Tag Archives: Hamas

No Gaga Here: Extreme Summer Camps in the Middle East

By Rebecca Borison

While I grew up at a Jewish summer camp playing Gaga, kids growing up in slightly (read: very) different areas than me are partaking in slightly (read: very) different activities in summer camp. The Times of Israel recently published two separate articles on Extreme Summer Camps. The first article discusses a Hamas-run Gaza summer camp, where “activities include walking on knives, cleaning beaches and experiencing life as a security prisoner in an Israeli jail.” Five days later, the Times of Israel released a second article about a right-wing camp in Ramat Migron, where the girls learn “self-defense techniques, how to construct temporary dwellings and basic agriculture.”
So we have two camps representing the extremes of Israelis and Palestinians. But let’s take a closer look at these camps.

We’ll start with camp “We will live honorably” in Gaza. Now that the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) no longer runs summer camps in Gaza, “We will live honorably” is the only option for kids in Gaza. This Hamas-run camp attracts around 70,000 kids from across the Gaza strip.  According to one of the camp directors, Omar Aql, the camps try to “strengthen the importance of volunteer work and create a clean social environment.” For example, campers participated in a campaign to clean the Nuseirat beach.

But then there are some disturbing camp activities as well. Campers are introduced to a model of an Israeli security prison in order to “reenact the daily suffering of Palestinian prisoners,” according to the Palestinian Maan news agency. The “prison” consists of an investigation room, a detention room, a confession extortion room, a solitary confinement room, a courtyard and an infirmary.
At Camp “Hilltop Youth,” the campers partake in some disturbing activities as well, learning krav maga in order to fight against any Arabs that may happen to attack them. The girls are also introduced to extreme living arrangements, spending four days without electricity or running water.  Unlike the “We will live honorably” camps, the “Hilltop youth” camp is one of many summer camps available in Israel. An Israeli child can have a normal camp experience at Camp Kimama or Camp Tapuz.

Both camps promote the immense value of devotion to one’s people. A camper from Gaza named Abdulaziz A-Saqa explained, “We learned that Palestinian prisoners suffer greatly for the Palestinian people.” One of the campers at Ramat Migron named Esther told the Israeli Newspaper, Ma’ariv, “Whoever comes here isn’t looking to go to a luna park (amusement park), rather to fight on behalf of the State of Israel.”

Both campers have been taught to devote their lives to their nation. They are instilled with a great sense of patriotism—to the extent that they will fight no matter the cost.

While Gaza camp counselor Abdul-Ghafour denies that the camp is training future Hamas militants, it definitely appears to be a strong possibility. Why else would these campers need to learn how to “slide over thorns using his elbows for propulsion” and run and jump through flaming hoops? According to the Washington Post, the campers are “told to fight Israel to liberate Palestine.”

According to Ma’ariv, the goal of the “Hilltop Youth” camp “is to train and recruit the next generation of warriors to settle the hills.” They even bring in speakers from the settlement movement, such as MK Michael Ben-Ari and Itamar Ben-Gvir.

Yes, that sounds just as extreme as training Gaza youth to be Hamas militants, but there is one crucial difference between the two: the camps’ relationship to their nation. The camp in Gaza is organized by Hamas. As the ruling power in Gaza since 2007, Hamas is not only condoning such camps but is funding and running them. The camp in Ramat Migron, on the other hand, is run solely by extremists. According to Ma’ariv, “security forces came to the outpost tens of times and destroyed the wooden shacks that the youth had built,” but each time the youth return to rebuild it. The State of Israel is not supporting extremists. They are trying to stop them. In fact, Ramat Migron is scheduled to be evacuated by August 1.

You can make an argument that likens these two camps, and you could make an argument that contrasts the two.  What it comes to at the end of the day is does the camp represent an extremist minority or an extremist people.

Now What? How Israel Should Respond to Palestinian Unity

By Sophie Taylor

In light of the recent upheaval in the Middle East, Moment’s Niv Elis spoke to 16 experts on what the changes mean for Israel and how it should move forward in light of those changes. While the range of thinkers expounded upon many different scenarios, none could predict what happened next; today, the opposing Palestinian factions Fatah and Hamas met in Cairo and proclaimed a unity deal, complicating peace efforts for Israel and the United States.

Here are what a few of the thinkers in our roundup have had to say about the newest development:

Aaron David Miller, who argued in Moment that Israel lacks a coherent strategy in the face of dramatic change, writes in Business Week:

 “This peace at home will guarantee greater political conflict with both Israel and the U.S. and, if Palestinians aren’t careful, tensions with the broader international community. One thing is clear: An already mortally wounded peace process is, for now, dead.”  He also notes that “Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gains some maneuvering room. After all, how can anyone criticize Israel for not wanting to deal with a Palestinian Authority that has Hamas in it? U.S. President Barack Obama’s hopes to revive the peace process—never terribly realistic—will become dimmer still.”

Daniel Levy, who encourages Israel to make clear its desire to for a sovereign Palestinian state in our roundup, now tells the Guardian:

“Palestinian division, playing so-called ‘moderates’ against ‘extremists’, had been a cornerstone of US (and Israeli) policy. If the Palestinian unity deal holds – and caution is well-advised with the details yet to be agreed, and with a history of false dawns – that cornerstone will be no more.”  Yet, “this time, Fatah’s move appears to be a more calculated and profound break with past practice—and the anticipated opprobrium of the US seems to weigh less heavily.”

