For most children, that means campfires, nature hikes and outdoor games like “Capture the Flag.”
For kids in the regions governed by the Palestinian Authority and Hamas, it means weapons training, skits in which the children pretend to kidnap and murder Jews, and lectures on the importance of destroying Israel.
Hillary Clinton once called it “Palestinian child abuse.” One glance at the campers’ daily schedule explains why.
The Central Hebron branch of Fatah—the major faction of the P.A.—has posted on its website dozens of photos and descriptions of their local “Buds of Construction and Liberation” summer camp. Instead of photos of smiling children holding popsicles or swimming in the camp lake, we see photos of smiling Palestinian Arab children holding AK-47 rifles. They’re standing in front of a giant banner showing P.A. leader Mahmoud Abbas and his predecessor, Yasser Arafat.
Palestinian Media Watch, which translated the captions, points out that the banner also shows the official Fatah logo, including rifles, a hand grenade and the official P.A. map of the region, which labels all of Israel as “Palestine.”
These armed Palestinian Arab children are not being taught that “Palestine” should be set up in Judea and Samaria (the West Bank). They are learning that all of Israel—Tel Aviv, Haifa, everything—is “occupied Palestine” and must be annihilated.
Those who imagine that there is some meaningful difference between the P.A. and Hamas may be surprised to learn that the Hamas summer camps in the Gaza Strip are indistinguishable from P.A.-run summer camps in Hebron and elsewhere.
A new report from MEMRI describes how 100,000 boys and girls in Gaza are attending some 500 Hamas summer camps in Gaza, known as the “Saplings of Jerusalem.” Ironically, this year’s opening ceremony for the camps was held on the site where an Israeli town once stood—a town that was evacuated and bulldozed by the Israeli government, in the hope that it would bring peace. (It didn’t.)
Muhammad Farawneh, speaking for the camps’ administration, said at the ceremony that the site was chosen because “soil that has been freed of the contamination of the occupation is a sign that all of the [Palestinian] land will one day be regained.” He was followed by another official of the camps, Muhammad Abu Mahmoud, who spoke of “our deep-rooted rights in Jerusalem” and vowed that “the generation of liberation will continue to bear the banner until the occupation is removed from all of our occupied Palestinian land.”
“As in the past,” the MEMRI report noted, “this year’s summer camps place emphasis on military and weapons training, as well as on religious and nationalist content, alongside recreational activities. The campers are given lessons on the use and maintenance of various weapons, and use shooting simulators to practice targeting ‘Israeli soldiers.’ ”
The most accurate description of these camps that I have ever heard dates to 2005. It’s remarkable how some things never change, no matter how many years pass. That year, U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.), was addressing the annual AIPAC policy conference in Washington, D.C. She could have just stuck to the usual themes of strengthening American-Israeli relations, the two countries shared values and so on. But she didn’t.
Instead, she decided to go out on a limb and say a few unusually frank words about the Palestinian Authority. She revealed to the AIPAC audience that during a meeting with a P.A. official, she had specifically complained that the P.A. appeared to be trying to “create a new generation of terrorists” through its summer camps. “Using children as pawns in a political process is tantamount to child abuse, and we must say it has to end now,” said Clinton.
She added that Abbas “must be held accountable.”
The Jewish Telegraphic Agency, reporting Clinton’s speech, noted that she was “a likely Democratic candidate for president in 2008,” and as we all know, that’s exactly what she became. The reporter’s implication was that Clinton was only saying what she said because she was hoping for votes and donations from supporters of the group she was addressing.
And maybe that was indeed the case. She certainly wouldn’t have been the first politician to speak strongly on the campaign trail and then back away later.
Still, no matter what her motives, Clinton spoke the truth that day: The summer camps run by the P.A. this year—and every year—constitute child abuse. And those who sponsor, finance, and organize them should be treated by the international community as child abusers.
Stephen M. Flatow is an attorney and the father of Alisa Flatow, who was murdered in an Iranian-sponsored Palestinian terrorist attack in 1995. He is the author of “A Father’s Story: My Fight for Justice Against Iranian Terrorism.”