Itamar Ben-Gvir

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Itamar Ben-Gvir
Suppress the dissenters
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Bundle of rods

Itamar Ben-Gvir is a far-right Israeli activist, lawyer for far-right Israeli activists,[1][2] convicted criminal,[3] Jewish supremacist,[4][5] and the current National Security Minister for the thirty-seventh Israeli government, led by the slightly less extreme Benjamin Netanyahu. While Netanyahu leads the much larger Likud party, Ben-Gvir leads a smaller faction in Israeli politics called Otzma Yehudit ("Jewish Strength" or "Jewish Power"), which Netanyahu required a coalition with to form a right-wing government (and to prevent his own potential conviction for corruption).[6][7][8]

Ben-Gvir has previously been convicted in Israeli court for inciting racism and for supporting a Kahanist terrorist organization.[9][1][3] As National Security Minister, his responsibilities include oversight of the national police, oversight of the border police stationed in the West Bank, and management of important religious sites.[6][10] Some of his goals include deporting rival legislators, defunding Arab-Israeli communities, and granting immunity to Israeli soldiers who shoot at Palestinians.[7][10] Apparently, about 1/3rd of Israeli soldiers found this to be a political platform worth voting for in 2022.[10]


Ben-Gvir was raised in an affluent suburb in Jerusalem. In terms of Israeli politics, his parents were moderate conservatives. His mother had previously fought with the Irgun, a Zionist paramilitary organization. His father, who was born in Iraqi Kurdistan, worked for a gas company and sold produce. Ben-Gvir began his turn into anti-Arab politics after the First Palestinian Intifada.[10][1] After this, he joined the youth wing of Moledet,Wikipedia a minor far-right party that advocated population transfer of Arabs out of Israel. He later became a youth leader in Kach,Wikipedia a party affiliated with the Jewish Defense League and founded by Meir Kahane; Kach was later banned in Israel.[1][10]

In the 1990s, Ben-Gvir appeared on television with an emblem torn from Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin's car. He stated then, "We got to his car, and we'll get to him, too." A few weeks later, Rabin was assassinated. Ben-Gvir later became an attorney, apparently at least in part inspired by his own efforts to defend himself in court — some of the judges he met while challenging dozens of indictments encouraged him to study law. After becoming a lawyer, he used his skills to defend other far-right activists in court.[1][2]


As far back as his youth, Ben-Gvir was considered extreme enough by the Israeli authorities that they refused to recruit him to mandatory military service. His role model and "saint" (as he put it himself) is Jewish Defense League founder Meir Kahane, an ultranationalist rabbi who moved to Israel from New York City in 1971. As such, Ben-Gvir is considered an adherent of Kahanism. Outlining an anti-democratic stance, Meir Kahane argued that "the idea of a democratic Jewish state is nonsense" because non-Jews would become the Israeli majority in the future — unless a population transfer occurred. Kahane also referred to Arabs in particular as "dogs".[10]

Another figure that Ben-Gvir apparently respects is fellow Kach member and mass murderer Baruch Goldstein, the perpetrator of the 1994 Hebron massacre in which 29 Palestinian Muslims were killed and 125 people injured. On his first date with his wife (also a Kahanist), he brought her to Goldstein's grave. He has also previously kept a portrait of Goldstein in his living room, and dressed up as Goldstein for Purim.[10][11] When he was young, Ben-Gvir "handed out eggs to throw at marchers in gay-pride parades".[10]

As top cop[edit]

Israelis protesting against the proposal to let Ben-Gvir directly run a "National Guard" in April 2023.

As Israel's national security minister under Benjamin Netanyahu, Ben-Gvir became known prominently for multiple racist statements and provocations against Palestinians and Israel's Arab population; desiring militias run under his sole authority, bypassing the police and military; and adapting ultra-hawkish stances during the 2023 Israel–Hamas war.Wikipedia

In March 2023, Netanyahu, on trial for corruption at the time, attempted to push through a massive, independence-limiting overhaul of Israel's judicial system. These measures were hugely unpopular and resulted in massive crippling protests across Israel.[12] As a result of the protests, Netanyahu decided to pause the reforms. However, Ben-Gvir threatened to leave the government if the pause took place. Netanyahu promised to establish a national guard under Ben-Gvir's ministry in exchange for support of the pause. Critics described this national guard proposal as a potential "private, armed militia that would be directly under Ben-Gvir's control", separate from the country's military and police forces, with fears on what this would mean given Ben-Gvir's ultranationalism.[13][14][15]

