifying discourse rather than divisive discourse.”
"It appears that this man has lost all restraint and any shadow of sanity," a statement from the Yesha Council of settlements said, referring to Golan. "Prime Minister Naftali Bennett: condemning the deputy minister's remarks is not enough. We're asking that you act against the wild incitement being voiced in this government against the residents of Judea and Samaria. The pioneers of Homesh must not become the punching bag of elected officials,” the statement added.