It’s that time of year again: school’s out, the kids are under your feet, and, much as you love the little brats, you find your patience being tested. Eventually, after clearing yet another dirty plate, or tripping over a discarded sneaker, you give them a well-deserved piece of your mind: “Why don’t you get out of the house and do something useful, like memorize the Koran or learn how to fire a shoulder-launched rocket?”
In Gaza, parents have no such frustrations. Hamas and Islamic Jihad, ever mindful of their responsibilities as pillars of the Palestinian community, are running their annual summer camps for thousands of youngsters. And these children won’t be wasting their time going on nature walks or visiting the Smuggled Animals Zoo. In addition to receiving healthy doses of religious and political indoctrination, they’ll be learning how to handle weapons and navigate assault courses.
Hamas, the terrorist organization that rules Gaza, is running camps for as many as 150,000 children. Ynet News reports that “the focus is on familiarizing kids with the Palestinian towns and cities destroyed in 1948, as well as instilling religious fervor in them. The camps also feature sports and military-type training such as crawling under barbed-wire.” (I wish I’d been taught how to crawl under barbed wire properly as a youngster — it would’ve made escaping from irate farmers after another botched fruit raid with my cousins a lot easier.)
The curriculum is similar at the Islamic Jihad camps, where “the kids study passages from the Koran and participate in quizzes on religious matters, with emphasis on the required commitment to political prisoners and Palestinian land. They also learn how to hold a Qassam rocket-launcher.”
An Islamic Jihad operative was at pains to point out to Ynet that children would only be handling dummy rockets, not real ones. Allah forbid that they should play with real Qassams or Katyushas — someone could lose an eye.
It’s reassuring to know the camp staff are so mindful of their charges’ welfare. They don’t want anyone getting hurt — at least not before they’ve been wired with explosives, wrapped in ball bearings, and dispatched to some bar, bus station, or shopping mall in Israel.
In a video report about the camps at Haaretz.com, children are shown going through martial arts routines, learning how to take a prisoner, and performing the high-stepping speed march that for some reason is standard practice for the militias of dictatorships. And while the children jump through plastic hoops on the parade ground (another sure-fire sign of fascistic inclinations), their minders jump through semantic ones, insisting that the camps preach a message of peace before rattling off the usual lists of grievances and demands.
But mostly the young campers shout. They shout a lot. They shout “Kill!” “Slaughter!” “Blow up!” and “Charge!” (They’re probably parroting the phrases at random rather than memorizing some particular battlefield tactic, otherwise “Charge!” would surely have to come before “Blow up!”) Some — presumably the star pupils from the propaganda workshop — make hysterical speeches proclaiming their loyalty to the “struggle.” The motto for these camps could well be “Give me the child, and I will give you the martyr.”
None of this should come as much of a surprise. It was Hamas, after all, that brought us the spectacle of children’s TV shows in which cartoon-like characters spew hatred and glorify violence. And Palestinian terror groups certainly like to start their killers young. Samir Kuntar, recently freed by Israel, was just 16 when he battered four-year-old Einat Haran to death after shooting her father, during an attack on the Israeli town of Nahariya in 1979. Einat’s two-year-old sister and two Israeli police officers also died. Since the beginning of the second intifada in 2000, several 16-year-olds have carried out suicide bombings, while children as young as 14 and 15 have been arrested for planning bombings, or intercepted on their way to carry out attacks.