In late June 2023, after a Hamas terrorist attack, young Israeli settlers retaliated by torching a number of Palestinian villages. Ben-Gvir called the settlers that engaged in violence "sweet boys" and also engaged in whataboutism, wondering why Shin BetWikipedia supposedly refused to investigate "crime and murder in Arab society".[16]

On multiple occasions, Ben-Gvir has visited the Temple Mount,Wikipedia which also hosts a mosque known as Al-Aqsa.Wikipedia Due to this site being of particular holy significance to Judaism and Islam (and thus a site of repeated confrontations between members of the two religions), these visits were seen as provocative and a challenge to the "status quo" of the site's administration by Jordan.Wikipedia Ben-Gvir even directly challenged this "status quo" in one visit (which occurred days after Jewish nationalists marched through the Muslim quarter of Jerusalem's walled Old City with shouts of "Death to Arabs" and other slogans) by declaring that Israel "was in charge".[17][18][19]

Ben-Gvir has also hand-waved away incidents where ultra-Orthodox Jews spat at Christian worshipers and pilgrims, insisting that such was not a criminal case. In the past, Ben-Gvir justified spitting towards Christians as "an ancient Jewish custom."[20]

In August 2023, Ben-Gvir made claims that his right "to roam the roads" of the West Bank were "more important than the right of movement of the Arabs." This blatantly racist statement sparked not only reactions from the Palestine AuthorityWikipedia (who called it proof that Israel was "an apartheid regime of Jewish supremacy"), but also opposition party leaders — after the remarks, Yesh AtidWikipedia MP Karine ElharrarWikipedia described Ben-Gvir as "the authentic representative of the most racist, messianicWikipedia and Kahanist government we've ever had." Even the United States government condemned Ben-Gvir's racist rhertoric.[21]

(This rhetoric, of course, was hardly surprising. As an MP, Ben-Gvir wanted to grant immunity to Israeli soldiers who shot at Palestinians; dismissed the notion that Jewish violence against Arabs could be called terrorism; and desired to deport rival lawmakers as well as anti-Zionist groups like Neturei Karta.Wikipedia)[22][23]

2023 Israel-Hamas war extremism[edit]

During the 2023 Israel–Hamas war, Ben-Gvir adapted an extremely hawkish position (tinged with his usual racism). For instance, Ben-Gvir was very hostile towards a temporary cease-fire that occurred in late November 2023, threatening to leave the governing coalition unless the war resumed.[24] Ben-Gvir was also vehemently opposed to humanitarian aid to Gaza, calling fuel aid gifts to "the enemy" and stating that such humanitarian efforts "broadcast weakness".[25]

While Netanyahu's promised Ben-Gvir controlled "national guard" ended up being controlled by Israeli police,[26] in the wake of the Hamas terrorist attacks, Ben-Gvir skirted around this by calling for civilians to "go, arm yourself" to defend themselves against future terrorist attacks. To help Israelis arm themselves, Ben-Govir successfully pushed to greatly loosen firearms restrictions. Ben-Gvir even purchased 10,000 rifles to help arm "civilian security militias" in Israeli border towns. (The later effort resulted in the head of the firearms permit body to resign after an Israeli paper revealed that Ben-Gvir's ministry was using unqualified personnel to approve the permits.) Critics worried that these weapons would be used by extremist Israelis in the (UN-declared illegal) settler movement to commit violence against Palestinians. There were also general worries that pushing so many weapons out there would fuel non-political gang-related gun violence[27][28][29]

Under Ben-Gvir's watch, during the conflict, his ministry severely cracked down on social media posts. A mere single status update on Facebook expressing solidarity with Gaza could result in an arrest. (In a sign that many of these arrests were bullshit, only a handful of the arrests resulted in indictments.)[30][31] In contrast, Ben-Gvir dismissed heightened deadly violence during the conflict by Israeli settlers against Palestinians as "graffiti" — a position that was so extreme, even Netanyahu rebuked it.[32]

On December 12 2023, Joe Biden specifically called out Ben-Gvir in remarks detailing that Israel's "indiscriminate bombing" of Gaza was eroding conflict support of Israel by the European Union and others.[33]

On January 1 2024, Ben-Gvir endorsed rebuilding settlements in the Gaza strip and encouraged "the migration of the (Palestinian) residents of Gaza", declaring that such a "solution" would be the "correct, just, moral, and humane solution."[34][35] These remarks came shortly after similar remarks by the similarly racist and extremist politician Bezalel Smotrich;Wikipedia Smotrich advocated for "the voluntary migration of Gaza’s residents to countries that will agree to take in the refugees" and predicted that "Israel will permanently control the territory of the Gaza Strip,” including through the establishment of settlements.[34]

