Will segregationist Bezalel Smotrich be welcomed to Washington?

Bezalal Smotrich joins other people marching in Sheikh Jarrah

Bezalel Smotrich (center) has long pushed anti-Palestinian racism and ethnic cleansing.

Ilia Yefimovich DPA

Israeli finance minister Bezalel Smotrich, a proponent of ethnic cleansing and segregation, is scheduled to address the Development Corporation for Israel, also known as Israel Bonds, in Washington when it meets from 12-14 March.

Worldwide sales of Israel bonds have surpassed $48 billion since 1951 on behalf of Israel and an economy built on top of dispossessed Palestinians. The organization openly notes its efforts to advance an exclusivist state, asserting that “the vital funds Israel receives from the purchase of Israel bonds for donations enables the strengthening of a strong, proud Jewish nation.”

The Adalah Justice Project has organized a petition calling on the US State Department to block Smotrich’s travel to the US.

On Thursday, Israel Bonds issued its first statement following Smotrich’s comment that “the village of Huwwara needs to be wiped out” and it should be carried out by “the state of Israel.” In addition to being Israel’s finance minister, Smotrich also serves as a minister in the defense ministry, giving his words – and judicial reform – added weight while raising the prospect of future prosecution in the International Criminal Court.

State Department spokesperson Ned Price called Smotrich’s statement “irresponsible,” “repugnant” and “disgusting,” language far stronger than he uses when Israel “legally” (under Israeli, though not international, law) destroys Palestinian villages and homes.

In the statement, Israel Bonds made clear its intention to proceed with the event. This is not surprising when one examines the political views of members of the board of directors, all of whom are advocates for the apartheid state of Israel.

“As part of their long-established responsibilities, Israel’s finance ministers from across the political spectrum have historically, over Israel Bonds’ 72-year history, attended our events. 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.”

“Unbiased” despite clear evidence of overwhelming bias, 40 flavors all vanilla, apartheid lite (whatever that is) to ultra apartheid, Israel Bonds welcomes them all. It’s been apartheid all along, now it’s just particularly visible even to those loath to face facts and even then Israel Bonds won’t budge.

No matter how racist Israel has been, is or becomes, it has a friend in Israel Bonds.

In fact, Israel Bonds displays a map depicting an Israel that includes the occupied West Bank and occupied Golan Heights, making clear that bond purchases contribute to the ongoing dispossession of Palestinians in the West Bank and the expropriation of Syrian territory.

A press officer from Israel Bonds did not respond to questions from The Electronic Intifada.

Israel Bonds leadership

Obviously, everyone on the national board of directors for Israel Bonds is a staunch supporter of Israel. But actively engaging with Smotrich just days after a very public call for ethnic cleansing suggests they’re confident Republicans and Democrats alike will not make a major issue of the visit and that the mainstream American media will largely ignore it.

Fred S. Zeidman is one of the board members.

Writing in The Hill with Democrat Steve Israel during 2019, the Republican Zeidman, who is also on the board of directors of the right-wing Jewish Institute for National Security of America (JINSA), commented: “The only democracy in the region, Israel has an exemplary record of human rights that celebrates due process. Its judicial system has investigated, prosecuted and jailed its own leaders.”

That was never true of Israel’s human rights record and the statement ignores those aspects of Israel’s judicial system bolstering apartheid. The comment has aged particularly poorly in the past four years. And it is of course noteworthy that Smotrich wants to make an apartheid friendly judicial system even worse.

William Z. Fox, another Israel Bonds board member, who previously served on AIPAC’s national council, wrote in 2020 that Black Americans have a “mindset of entitlement that somehow causes minorities to destroy their own businesses, neighborhoods and communities when they get angry at injustices – real or perceived.”

Fox, then, is not merely anti-Palestinian but harbors anti-Black racist views as well.

He also noted, “I strongly disagree with the radical left that says we must ‘reinvent American capitalism to create opportunity for all.’ With all due respect, those are just buzz words — there is opportunity for all.”

According to Baltimore Jewish Times, Fox has spent time on “the national board of the Friends of the Israel Defense Forces and is one of the founders of FIDF’s Baltimore chapter.” In December 2021, Baltimore Jewish Times reported he and his wife Myra were “honored for their contributions at an annual FIDF gala with over 500 attendees.”

FIDF enables Americans to make tax-deductible contributions to the Israeli military, which in turn routinely violates Palestinian rights. FIDF contributions have gone to Netzah Yehuda, the battalion that killed Palestinian American great-grandfather Omar Assad in January 2022.

Ken Goldberg sits on the board of Israel Bonds, too.

In a short piece for the Texas Jewish Post, Goldberg refers eight times to the “Jewish state” and his support for it. Not once does he say anything about the rights of Palestinians, leaving the reader to understand well his exclusivist notions, just as one would understand favorable references to a “white, Christian state” in the Jim Crow South or apartheid South Africa as being indicative of a bigot.

Burton Herbstman, a fellow board member, brags about his family’s Zionism, an ideology which has dispossessed Palestinians and forced those who remained to endure decades of life with inferior rights.

Ignoring the heartache of Palestinian families unable to get Israeli approval to exit Gaza for timely medical treatment, Herbstman touts what he has seen in an Israeli children’s hospital in Jerusalem.

“What’s more, these families reflected the full diversity of the region: Israelis, Arabs, Palestinians, Jews, Muslims, Druze, the religious, the secular, all forming one community. Here, the only thing that mattered was that their children needed care, and that they received it with compassion from the clinical staff, equal and undiscriminating.”

Herbstman’s quote is spin. Israel, after all, has dozens of discriminatory laws that he leaves unmentioned.

But perhaps Herbstman sometimes does aspire to what he says he saw in the hospital. How, then, does he feel about hosting Smotrich, a man who has not only called for ethnic cleansing but for segregated maternity wards?

The finance minister is on record as saying in 2016, “It’s natural that my wife wouldn’t want to lie down [in a bed] next to a woman who just gave birth to a baby who might want to murder her baby 20 years from now.”

Implicitly rejecting the term Palestinian, he added, “Arabs are my enemies and that’s why I don’t enjoy being next to them.”

Indeed, his wife Revital said she had “kicked an Arab obstetrician out of the [delivery] room. I want Jewish hands to touch my baby, and I wasn’t comfortable lying in the same room with an Arab woman.”

She added, “I refuse to have an Arab midwife, because for me giving birth is a Jewish and pure moment.”

Perhaps the two segregationists intend to travel together for the Israel Bonds speaking engagement.

Thus far, the Biden administration has given no indication that it intends to move beyond empty words to actions. Instead, it has continued to support Israel as it entrenches apartheid. Rejecting Smotrich’s visit wouldn’t be a bold improvement, but it would be a step in the right direction.

The real test, of course, lies with the $3.8 billion in annual US military aid which few Democrats are even willing to raise, let alone act on.

Unless the Biden administration finds political principle and a courage it hasn’t shown to date, Americans should prepare for the arrival of the segregationist and proponent of ethnic cleansing Bezalel Smotrich.

And when he arrives, assuming he’s allowed, one unanswered question will be how many Republicans move to embrace him as they try to realize bigoted fantasy by emulating Israel with a more segregated US.

Hard at work on a new American segregation is the anti-Semitic, anti-Palestinian and anti-Black racist Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene with her own domestic two-state solution or “national divorce.”

The overlap between American and Israeli friends of Israeli apartheid and American racism is increasingly grave.


Michael F. Brown

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