- By Katie CellaKatie Cella is an editorial researcher at Foreign Policy.
Now that the United Nations has run out of funding for children’s summer camps in Gaza, Palestinian kids in the Strip have one alternative for entertainment during the summer months — Hamas camp.
The U.N.’s Relief and Works agency had provided summer camps each year for over 250,000 children in Gaza, but at an annual cost of $12 million dollars, the agency said that there simply wasn’t enough funding for summer games when people in Gaza still need food.
Gaza’s governing body Hamas, on the other hand, runs several summer camps throughout the territory, which saw an enrollment of about 70,000 boys and 50,000 girls this year. Activities at Hamas camps include soccer, shooting and horseback riding for boys and baking and sewing for girls (According to one Hamas camp counselor, "girls don’t like sports"). Both genders are taught and quizzed in Islamic doctrine.
Much more controversial are reports of political indoctrination and paramilitary training in the Hamas camp. In what appears to be a recruiting effort, a Hamas camp for boys 14 and older has campers scaling chain link fences, crossing water with their arms above their heads, and racing across monkey bars (check out the slideshow of these drills on Mother Jones).
A Hamas camp counselor told the AP, ‘‘Our camps are about education and play, but we can’t divorce children from their surroundings.” (The experience makes for an interesting comparison with the Israeli counterterrorism camp in Gush Etzion in which visitors can shoot virtual terrorists.)
Israeli online newspaper Ynet News reported that this year’s theme at one of the Hamas summer camps is "the suffering of Palestinian prisoners." According to the article, children are led on tours of mock Israeli interrogation cells and torture chambers, and are taught to walk on rusty nails.