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Introducing the Palestinian Summer Camp For Children

It isn’t about arts and crafts.Mon Sep 5, 2022

Hugh Fitzgerald

In the Western world, especially in North America, children go to summer camps where they learn arts and crafts, study nature lore (including identification of different mammals, insects, and plants), and play tennis and soccer. Some learn to ride a horse. Many learn to swim, or if they already can do so, to improve their stroke. Marshmallows may be roasted and stories told by both counsellors and campers by the light of campfires. These camps are the subject of affectionate humor, of the Alan Sherman “Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah” variety. 

The Palestinian Authority, too, runs camps for children. This year, 600 camps, with 42,000 campers, are being run by the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.Their theme this year was “Al-Masra wal-Asra,” i.e., “the place of Al-Isra (Al-Aqsa) and the prisoners,” were held in the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem.

These are very different affairs from camps in the Western world. Palestinian camps are intended mainly to train young people to be fighters for “Palestine.” They are named after, and honor in myriad ways, both imprisoned and “martyred” terrorists. A report on what the Palestinian Authority holds up for emulation at these camps can be found here: “Terrorists lauded at PLO-sponsored summer camps run by PA,” JNS, August 29, 2022:

Participating children and teens learned about the lives and activities of six terrorists, whose portraits were hung at several of the camps.

The summer camp in the Kubar refugee camp near Ramallah was named after Marwan Barghouti, who is serving five life sentences, plus 40 years, for his involvement in multiple terror operations in the Second Intifada, during which he was the head of Fatah’s military wing,

Camp Barghouti was named for one of the worst Palestinian terrorists, who is currently serving five life terms in an Israeli prison for organizing shooting attacks during the Second Intifada, for directing a terrorist attack on the Seafood Market restaurant in Tel Aviv that killed three Israelis, and for an attempted bombing of the Malha Mall in Jerusalem.

It is because of these acts, not despite them, that Barghouti is held up as a figure for Palestinian campers to admire and emulate.

In the Palestinian Authority territory, summer camps for children and teenagers were once again organized [in 2022, after the end of the COVID lockdown] by the PLO’s Higher Council for Youth and Sports, according to MEMRI….

Recreational activities were accompanied by the indoctrination of extremist values such as reverence for terrorists serving life sentences for murder; glorifying martyrdom and death; and instilling the ideal of “Palestine from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea,” an effort to deny Israel’s existence.

Summer-camp attendees learned about the lives and activities of six terrorists, whose portraits were hung at several of the camps.

At a closing ceremony of a camp in Bethlehem, children performed in front of a poster of the six terrorist prisoners being honored, pledging their fealty to the same murderous ideals as those that moved those six.

Posted on Facebook, the goings-on at these camps are amply documented. The Palestinians are proud of their attempts at a middle-east version of the Hitlerjugend camps. There is plenty of marching about, of singing the Palestinian anthem (“Warriors”), and of solemn ceremonies where campers genuflect and/or reach to the heavens to declare their loyalty to the Cause of Palestine.

The walls of Camp Barghouti themselves are bedecked with photographs of the most famous terrorists still in prison. Barghouti, of course, is there, and five others. But along with them, the camp also sees fit to honor others who have died or been freed. One of them is Leila Khaled (who says the Palestinians don’t treat women equally?), the terrorist who was largely responsible for the hijacking of a TWA plane in 1969 and an El Al plane in 1970; while no passengers were hurt, it was not for want of trying by Khaled, who rolled a grenade down the center aisle of the El Al plane; it was only luck that caused its failure to explode. A picture of her, holding an AK-47 and wearing a keffiyeh, became an iconic photograph and it is that picture that is displayed in Palestinian summer camps.

Another female terrorist whom the PA has been eager to promote at summer camps, as well as in Palestinian cities, is Dahlal Mughrabi, who took part in the worst terrorist attack in Israel’s history, the 1978 Coastal Road Massacre, in which an Israeli bus was hijacked. Thirty-eight Israeli civilians were killed, thirteen of them children. Mughrabi herself was “martyred” during the operation. The Palestinians lost no time in the glorification of this mass murderer. Like Barghouti, she has a camp named her, in addition to being the subject of study and praise at the other Palestinian camps.

A third terrorist, also female, who has been given much attention at these Palestinian summer camps is Rasmea Odeh.Odeh, a member of the terrorist PFLP, was imprisoned by Israel in 1970 for committing two terrorist attacks in 1969: the bombing of a Jerusalem supermarket that claimed the lives of two Hebrew University students, and the attempted bombing of the British consulate in Jerusalem four days later.

Odeh was released in a 1980 prisoner exchange and moved to the United States in 1995. She became a naturalized American citizen in 2004. Both of these moves – allowing her to move to the US, and then to become a citizen – strike me as intolerable and scarcely believable. Fortunately, thirteen years after she received her citizenship, she was deported, for lying about her terrorist past. (But didn’t the U.S. have her in its terrorist data bank?)

She, too, has been honored at these summer camps. Girls pledge to take her as a role model, to do what she and Leila Khaled and Dahlia Mughrabi did. Girls and boys alike learn the parts of a rifle and how to handle it. They learn songs about the deeds – the murders of hated Israelis — accomplished by Palestinian “martyrs.” At the final solemn ceremony on the last day of camp, both boys and girls, on a stage with a Palestinian flag, promise that they will do the same.

These summer camps have a strong military-and-ideology component. The closest thing to these Palestinian camps is probably Camp Siegfried, the Nazi camp run by Fritz Kuhn’s German-American Bund, at Yaphank, Long Island, that closed only when the United States declared war on Nazi Germany. There were a series of Nazi summer camps across America in the late 1930s, but the most famous one was Camp Siegfried. Along with such harmless activities as sailing and nature study, the Siegfried campers would be ordered to march about by the camp directors in the middle of the night, through the woods, in uniform, sometimes carrying mock weapons. Around campfires, instead of roasting marshmallows or singing cowboy/Indian/folk songs, like those American campers sing, at Camp Siegfried the campers sang Deutschland Uber Alles and the Nazi anthem, the Horst Wessel Lied. Pictures of Hitler, at various stages of his rise to power, were on display. The Hitler salute was given. Classes in Nazi ideology were mandatory.

That is the closest we Americans have ever come to the camps for children that are run today by the Palestinians. We can’t shut the Palestinian summer camps down. But we can bring these camps, and their inner workings, to the attention of the Western public, that needs to be better informed about how even this seemingly innocuous undertaking – the summer camp for children – is designed to honor past, and encourage future, terrorists, and to din into young brains that “from the river to the sea, Palestine shall be free.”

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