Gaza Strip July 17, 2012 (AP) The Islamic militant Hamas has won a vital battle with the U.N. over the hearts of Gaza’s children, moving unopposed into the summer camp sector this year after the world body ran out of money. That means Gaza kids who go to camp will have only the option of those that are heavy with lessons on Islam, political indoctrination and, in some cases, paramilitary training. Gone are the U.N. camps that reached 250,000 children in each session with a lighter-hearted fare of sports and games. But they cost $12 million, and a sharp drop in donations forced the U.N. to call them off. ‘This is a great loss for children,’ child psychologist Fadel Abu Hein said. Hamas camp counselors say children spend most of the day playing in their camps, and say it’s only fair that as an Islamic movement, they would instruct children about their religion, and as Palestinians, teach them about their homeland. ‘Our camps are about education and play,’ said senior camp counselor Abdullah Abdul-Ghafour. ‘But we can’t divorce children from their surroundings.’ Emad Abdullah, 42, a former police officer, said that in previous years, his three children went to U.N. camps. This year, they stayed home because he did not want any faction indoctrinating his children. Still, if the U.N. camps don’t reopen next year, ‘we must send them to a Hamas camp so they can have some fun,’ he said, ‘and spare my wife the headache of having them around at home all day.’ Hamas has dominated Gaza’s political and cultural life since the 2007 takeover, sidelining opponents and crushing dissent. It has tried for years to inject its strict version of Islam, such as separating the sexes and restricting women’s freedoms, into already conservative Gaza, but usually pulled back when encountering resistance from the community. In this setting, the U.N. Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) is the last major independent force in Gaza. The agency is largely immune to interference from the Hamas government because it provides education, health care and food staples to Palestinian refugees and their descendants, who make up the bulk of Gaza’s 1.7 million people. Both sides have been trying to mold youngsters in separate school systems, but summer camps are fertile ground since activities are less structured.
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The Hamas charter states that it “is one of the wings of the Muslim Brothers in Palestine” and an Israeli TV station has reported that in 2008, Muslim Brotherhood “representatives” traveled to Gaza from Egypt through the open border to meet with Hamas. An earlier media report indicated that shortly after Hamas took over the Gaza strip, Muslim Brotherhood representatives were present to review Hamas military formations. In 2007, a Hamas journalist acknowledged the role that the “international Muslim Brotherhood” has played in providing funds for the purchase of weapons.The Global Muslim Brotherhood supports Hamas through the Union of Good, a worldwide coalition of charities headed by Global Muslim Brotherhood leader Youssef Qaradawi.
In March of 2011, the U.K. based Daily Telegraph published an article titled “Gaza’s Elected Islamist Rulers Crack Down On Secular Community” which reported on the Islamization of Gaza under Hamas rule. A series of posts have also discussed the treatment of women under the Hamas regime in Gaza including the ban on men in women’s hairdressing salons and the ban on motorcycle riders from carrying women on the back seat and in May, an Israeli journalist reported further details on the treatment of women under the Hamas regime in Gaza.
Hamas reserves particular vitriol for Jews and Israelis and earlier posts have reported:
- In March 2010, the Hamas Deputy Minister of Religious Endowments called Jews “foreign bacteria” that should be “annihilated.”
- In June 2010, a Hamas affiliated cleric said that the conflict between Muslims and “Jews and Crusaders will continue to the Day of Judgement” and that the destruction of Israel will be “achieved through Islam.”
- In October 2010, Hamas cleric Yunis Al-Astal called upon the Islamic nation to kidnap Israelis in Arab and Islamic countries:
- In November 2010, Hamas co-founder Mahmoud Al-Zahhar (aka Mahmoud al-Zahar) justified the historical persecution of the Jews and says that they “have no future among the nations of the world. You are headed to annihilation.”