Far-right Israeli politician compares Palestinian MKs to 'sheep'

Far-right Israeli politician compares Palestinian MKs to 'sheep'
Far-right MK Almog Cohen, a member of Itamar Ben Gvir's ultra-nationalist Otzma Yehudit party, made several 'racist' and 'discriminatory' remarks against Palestinian MKs.
2 min read
22 February, 2023
Almog Cohen is part of the far-right Otzma Yehudit party in Israel [JACK GUEZ/AFP via Getty Images]

An Israeli parliamentarian filmed himself in the Knesset on Monday making "racist" remarks against opposition Palestinian lawmakers from the Hadash-Ta'al coalition, likening them to farm animals.

In the video, which was streamed live on social media, far-right Member of the Knesset (MK) Almog Cohen made animal sounds at his opposition and Palestinian counterparts, before telling those around him "when you talk to them in their language they understand you", and "you need to talk to him like a sheep".

Cohen went on to insult the Palestinian-Israeli Ta'al party leader Ahmad Tibi, a trained gynecologist, saying: "That's a doctor. I wouldn't let him treat my dog."

Cohen refused to apologise for his comments and instead doubled down, calling the Palestinian lawmakers "terror supporters", according to the Walla news site.

He went even further in an interview with Channel 12 news, saying: "They're traitors. It might have been inappropriate because they’re not worthy of being sheep, they’re not humans. I will make their lives miserable."

Cohen repeatedly expressed his support for Israeli forces' operations in the occupied West Bank, where they had intentionally killed dozens of Palestinians, including civilians and children. 

His party is led by the hardline minister Itamar Ben Gvir, who has previously dehumanised Palestinians and been convicted of incitement to racism.

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Last month, Ben Gvir hailed an Israeli soldier who shot dead an unarmed Palestinian as a "hero" and has previously called for the annexation of settlements in the occupied West Bank.

Otzma Yehudit is part of a governing coalition widely regarded as the most right-wing in Israeli history, and its rise to power has raised fears that violence against Palestinians could reach even higher levels over the next few years.