The indoctrination and brainwashing of Palestinian children is not new. Palestinian leaders have been raising generation after generation on hatred for Israel and Jews. This incitement has been taking place in Palestinian kindergartens, schools, universities, mosques, the media and even crossword puzzles, for decades. That is why public opinion polls continue to show, unsurprisingly, that Palestinians endorse radical views and support terrorism against Israel.
For more than a decade, the Iranian-backed Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Hamas terror groups have been holding summer camps for thousands of schoolchildren throughout the Gaza Strip. These camps have served as a framework for inculcating an extreme ideology that glorifies jihad (holy war), terrorism and armed struggle against Israel with the aim of “liberating Palestine from the [Jordan] River to the [Mediterranean] Sea.”
The camps also provide military training, such as practice with knives and firearms, hand-to-hand combat and marching and foot drills. The children also stage plays and enact scenes of fighting and capturing Israeli soldiers or firing rockets at Israel.
Recruitment and registration for the summer camps are carried out through Hamas and PIJ websites and social media, and at booths manned by members of the two groups inside mosques and at other public places across the Gaza Strip. Senior Hamas and PIJ officials regularly attended the camps’ opening and graduation ceremonies, where they deliver speeches.
On July 8, Hamas launched its summer camps for 2023, with the participation of more than 100,000 boys and girls. This year’s summer camps are being held under the slogan Shield of Jerusalem, implying that the terror group intends to use the children in the fight against Israel. The children are being trained to carry out terror attacks and serve as human shields in the jihad against Israel. They are being taught that they are being recruited to take part in the battle to “liberate” Jerusalem. Needless to say, the Palestinians do not recognize Jews’ rights and history in Jerusalem.
In June 2022, P.A. Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh denied any trace of Jewish history in Jerusalem:
“We are on the outskirts of the eternal capital, the jewel in the crown, the point where heaven and earth meet, the flower of all cities, the object of longing of the hearts of the Muslim and Christian believers who come to it to pray in the Al-Aqsa Mosque and to walk on the Via Dolorosa in order to pray in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, which witnessed the signing of the Pact of Umar, in which the Caliph Umar pledged to the people of Iliya [Arabic for Aelia Capitolina/Jerusalem) that no Muslim would pray in their church. [Jerusalem] has Canaanite, Roman, Islamic, and Christian antiquities and is theirs alone, and no one else has any traces in it.”
The head of Hamas’s Higher Committee for Summer Camps, Khaled Abu Askar, said during a press conference in Gaza’s Asdaa Entertainment City, near Khan Yunis:
“We meet today in Asdaa City, which includes simulations of a number of Jerusalem’s landmarks, to announce the launch of our summer camps, the Quds [Jerusalem] Shield camps. Let us assure the world that the city of Jerusalem, with its sanctities, is the compass of every free and honorable Palestinian.”
Abu Askar claimed that Hamas cares about the young generation and is keen to invest in them. He also claimed that young Palestinians are being systematically targeted to undermine their beliefs, behavior, morals and patriotism. Who does he blame? Israel, of course.
“The occupation and its collaborators are pumping huge amounts of money and effort to divert the generation from belonging to its religion and homeland,” he said. The Hamas official pointed out that his group named its camps Jerusalem Shield “to instill the value of Jerusalem in the hearts of young people and the Palestinians’ right to the Holy City, in addition to promoting the national role of the liberation generation and raising their determination.”
When Hamas talks about “liberation,” it is expressing its desire to eliminate Israel, as explicitly stated in the charter of the group:
The Islamic Resistance Movement believes that the land of Palestine has been an Islamic Waqf throughout the generations and until the Day of Resurrection, no one can renounce it or part of it, or abandon it or part of it. No Arab country nor the aggregate of all Arab countries, and no Arab King or President nor all of them in the aggregate, have that right, nor has that right any organization or the aggregate of all organizations, be they Palestinian or Arab, because Palestine is an Islamic Waqf throughout all generations and to the Day or Resurrection.
“Article 13: [Peace] initiatives, the so-called peaceful solutions, and the international conferences to resolve the Palestinian problem, are all contrary to the beliefs of the Islamic Resistance Movement. For renouncing any part of Palestine means renouncing part of the religion; the nationalism of the Islamic Resistance Movement is part of its faith, the movement educates its members to adhere to its principles and to raise the banner of Allah over their homeland as they fight their Jihad: ‘Allah is the all-powerful, but most people are not aware.'”
At another ceremony in the Gaza Strip, the chairman of the Rafah Administrative Committee, Jum’a Hassanein, said that “these youth camps are intended to train the generation of liberation and victory.”
The summer camp director in Rafah, Muhammad Barhoum, said that the camps are part of Hamas’ activities that focus on the [younger] generation “due to its importance as “the generation of liberation and victory.”
“As in previous years, the summer camps focus on familiarizing the youngsters with various weapons, including the AK-47, sniper rifles, RPG launchers, mortars and machine guns. The campers practice assembling and disassembling the weapons, holding them and using them, and also train in urban warfare and tunnel warfare. Some of the lessons are taught by masked members of Hamas’s armed wing, the ‘Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, and some are even held in Hamas military bases. A boy at one of the camps gave a demonstration of tunnel warfare for Younis al-Astal, a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council on behalf of Hamas, who toured the camps with other Hamas officials. At some of the camps, Israeli flags were spread on the ground so that the campers would step on them. Terrorists who carried out deadly attacks against Israelis are presented to the campers as role models, and their portraits feature in the camps and in camp activities.”
Hamas spokesperson Abdel Latin Qanou said that the summer camps launched by his group in the Gaza Strip this year represent an important step in building this generation, instilling the status of Jerusalem and al-Aqsa Mosque in their souls, and linking them to their “legitimate right to return [to Israel] and liberation.” Qanou stated that the slogan Shield of Jerusalem aims to prepare the children for “liberating Jerusalem.”
In the past, Palestinian Islamic Jihad held summer camps under the slogan “Revenge of the Free,” in which hundreds of boys under the age of 17 participated.
Darwish al-Gharabli, a leader of PIJ, said during a graduation ceremony:
“These camps establish a generation that is aligned with the path of jihad and resistance; believing in this option and that Palestine is the central issue and fighting the Jews is an act of worship. Our jihad against this continues in all arenas. We assure our enemy that this generation will carry the banner and resist with all strength.”
In 2021, Hamas held summer camps under the slogan “Sword of Jerusalem.”
According to the website of the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, “the goal of the camps is to fan the flames of jihad among the generation of liberation, instill Islamic values and prepare the long-awaited army for the liberation of Palestine.”
The spokesperson for the Hamas summer camps, Abu Bilal, said that the camps are being held “out of belief in the role of the young people and a sense of responsibility for the [younger] generation.” He added that “the young people have [always] been the ones to carry out armed operations, and were the fuel of the intifadas and uprisings.”
This sweeping child abuse by Palestinians is ignored by the Western media, the United Nations and most politicians. The next time Palestinians complain about minors being killed or injured while carrying out terror attacks against Israelis, it would be worthwhile recalling the scenes of children in the summer camps of the Gaza Strip, where the process to transform them into combatants begins.
It is time for the international community, and above all human rights organizations, to hold Palestinian leaders accountable for the child abuse inherent in training their children to become “martyrs,” in the Jihad to kill Jews, and in trying to destroy the region’s only democratic nation.