Summer Camp in GazaJul 17, 2012 at 12:00:33 PM
Here in Israel, I’m getting ready to send off my sons to summer camp -- filled with swimming, baseball and rousing sing-a-longs beside the campfire.
In Gaza, summer camps organized by the ruling party Hamas are giving tens of thousands of children an experience that includes walking on nails and on knife blades, and a mock Israeli prison that reenacts the experience of “Palestinian prisoners."
In recent years, Palestinian summer camps have more resembled paramilitary training grounds -- giving children the chance to dress up as masked Palestinian commandos and stage a mock attack on Israelis, plus weapons training with real Kalashnikov rifles.
More "moderate" summer camp experiences have been difficult to implement. In 2010, a United Nations-run summer camp in Gaza was burned to the ground by militants for "teaching schoolgirls fitness, dancing and immorality."
Meanwhile, the “moderate” Palestinian leadership in the West Bank has named a summer camp after Dalal Mughrabi, who led the most lethal terror attack in Israel's history -- the 1978 Coastal Road massacre which resulted in the death of 38 Israeli civilians, including 13 children. This week, the Palestinian governor of the Jericho district told campers that Mughrabi "should be a beacon for us in our activities." (Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, July 16, 2012)
Advocates of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process have long decried the atmosphere of hate that permeates Palestinian society, school textbooks and the media. Genuine peace demands moderation, coexistence and tolerance to be taught and practiced as core values.
If Palestinian summer camps had a little less weapons training and a little more singing around the campfire, that would go a long way toward forging a ripe environment. As John F. Kennedy said, “Peace does not rest in charters and covenants alone. It lies in the hearts and minds of people.”