Jewish Power lawmaker threatens to ‘blow up’ summer camp for Palestinian and Israeli children

Jonathan Ofir

Mondoweiss  /  June 22, 2023

Almog Cohen, a member of Itamar Ben-Gvir’s Jewish Power party, threatened to “blow up” an Israeli youth center because of plans to host a joint Palestinian-Israeli summer camp.

“I come to your camp, I blow up your camp, and I take away your funding. How’s that?”

This is what Jewish Power lawmaker Almog Cohen said earlier this week to Ilana Tishler, the director of the Ben Shemen youth village facility. Tishler plans to rent the facility out to The Parents Circle – Families Forum, an organization that facilitates meetings between bereaved Palestinian and Israeli families, for a children’s summer camp. 

Cohen is part of the new and horrific cadre of Jewish supremacists coming in with Itamar Ben-Gvir’s unprecedented Jewish Power success in the last elections. Cohen was also recently in the news for organizing vigilante groups in the southern Naqab (Negev) meant to “save the Negev from problematic absence of personal security.”

Cohen was speaking at a parliamentary Education Committee meeting, and he was not the only one attacking the director of the facility. Likud lawmaker Hanoch Milwidsky threatened to “scrutinize public funds” and to cause trouble even if there was no legal authority to do so:

“Maybe we don’t have the legal authority to stop you from doing this, or to force you to end the commercial agreement you made with this despicable organization, but listen well: This government will respond,” he said.

The joint Jewish Power-Likud assault on the summer camp exemplifies how Jewish supremacy is rampant across that political spectrum and is not isolated to the furthest right.

The attack on the camp seems to have arisen from the lobbying work of the extreme-right activist Shai Glick and his rather new provocateur organization B’Tsalmo (a name that intentionally mocks the human rights organization B’Tselem). The organization has only existed for a couple of years and does not have much of a footprint internationally, but in Israel, Glick is known for reaching the highest levels of politics with his ‘tips’ about things that need to be canceled. On their website (which is only in Hebrew), B’Tsalmo claims to be a “human rights organization in Jewish spirit” and boasts of the various cancellations they managed to promote. Glick has managed to get Palestinian-Israeli poet Dareen Tatour canceled at the Tmu-na theatre in Tel Aviv and boasted: “When I silence Dareen Tatour, I’m fighting for human rights.” 

Concerning the summer camp, Glick commented in advance of the meeting (reported by Channel 13): 

“Public funding is not supposed to go to an organization which includes families of terrorists including Hizbollah terrorists. I demand from the youth village and the Ministry of Education to reverse their delusional decision to host Palestinians at the location while endangering human lives when Palestinians will reside there and could, God forbid, report to terrorists about weak points in the village”. 

And another important point to make is that the purpose of Cohen’s threat to “blow up” the camp was not to do so himself but to cause its disruption and perhaps incite violence from his followers. 

Yuval Rahamim, co-director of the Parents Circle – Families Forum, said in response that he was “shocked by the wild and violent attacks, and the explicit threats made by Knesset members on the Education Committee”. He noted that “for two weeks already, the management of the youth village Ben Shemen has been experiencing wild attacks on the social networks which reach the level of death threats.” 

What a state. Hopefully, the camp will go ahead as planned, and these kids will have an enriching time together. But I would hate to think what would happen if some of these fascists managed to get through and do something violent. Maybe not blow up the place, as Cohen suggested, but just something of that nature. I can hardly imagine sending my child to such a situation, and it’s just heartbreaking to see how every oasis of communication and understanding is being eviscerated by Jewish supremacist violence.     

Jonathan Ofir is an Israeli musician, conductor and blogger/writer based in Denmark