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Bedouin birth rate in Israel is a 'bomb' that requires diffusing, says far-right lawmaker Open in fullscreen

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Bedouin birth rate in Israel is a 'bomb' that requires diffusing, says far-right lawmaker

Israeli lawmaker Bezalel Smotrich is known for his incendiary anti-Arab remarks [Getty]

Date of publication: 12 June, 2020

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A far-right Israeli lawmaker with a history of espousing anti-Arab sentiment said Bedouin birth rates in Israel were comparable to a bomb that needed defusing.
A far-right Israeli lawmaker on Thursday said birth rates among Israeli Bedouins were comparable to a bomb that needs to be defused, according to Israeli media.

During a tour of the Negev desert, Knesset member and former transportation minister Bezalel Smotrich - who has a history of espousing anti-Arab sentiment - said Bedouins in the Negev "double themselves every 12 years" and needed to be "urbanised" by Jews so their birth rates decline.

"Of course I have a particular interest to reduce their birth rate, because in terms of demographics, I want to maintain a Jewish majority, not just in the State of Israel but in the Negev as well," Smotrich said.

"This is the type of bomb where if we don't neutralise [the explosive] mechanism, it will explode much harder on us," he added.

Smotrich and his fellow members of the nationalist and religious Yamina political alliance had toured the desert to raise awareness on what they view as the prevalence of crime in the region and a "takeover of state lands", according to media reports.

The tour took place after officers at the desert's Tzeelim army base were allegedly ambushed last week while pursuing the perpetrators of a robbery, according to the reports.

“People trying to hike in the Negev can’t leave their car for 10 minutes without returning to a shattered vehicle,” Smotrich said.

Smotrich's comments were condemned by Arab lawmakers.

"Smotrich is desperate for attention," tweeted Ayman Odeh, head of the Arab Joint List party. "I demand they issue a restraining order against him for gas stations, in case he repeats the mistakes of the past."

Odeh was referring to an incident in 2005, during which Smotrich was arrested for allegedly stockpiling gasoline in preparation for an attack in the run-up to the disengagement plan in Gaza, which saw the unilateral dismantling of Israeli settlements in the Gaza strip.

"This is a racist and lowly man who will find every opportunity to incite against Arabs," tweeted Joint List member Heba Yazbak.

Smotrich, who joined the Knesset in 2015, is known for making multiple incendiary anti-Arab remarks.

In 2016, he tweeted that maternity wards in Israel should be segregated.

"It's natural that my wife wouldn't want to lie down near a woman who just gave birth to a bay who might want to murder her baby 20 years from now," he wrote.

His wife later told Israel's Channel 10 that she had kicked an Arab obstetrician out of the delivery room when she was giving birth because she wanted "Jewish hands" touching her baby.

That same year, a heated debate in parliament erupted when Smotrich said "illiterate" Arab students made it to Israel's universities purely because of affirmative action policies.

Also in 2016, Smotrich was removed from a Knesset session after he spoke against marriages between Jews and Arabs.

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