The teenage boys of Gaza, some of whom are still in junior high, are learning how to shoot guns, launch anti-tank missiles and protect themselves while peering around walls.
The boys are attending summer camp, but it’s not the swimming and softball, hiking and cookouts that many of us fondly recall. It’s camp as run by the terrorist groups Hamas, which controls Gaza, and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ). It aims “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,” as the Izz Al-Din Al-Qassam Brigades of Hamas put it.
Through these camps, which Hamas and PIJ have run for more than a decade, the terrorist groups glorify military operations against Israel and recruit the next generation of terrorists – all of which suggests that Israeli-Palestinian peace will remain as elusive as ever.
One might expect that the terrorist-run camps in Gaza would engender some attention among Western intelligentsia, for which the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is always a front-burner issue. That the camps, in fact, attract so little notice shows just how committed leading media and academic institutions are to a narrative of Israeli oppression and Palestinian victimization.
Information about the camps isn’t hard to find, if one is willing to look. The terrorist groups promote them on social media, announce their openings at news conferences and post pictures and videos from them.
Moreover, the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), which brings news from the region to non-regional audiences, has written reports about the camps while posting pictures and videos, and distributes its reports for free.
Type the words “Hamas camps” into a Google search, however, and see what happens. You’ll find a few YouTube videos from recent summers and a few articles, mostly from Israeli, Jewish or conservative media. You won’t find much of anything from major newspapers, network TV or most mainstream outlets.
Nor, as we were reminded in recent days, will you see much discussion of the camps in the academic community.
During and after the 11 days of war between Israel and Hamas in May – during which Hamas launched thousands of rockets into Israel that landed as far away as Tel Aviv – groups of faculty, staff, students and alumni at major universities and other academic institutions issued statements condemning Israeli action in the conflict and more generally, siding wholly with the Palestinians.
These statements came from groups affiliated with, among other institutions, Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Vassar and the City University of New York, as well as the American Anthropological Association, National Women’s Studies Association and Middle East Studies Association of North America.
The media and academia, devoted to an all-encompassing narrative of Israeli oppression, ignore that, according to MEMRI, Hamas and PIJ recruited more than 10,000 boys for this year’s camp through their websites and social media and at mosques and central locations across Gaza.
They ignore that the terrorist groups labeled this year’s camps “Sword of Jerusalem,” which is what Hamas called its conflict this spring with Israel.
They ignore that, at camp, Hamas and PIJ teach boys how to use knives and guns (sometimes with live ammunition), how to engage in hand-to-hand combat and how to fight in tunnels like the ones that the terrorist groups dig to infiltrate Israel
They ignore that, each summer, Hamas and PIJ officials welcome recruits at the opening of camp, attend their graduation at the end, and deliver speeches at both.
They ignore videos showing that campers wear Hamas military uniforms and “practice shooting anti-tank missiles at an Israeli bus and tank, infiltrating an [Israel Defense Forces] outpost and liberating the Al-Aqsa Mosque, among other simulated military training activities.”
The camp, as PIJ’s Khader Habib explained at a news conference, is designed “to prepare a generation of resistance [fighters] raised to liberate and take back the blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque from the Israeli occupation and to remove the alien corn [i.e. Israel] that has taken over Palestine.”
The fact that Gaza is run by terrorists who seek Israel’s destruction, have incited war with Israel four times since 2008, have launched thousands of rockets into Israel and have encouraged Gazans to throw Molotov cocktails, burn tires, breach the border and attack Israelis undercuts the all-encompassing narrative of Israeli oppression.
Perhaps that’s why you don’t hear much about summer camps that train the next generation of Palestinians to attack Israelis.
Lawrence J. Haas, senior fellow at the American Foreign Policy Council, is the author of The Kennedys in the World: How Jack, Bobby, and Ted Remade America’s Empire, new from Potomac Books.