Hostage Families Protest in Tel Aviv After Racist Finance Minister Comments

Racist Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich sparked fury and protests on Tuesday night, February 20, after saying that the return of the hostages was “not the most important thing” for Israel. Speaking in an interview with the Kan public broadcaster, the far-right minister was asked if, in his view, bringing back the 134 captives who are being held by Hamas in the Gaza Strip since the October 7 was the most important goal.

Relatives of the hostages and activists protest outside the Defense Ministry and blocking Begin Road, February 20, 2024 (Photo: Michal Warshavsky)

Following the publication of Smotrich’s comments, relatives of the hostages and activists who were holding a vigil outside the Defense Ministry and military headquarters in Tel Aviv reacted furiously, moving to block Begin Road in protest. They also issued a call to the general public to come and join them in a “protest of fury” against the far-right government and threatened to “set the streets on fire.” Demonstrators tried to stop the cars of ministers from entering the army headquarters where the war cabinet was set to convene for a meeting.

Itzik Elgarat whose brother is among the hostages being held by Hamas and who is on a hunger strike outside the military HQ said Israelis should not send their children to serve in the occupation army or join the reserves while Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is in power. “Wait until the evil prime minister is gone. If you are captured, there will be no one coming to save you,” he said.

“Mr. Smotrich, let them take your children and I will stand in the road and shout, ‘It’s not the most important thing,'” said Eli Albag, whose 18-year-old daughter Liri is being held by Hamas. “I say to the people of Israel, whoever thinks the hostages are not important, let them take your children hostage, then you can speak.”