Shades of Hitler Youth. From the San Francisco Chronicle, with thanks to Leslie.
Seventeen-year-old Osama Abu Asi knows what Hamas stands for: swimming lessons, horseback riding, potato sack races and other summertime fun — including religious education and paramilitary training.
This is summer camp in the Gaza Strip, as organized by Harakat al-Moqawama al-Islamiyah, the Islamic Resistance Movement, better known as Hamas — which is officially regarded by the United States and many other countries as a terrorist organization that has killed hundreds of Israelis.
All summer long, at camps in playgrounds, in dirt-poor neighborhoods and on glittering Mediterranean beaches, Palestinian boys and young men get together in safe, well-managed, comfortable facilities decorated with the fluttering green flags of Hamas.
“In this camp we learn the important things of life — good behavior, respect,” said Osama, who was spending the summer at a Hamas-run camp on the beach outside Gaza City.
They also learn how to sing “intifada songs,” including one urging them to “kill Zionists wherever they are, in the name of God.”
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s spokesman Ra’anan Gissin described the summer camps as “indoctrination camps” comparable to the Hitler Youth camps, and accused Hamas of taking advantage of Gaza parents’ desperate economic straits by offering to care for and feed their children while concealing the organization’s true motives.
“This is where you create cultural hatred, so by the age of 15 or 16 you can send them out as suicide bombers. That’s the whole purpose of them,” he said…
Other campers gave similar responses when asked what they were learning from the bearded instructors who stood nearby as they spoke and sometimes whispered suggested answers.
“Math, sports, swimming, Islamic behavior,” said Ibrahim El-Kanua, 12, at a camp in a playground near the Jabaliya refugee camp where he lives. “I learned how to respect and honor.”
For Gaza parents, the camps provide an alternative for their children during the summer school holidays when there is little to offer in the way of recreation on Gaza’s dusty streets, and kids are often seen playing in the raw sewage that flows to the sea.
“The Hamas summer camp is teaching them good behavior, teaching them to honor and respect people, instead of losing them to the streets,” said 60-year-old Abdullah Fatah, as he came to check on his four grandchildren enrolled in a playground camp near his home in the Jabaliya refugee camp.
“(Hamas) follows Islam. Because they follow Islam, I trust them. I would follow them anywhere.”…