These calls for "voluntary migration", which some saw as actually a call for ethnic cleansing,[36] were slammed by the then-leader of the Arab-Israeli political party Ta'al, Ahmad Tibi,Wikipedia as comparable to the Nazi nationalistic territorial expansion concept of Lebensraum;Wikipedia Tibi also declared that such rhetoric was "inciting genocide."[34] The Biden administration also directly called out Smotrich and Ben-Gvir for "inflammatory and irresponsible" rhetoric, affirming that in the US's view, "Gaza is Palestinian land and will remain Palestinian land".[37]

The comments by Ben-Gvir and Smotrich underscored concerns in the Arab world that the end game of the conflict was to drive Palestinians out of land where they wanted to build a future state, enhancing the suspicion that, as Likud minister Avi DichterWikipedia stated in November 2023,[38] Israel was rolling out a "Nakba"Wikipedia for Gaza (Nakba being the name given to the violent displacement and dispossession of the Palestinian people when Israel was established in 1948).[39] Smotrich and Ben-Gvir were among those Israeli officials whom the South African government cited as having made expressions of genocidal intent in their application for proceedings to the International Court of Justice.[40]

Despite the widespread international rebuke, both Ben-Gvir and Smotrich (and several other politicians, including some from Netanyahu's Likud party) attended a conference led by the radical Israeli settler organization NachalaWikipedia on January 28 2024. A massive map at the conference outlined the organizers' vision for settlements in Gaza — as expressed by the director of Nachala, Daniella Weiss,Wikipedia the conference envisioned a future in which “all of [the] Gaza Strip is a part of the state of Israel, of the land of Israel" and where the "presence of Arabs in Gaza" would "end". Ben-Gvir was one of the key speakers of the conference, declaring that there was a need to "encourage emigration" by Gazans and that to prevent future Hamas terrorism attacks, "we need to return home and control the land" of Gaza. Like the previous allusions to ethnic cleansing, this conference was widely condemned by multiple Israeli politicians, including prominent members of Israeli's war Cabinet.[41][42]

