Background: Hawara. The slain Yaniv brothers
Background: Hawara. The slain Yaniv brothersצילומים: Nasser Ishtayeh/Flash90 ובאדיבות המצלם

When discussing judicial reform and opposition to it, people on both sides of the issue raise the problem with Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich and, depending on what one thinks of the man, either his "despicable racism" or his apparent inability to curb what comes out of his mouth.

He caused a domestic and international storm when he said that Hawara, an Arab town in Samaria, should be wiped out. While his statement came after vigilantes set fire to cars and buildings, he did not say the wiping out should be done by vigilantes. Whether by vigilantes or the government, expressing the idea of wiping out an Arab town, even one that spawned a number of terrorists, horrified many and Smotrich was forced to apologize for his statement, claiming he made it while intensely emotionally aroused given the frequent terror attacks against Jews, especially the murder of two brothers as they drove through Hawara hours before the vigilantes sought revenge.

Those who were happy when the current coalition was sworn in cringed at Smotrich’s statement. Those who deplore the government added this sin to the list of sins some of its members committed in the past and will surely commit in the future.

The thought of wiping out an Arab town today likely arouses guilt among Jews who feel they must apologize for the depopulation of Arab villages in what became Israel during Israel’s War of Independence, whether they were expelled by the Jews or fled on their own out of fear.

The accusation of ethnic cleansing is consistently raised by anti-Zionist propagandists in Israel and the world. Anti-Zionist organizations argue that Israel is stealing land from the Palestinian Authority. Were Hawara to be demolished, it would feed so nicely into that demonization of Israel.

The destruction of Jewish communities by Israel, on the other hand, is regarded as just and appropriate by those who claim to be pro-Palestinian, both inside Israel and internationally. In 1982, the city of Yamit in the Sinai was bulldozed and the 2500 residents were expelled by their own government as part of the peace agreement with Egypt. In 2005, the Sharon government evicted residents from 21 communities in Gaza and four in northern Samaria. The residents of these communities did nothing more violent than live on the land as Jews.

Israeli and non-Israeli pro-Arab Palestinians, many of whom claim to have nothing against the Jewish state, also seem to have nothing against the ethnic cleansing of the approximately 500,000 Jews currently living in communities and towns in Judea and Samaria. This would be the price of peace according to the Two State Solution some apparently still believe tenable; the Palestinian state will be judenrein while Israel, of course, will continue to have a considerable Arab population. This seems to raise no eyebrows among leaders and citizens of countries around the world, whether they believe Israel has a right to exist or not.

Israeli and non-Israeli pro-Aab Palestinians, many of whom claim to have nothing against the Jewish state, also do not see any hypocrisy in their responses to Smotrich’s expressed desire to wipe out Hawara and the lack of any acknowledgement of the ethnic cleansing of the Jewish population of Judea, Samaria, and the Old City of Jerusalem in 1948. All residents of six kibbutzim in the Etzion Bloc and north of the Dead Sea, two communities north of Jerusalem, and the ancient Jewish quarters of Hebron and Jerusalem were killed or forced to flee as the land came under Jordanian occupation. Reminding people of this when discussing/debating/arguing over land issues generally results in admonitions that that is irrelevant to the current situation.

Without endorsing Smotrich’s statement, the knee-jerk reaction to it should be examined in view of the apparent eager endorsement by so many of suggestions that Jewish communities be wiped out.

Sheri Oz is a freelance writer whose articles appear on major websites and a member of the Arutz Sheva news staff. She has lived in Israel for over 40 years and blogs at Israel Diaries.