Groups named after Yasser Arafat, youths holding Palestinian flags, activities praising “martyrs,” parades of teens shouting “with spirit and blood, we will redeem you, O Palestine”: These are elements that Israelis expect to read about in descriptions of the summer youth camps run by Hamas and Fatah for Palestinian Authority kids, the same incitement the Israeli government rails against and demands that the PA end.
Except that in this case, those same slogans and parades occurred not in Gaza or Ramallah, but in northern Israel — in the summer youth camp sponsored by Balad, one of three parties that are part of the United Arab List, which has 13 members in the Knesset. Yediot Acharonot on Wednesday published some of the activities that took place in the camp, replete with images of Israeli Arab youths holding Palestinian flags, marching and shouting the aforementioned slogans.
The camp was broken up into several bunks, with one named after Izz a-din al-Qassam, the military wing of Hamas, another named for Yasser Arafat, and a third named for former Egyptian leader Gamal Abdel Nasser. Commenting on the camp on social media, Balad MK Hanin Zoabi said that “the 18th year of the Balad Youth Camp was a great success. Balad is proud of its youth and its connection to the struggle, and of its determination, spirit and power.”
In response to a request for comment, the Balad Youth Department told the newspaper that “the content and activities that are taught in the camp reflect the political platform of Balad, centered on enhancing Arab and Palestinian identity, democratic principles, and the principle of Israel as a state for all its citizens. During the camp, participants marched in the Dheisheh refugee camp to express solidarity with refugees who live there, among them families who are victims of the Nakba occupation and its crimes. The activities are legal and legitimate, and are protected by freedom of speech.”
Maor Tzemach, head of the Lach Yerushalayim activist group, called on police to open an investigation against Balad. “The party is creating an intolerable situation, stirring up nationalistic sentiments among Arab Israelis and inciting against the state. There needs to be an extensive investigation of Balad for all its anti-Israel activities.”