External links[edit]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 Judy Maltz (January 4, 2016). "The Lawyer for Jewish Terrorists Who Started Out by Stealing Rabin's Car Emblem". Haaretz. (Archived).
  2. 2.0 2.1 Winer, Stuart (16 December 2014). "Police arrest head of anti-assimilation group Lehava" (in en-US). The Times of Israel. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 Nahal Toosi (December 20, 2022). "Biden's strategy for a far-right Israel: Lay it all on Bibi". Politico.
  4. "Scoop: U.S. unlikely to work with Jewish supremacist expected to be made Israeli minister" by Barak Ravid, Axios, 2022 November 2
  5. "In Israel, Ben-Gvir is building his national guard by hand" by Louis Imbert, Le Monde, 2023 April 1
  6. 6.0 6.1 (November 25, 2022). "Ben Gvir to get newly created role of national security minister in deal with Likud". The Times of Israel.
  7. 7.0 7.1 (November 26, 2022). "Far-right Ben-Gvir to be Israel’s national security minister". The Associated Press.
  8. Barak Ravid (November 2, 2022). "U.S. unlikely to work with Jewish supremacist expected to be made Israeli minister". Axios.
  9. Daniel Estrin (November 26, 2022). "Israel appoints far-right politician with a history of inciting racism as national security minister". Weekend Edition Saturday. NPR.
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 10.3 10.4 10.5 10.6 10.7 Ruth Margalit (February 20, 2023). "Itamar Ben-Gvir, Israel's Minister of Chaos". The New Yorker.
  11. (October 27, 2022). "Israel's far-right leader Ben-Gvir wins adoring young fans" France 24. AFP.
  12. "Israel judicial reform explained: What is the crisis about?" by Raffi Berg, BBC, 2023 September 11
  13. "Netanyahu pauses judicial overhaul after protests paralyze Israel" By Patrick Smith, Elizabeth Chuck and Ali Zelenko, NBC News, 2023 March 27
  14. "Ben-Gvir gets National Guard in exchange for support of judicial reform delay" by Eliav Breuer, Jerusalem Post, 2023 March 27
  15. "In Israel, Ben-Gvir is building his national guard by hand" by Louis Imbert, Le Monde, 2023 April 1
  16. "Ben-Gvir: Settlers who torched Palestinian villages are 'sweet boys'" by Jerusalem Post Staff, Jerusalem Post, 2023 June 27
  17. "Israel's 'Flag March' in Jerusalem rattles Palestinians" by Rami Amichay, Reuters, 2023 May 18
  18. "Far-right minister says Israel 'in charge' during visit to Jerusalem holy site" by Reuters, 2023 May 21
  19. "Divisive Israeli minister visits key Jerusalem holy site, drawing condemnation" by Mick Krever and Kareem Khadder, CNN, 2023 July 27
  20. "5 arrested for spitting at Christians in Jerusalem; police minister: It’s not criminal" by Times of Israel staff, Times of Israel, 2023 October 4
  21. "US condemns Israeli minister Ben Gvir's 'inflammatory' Palestinian comments" by Tom Bateman, BBC, 2023 August 25
  22. "If elected, I will deport anyone who acts against the State of Israel - Ben-Gvir" by Eliav Breuer, Jerusalem Post, 2022 August 16
  23. "Far-right Ben-Gvir to be Israel’s national security minister", AP News, 2022 November 26
  24. "Some in Netanyahu’s Government Pressure Him to Reject Longer Cease-Fire" by Sheera Frenkel, New York Times, 2023 November 29
  25. "Netanyahu scrambles to quell revolt by far right over Gaza fuel" by Jamie Dettmer, Politico, 2023 November 18
  26. "National Guard to be under Israel Police, not national security minister - report" by Jerusalem Post Staff, Jerusalem Post, 2023 December 24
  27. "260,000 firearm permits sought since Oct. 7, after Ben Gvir’s push to arm civilians" by Carrie Keller-Lynn, Times of Isarel, 2023 December 4
  28. "Israel is trying to arm more citizens with guns since the Hamas attack" by Scott Neuman and Eleanor Beardsley, NPR, 2023 December 6
  29. "Israelis are arming up in the aftermath of Hamas’ attack. Some are worried it is playing to the far right’s vision for the country" by Tara John and Adi Koplewitz, CNN, 2023 November 14
  30. "‘The reaction is extreme’: Palestinians fear arrest if they voice sympathy for Gaza civilians" by Ivana Kottasova and Zeena Saifi, CNN, 2023 November 5
  31. "Israel Rounds Up Palestinians for Social Media Posts" by Luke Goldstein, American Prospect, 2023 December 12
  32. "Amid Shin Bet warnings, Ben Gvir said to dismiss deadly settler violence as ‘graffiti’" by Times of Israel staff, Times of Israel, 2023 November 4
  33. "Biden takes a tougher stance on Israel’s ‘indiscriminate bombing’ of Gaza" by Colleen Long and Aamer Madhani, AP News, 2023 December 12
  34. 34.0 34.1 34.2 "Far-right ministers call to ‘resettle’ Gaza’s Palestinians, build settlements in Strip" by Sam Sokol, Times of Israel, 2024 January 1
  35. "את קידום הפתרון לעידוד הגירה של תושבי עזה, אנחנו חייבים לקדם. זה פתרון נכון, צודק, מוסרי והומני. יש לנו פרטנרים ברחבי העולם שאנחנו יכולים להסתייע בהם. עידוד הגירה של תושבי עזה יאפשר לנו להחזיר הביתה את תושבי העוטף ואת תושבי גוש קטיף.", Itamar Ben-Gvir (@itamarbengvir), Twitter, 2024 January 1 (archived on 2024 January 1
  36. "The US needs to do much more than just rhetorical condemnation at this point. Smotrich and Ben Gvir are openly advocating for ethnic cleansing of Palestinians. To just refer to them as "irresponsible" is counter-productive.", Thomas Juneau (@thomasjuneau), Twitter, 2024 January 2, archived on 2024 January 3
  37. "Rejection of Irresponsible Statements on Resettlement of Palestinians Outside of Gaza", Press Statement, Matthew Miller, US Department of State, 2024 January 2
  38. "‘Nakba 2023’: Israel right-wing ministers' comments add fuel to Palestinian fears" by Chantal da Silva, NBC News, 2023 November 13
  39. "Israeli minister calls for voluntary emigration of Gazans", Reuters, 2023 November 14
  40. Application of Instituting Proceedings by the Embassy of the Republic of South Africa (December 28, 2023) International Court of Justice.
  41. "Right-wing Israeli ministers join thousands at event calling for the resettlement of Gaza" by Chantal da Silva, NBC News, 2024 January 28
  42. "Israeli ministers join ultranationalist conference urging Gaza resettlement", Reuters, 2024 January 29