The international community and mainstream media are shamefully ignoring a major destructive scandal in progress right now – the indoctrination of children into terrorism.
In the northern hemisphere it is the middle of summer and typically school children in many countries enjoy a mid-year summer break. Summer activity camps for children are a popular diversion worldwide. Most are focused on sport such as tennis or swimming, open-air activities including hiking, outdoor cooking and orienteering or perhaps building skills in music or chess.
But in Gaza things are different. During June, al-Qassam Brigades, the military division of terrorist organisation Hamas, together with Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), have been recruiting youth, typically in the ten to sixteen age range, into paramilitary training camps. Recruitment has been focused on schools run by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) as well as in mosques. Desks set up in these schools and mosques are manned by armed terrorists in camouflage gear who encourage boys and their parents to book into a local youth training programme.
Hamas has run these camps since 2012 with the aim of mobilising a generation of young people capable of fighting wars against Israel. The so-called Vanguards of Liberation Camps have in past years attracted over 25,000 and possibly as high as 100,000 recruits. Abu Bilal, spokesman for the camps, explained at the launch of the monthlong camps, ‘We dubbed it (this year) the “Sword of Jerusalem” to symbolise what our people achieved during the recent escalation in Gaza. It is a generation that carries this sword to strike the enemy and liberate Jerusalem’.
Speaking to online news service Al-Monitor, Khalil, 12, from Gaza City who joined the summer camp for the first time said, ‘I will participate in the camp in order to strengthen myself and learn self-defence skills so I can fight Israel, become a martyr and go to heaven’. Mohammed, 14, commented, ‘I joined the camp in order to defend my land against Israeli attacks and subsequently join the ranks of al-Qassam Brigades’.
The camps teach a fundamentalist Islamic ideology of violent jihad and sacrifice, becoming a shahid, a martyr, as the ultimate service to Allah. They are taught the entirety of the Land of Israel should be Palestine. Boys interviewed by the Center for Near East Policy Research express their desire to die as martyrs to go to heaven. They talk of killing Jews, conquering Israel and liberating Jerusalem. It is quite chilling to watch videos of boys as young as ten determinedly and calmly declare ‘I will sacrifice my soul’. Another boy declares ‘you Jews who trampled us and contaminated the land, we are going to crush your necks with our feet… we are the generation of Jerusalem intifada’.
Anti-Israel hatred and antisemitism permeate many of the camp teachings and activities.
The ideological indoctrination is accompanied by physical and strategic training, with role-play of various terrorist missions. Military-style obstacle courses are set up with lots of smoke and fire to create a battlefield atmosphere. Boys crawl under barbed wire and march in units carrying flags and weapons. There are classes and exercises in various forms of hand-to-hand combat.
Weapons skills are taught including how to disassemble, clean and reassemble rifles and rocket-propelled grenades. Shooting is practised with live ammunition in target ranges adorned with Israeli flag symbols.
Stone throwing and wire cutting, techniques commonly used in Gaza border riots, are also practised.
There is no peace education, no talk of tolerance and coexistence. The camps employ classic brainwashing to create almost robotic armed child soldiers.
Following on from the recent eleven-day conflict in May during which Hamas and PIJ fired approximately 4,600 rockets into Israel and in response the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) destroyed hundreds of terror targets including a major terror tunnel network, we see some change in the Gaza youth camps. The conflict is being somehow characterised by Hamas as a victory to inspire youth to join. There are child-size rocket launchers made for camp participants to learn how to fire missiles over the border into Israel.
The promotional material on social media seems more emboldened. A video from one of the summer camps shows the children demonstrating their military skills in front of an audience, much like a school concert. In one scene, they capture an IDF base via a tunnel and successfully abduct an Israeli soldier. One child wears a GoPro mimicking the gear militants wear to record their operational videos.
This is of course sickening child abuse, but what is driving it? The Hamas and PIJ leaders must know they cannot defeat Israel. Why are these camps and devotion to child terrorism ignored by mainstream media?
The conflict has proven very lucrative for some Hamas and PIJ leaders who have amassed enormous personal fortunes. Senior Hamas leaders Khaled Mashaal and Ismail Haniyeh each have estimated net worth in the range of two to four billion dollars.
But that hardly excuses the international community, mainstream media and much of the academic and political class for overlooking this issue. They have all been quick to criticise and even condemn Israel, but they look the other way on what is in effect the industry of production for the next generation of terrorists.
The United Nations Office of Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict states ‘Human rights law declares 18 as the minimum legal age for recruitment and use of children in hostilities. Recruiting and using children under the age of 15 as soldiers is prohibited under international humanitarian law – treaty and custom – and is defined as a war crime by the International Criminal Court’.
Yet the UN has never condemned Hamas which routinely uses children in conflicts.
This also seems of little concern to the Biden-Harris administration which has restored funding to the ‘Palestinian Territories’ previously cut by President Trump.
In late March at its annual conference, the Australian Labor party amended its policy platform to unconditionally and as a priority, recognise a State of Palestine. By rejecting preconditions proposed by moderate delegates to disavow violence and terrorism, Labor policy effectively endorses a regime grooming child jihadist terrorists.
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Dr David Adler is President of the Australian Jewish Association
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