Nothing is voluntary about fleeing Gaza and American bombs

Palestinians in a red car loaded on top with mattresses and other supplies

Palestinians in Gaza are fleeing south to Rafah and fearful of being forced into Egypt by Israeli occupation forces.

Ismael Mohamad UPI

Bezalel Smotrich, Israel’s finance minister, pushed ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from the Gaza Strip during a Sunday interview with Army Radio.

“We need to encourage immigration from there. If there were 100,000-200,000 Arabs in the Strip and not 2 million, the whole conversation about the day after [the war] would be completely different,” he asserted. “They want to leave. They have been living in a ghetto for 75 years and are in need.”

Saturday night Smotrich told Channel 12 news, “I’m for completely changing the reality in Gaza, having a conversation about settlements in the Gaza Strip … We’ll need to rule there for a long time … If we want to be there militarily, we need to be there in a civilian fashion.”

He further claimed that “Gazans are not innocent” and encouraged what he misleadingly termed “voluntary emigration.”

Itamar Ben-Gvir, Israel’s national security minister, quickly put himself on the same page.

He regards the onslaught against Palestinians in Gaza as an “opportunity to concentrate on encouraging the migration of the residents of Gaza.”

He added, “We cannot withdraw from any territory we are in in the Gaza Strip. Not only do I not rule out Jewish settlement there, I believe it is also an important thing.”

Tally Gotliv, a member of the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, tweeted much the same on 28 December. Israel, she maintained, “should fearlessly declare occupation and control of the northern Gaza Strip” and establish there both military bases and settlements.
Smotrich, Ben-Gvir and Gotliv – the latter of whom belongs to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party – are not alone among Israeli politicians in this determination to colonize Gaza once again.

There’s increasing Palestinian concern Israel will combine renewed illegal settlement activity in Gaza with the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians.

Mouin Rabbani, co-editor of Jadaliyya, recently noted that “alarm bells should have started ringing in early November when US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and other Western politicians began insisting there could be ‘no forcible displacement of Palestinians from Gaza.’”

He added, “Rather than rejecting any mass removal of Palestinians, Blinken and colleagues objected only to optically challenging expulsions at gunpoint. The option of ‘voluntary’ displacement by leaving residents of the Gaza Strip with no choice but departure was pointedly left open.”

Rabbani is presumably referencing a Blinken statement in Tokyo that the State Department referred The Electronic Intifada to when questioned about Palestinian fears that they will be forced into Egypt by the hundreds of thousands and never allowed to return.

There, Blinken spoke of the “conditions for durable peace and security.” He claimed, “The United States believes key elements should include no forcible displacement of Palestinians from Gaza – not now, not after the war.”

In that talk, Blinken also asserted, “No reoccupation of Gaza after the conflict ends. No attempt to blockade or besiege Gaza. No reduction in the territory of Gaza.”

All those – reoccupation, siege and territorial reduction – are very much in play.

The State Department would not answer a late December question from The Electronic Intifada about how many Palestinians have left Gaza since 7 October. A spokesperson did, however, note that “groups of foreign nationals, including US citizens, have been voluntarily departing Gaza through the Rafah crossing since November 1.”

The spokesperson added, “We have assisted over 1,300 US citizens, US Lawful Permanent Residents (LPRs) and family members in departing Gaza.”

The notion of “voluntarily departing Gaza” is alarming, precisely as Rabbani warned.

There is nothing voluntary about departing Gaza under massive Israeli bombardment from American-made bombs when 1 percent of Gaza’s population has been killed, over 2 percent injured and 85 percent displaced, fleeing from north to south time and again but finding no safe place.

CNN whitewash

Ron Dermer, Israel’s minister of strategic affairs and a member of the country’s war cabinet, charged by Netanyahu with designing a plan to “thin” Gaza’s population, was in Washington last week. No aspect of that plan – even to confirm its existence – was broached by CNN during Dermer’s visit.

Member of Knesset Danny Danon has attempted to disarm western leaders with ethnic cleansing-lite – a supposedly kinder, gentler, “voluntary” exile – writing in a Wall Street Journal op-ed that “one idea is for countries around the world to accept limited numbers of Gazan families who have expressed a desire to relocate.”

This is the same Danon who in 2011 talked up “deleting” neighborhoods in Gaza for “every missile that falls” in southern Israel.

Just days ago, he claimed, “I’m talking about voluntary migration by Palestinians who want to leave.” Each Israeli bomb and shell into a Palestinian home puts the lie to the notion any of this is “voluntary.”

None of this was raised with Danon on CNN as neighborhoods in Gaza are being “deleted” along with the people, dreams and beauty in them. Instead, he was given free rein to talk of “denazification” of Gaza even as it is Israel pursuing genocidal policies.

This failure to challenge Israeli officials on their culpability is right in line with CNN’s unwillingness to even raise the call for ethnic cleansing and genocide of Palestinians by Michele Bachmann, former Republican presidential candidate and current dean at Regent University in the state of Virginia.

The silence comes from the same network that has relentlessly pursued the university presidents of Harvard, Penn and MIT and the misguided notion that on-campus calls for intifada and from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free are genocidal.

“It’s time,” Bachmann says, “that Gaza ends.”

She adds, “The 2 million people who live there, they are clever assassins. They need to be removed from that land. That land needs to be turned into a national park.”

In a statement released by a university spokesperson, Bachmann asserted, “I did not call for the death or forced relocation of any Gazans.”

American weapons

Blinken and Israeli officials would be right at home with that euphemism: no “forced relocation.”

It’s just voluntary flight under the terror of US bunker buster bombs blasting through neighborhoods – including Jabaliya refugee campin Gaza.

And those aren’t the only weapons.

The Biden administration, for the second time in December, bypassed Congress with emergency military aid to Israel. This time it’s $147.5 million in 155 mm projectile shell ancillaries (fuzes, primers and charges).

The Defense Security Cooperation Agency noted on 29 December: “The proposed sale of this equipment and support will not alter the basic military balance in the region. It is incumbent on all countries to employ munitions consistent with international humanitarian law.”

Yet Oxfam wrote in October that “Israel’s use of this munition in past conflicts demonstrates that its use would be virtually assured to be indiscriminate, unlawful and devastating to civilians in Gaza.”

A US Department of State spokesperson told The Electronic Intifada on Saturday that “the US Conventional Arms Transfer Policy recognizes that human rights and civilian protection considerations are essential for decisions on arms transfers and US national security – that’s true for every country, including Israel.”

The spokesperson added, “We continue to strongly emphasize to the government of Israel that they must not only comply with international humanitarian law (IHL), but also take every feasible step to prevent harm to civilians.”

Yet President Joe Biden himself asserted in December that Israel is engaged in “indiscriminate bombing.”

This means war crimes.

Josh Paul, an arms expert who resigned his position at the State Department in October, said of the sale, “This is shameful, craven, and should frankly turn the stomach of any decent human being.”

With these shells, deemed indiscriminate by Oxfam, Biden is again directly implicating his administration in Israel’s crimes against the Palestinian people.


Michael F. Brown

Michael F. Brown is an independent journalist. His work and views have appeared in The International Herald Tribune,, The San Diego Union-Tribune, The News & Observer, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, The Washington Post and elsewhere.