By Jim Kouri
In June-August 2012, as they do each year, the Hamas administration and its military wing are running summer camps in the Gaza Strip. Registration for the summer camps is held mostly in mosques. The slogans for the Hamas summer camps this time were “Victory through youth” and “Camps of return.”
Tens of thousands of children and adolescents from elementary school age to high school age take part in the summer activities, especially now since the United Nations ceased their childrens’ summer programs. As in previous years, in addition to social activities the camps also offered Koran lessons, indoctrination with Hamas’ political ideology, and paramilitary training, according to Law Enforcement Examiner’s Israeli source.
Hamas and other terrorist organizations operating in the Gaza Strip regard the summer camps as a means for inculcating their ideological values and nurturing the next generation of operatives and supporters.
The core values are radical Islam, “the liberation of Palestine,” jihad and death for the sake of Allah, and other messages drawn from Hamas’ ideology and strategy in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict (e.g., support for the “right of return,” demand Israel free all Palestinian prisoners, the “liberation” of Palestine from Israel, and indoctrination of hatred against Israel and the Jewish people). The summer camps are often visited by top Hamas officials who help spread the political messages among the youngsters.
Every year the children and adolescents taking part in the summer camps undergo paramilitary training. In some cases they carry wooden rifles, but some of the older children also use real rifles. The training includes various exercises, hand-to-hand combat, rope climbing, jumping, and crawling, as well as practice in the use of weapons such as handguns, rifles and knives.
This year the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, the Hamas military wing, organized a week-long summer camp for about one hundred teenagers aged 13 to 18, called “Flag Camp 2”. The campers — new activists of the organization — will undergo paramilitary training, according to an Israeli police source.
In public statements about the goals of their summer activities, Hamas spokesmen stressed that the purpose of the camps was to educate the younger generation to religion, morals, and culture.
Speaking at the opening ceremony of the summer camps, senior Hamas official Isma’il Radwan said that their purpose was to bring up a generation of children who would act “in the interests of their homeland”, and give them education emphasizing the Islamic culture and its values.
“If the enemy wants to bet on the slogan ‘the adults will die and the children will forget,’ we will tell him that we shall gain liberty and victory, Allah willing.”