Meir Javedanfar, who thinks new developments in the Middle East provide an opening for Israel in its rivalry with Iran, tells the Christian Science Monitor:

“The PLO-Hamas rapprochement will be a boost for Netanyahu—albeit in the short term. He can say that [Palestinian President Mahmoud] Abbas is now in with a group that doesn’t recognize Israel’s right to exist…Israel is going to be forced to show compromises due to the higher credibility which the international community seems to be giving to the Palestinian side, especially the PLO under Abbas.”

M.J. Rosenberg, who says that Israel should work to negotiate with the Arab League Initiative, rather than just Palestine, writes for Political Correction:

“In fact, the [U.S.] administration’s demand that Hamas recognize Israel in advance of any negotiations with Israel could well ensure that there won’t be any. So could our demand that it accept all previous agreements negotiated by the Palestinian Authority.”  In that view, “There is only one demand we should make of Hamas, that it cease all acts of violence.  Hamas has, in fact, lived up to that commitment during various cease-fire periods with Israel. In partnership with Fatah, it would likely do so again.  In any case, a mutual cease-fire is a reasonable demand, one that would facilitate negotiations. But the people issuing demands in Jerusalem and in Congress seem to have no interest in negotiating. Their goal is delivering for Israel which, of course, is a way of delivering for their campaigns.”

We don’t yet know how long the unified Palestinian government will last or what it will mean for Israel, but check out our article “What Is Israel’s Next Move In The New Middle East?” for fascinating insights as to what Israel’s top priorities should be.

This Week’s Links

a_br10q_woody_0128

By Michelle Albert

  • Woody Allen speaks to NPR about his newest movie, the difference between life and fiction, and what he’s like off camera. [NPR]
  • While religious hatred dominates the headlines, a rabbi reminds us that peaceful interfaith exchanges are, in reality, more widespread. [StarTrib]
  • Moment columnist Gershom Gorenberg traces racism across Jewish lines, in both America and Israel. [SouthJerusalem]
  • An American Al-Qaeda member reveals his Jewish background. [ynet]
  • Hamas reportedly prevented an assassination attempt on former president Jimmy Carter during his trip to the West Bank. [Haaretz]
  • Tel Aviv hosts a wedding for five gay couples. [JTA]
  • How Jewish is your summer camp? This graph tells all. [MyJewishLearning]
  • The best way to make zombies even scarier? Make them Nazis. [Forward]
  • The Bible is on Twitter. [Heeb]


Bookmark and Share

Hamas on Offensive in Gaza

By Jeremy Gillick

As the Israeli election enters its final stretch (polls close at 10 P.M. Israel time), with Kadima leader Tzipi Livni surprisingly ahead in preliminary exit polls, Hamas continues its brutal crackdown on Fatah in the Gaza Strip.

According to a report issued today by Amnesty International, since Israel’s attack on Gaza began in late December, “Hamas forces and militias in the Gaza Strip have engaged in a campaign of abductions, deliberate and unlawful killings, torture and death threats against those they accuse of “collaborating” with Israel, as well as opponents and critics.”

Amnesty claims that over twenty men have been killed by Hamas–both “collaborators” and members of Fatah–and “scores of others have been shot in the legs, kneecapped or inflicted with other injuries intended to cause permanent disability, subjected to severe beatings which have caused multiple fractures and other injuries, or otherwise tortured or ill-treated.” Continue reading

George Mitchell: Good for the Jews?

By Jeremy Gillick

Yes, it’s true. Barack Obama has ordered Guantanamo closed. That’s big news, at least symbolically. But the bigger news, the decision that could really change things in the Middle East, is his selection of George Mitchell as special envoy for the Middle East.

Unlike the other candidates for the position-Dennis Ross and fellow Clintonites like Martin Indyk, Aaron David Miller, and Dan Kurtzer-Mitchell’s resume includes making peace in addition to policy.

And critics of the Mitchell appointment (lefties: the special envoy doesn’t matter anyway, righties: Mitchell is too “fair”) are not very convincing.

Perhaps the most fascinating tidbit I stumbled on while parsing through old magazine articles about Mitchell was a piece by Atlantic Editor Andrew Sullivan titled “Fighting Irish” from the New Republic’s August, 2001 issue. Sullivan argues that Mitchell, among others, was naive to think that militant groups–the IRA, in this case–would put down their arms and enter the political mainstream. Continue reading

What Hamas Believes

By Jeremy Gillick

Bombing Gaza might not force Hamas–the Palestinian version of the Muslim Brotherhood that rules it–to moderate its hatred of Israel or its hostility towards Jews, but talking to it won’t either. At least, that’s the dismal picture painted by Jeffrey Goldberg–based on discussions he had with several former Hamas leaders–in his fascinating op-ed in yesterday’s New York Times.

“Hamas is not a monolith,” he explains, “and opinions inside the group differ about many things, including engagement with the Shiites of Hezbollah and Iran.” That said, Goldberg argues, there is a consensus within the group that it should aspire to the ideals and successes of its northern counterpart, Hezbollah. “For Hamas,” Goldberg writes, “Hezbollah is not only a source of weapons and instruction, it is a mentor and role model.”

If Hamas is not as malleable as some on the dovish left like to believe (In his new book, We Can Have Peace in the Holy Land, Jimmy Carter writes that “there is a real prospect of Hamas participating constructively in future peace talks.”) then is it worth talking to at all? Or was Hillary Clinton right? Continue reading

Clinton Confirmation Hearings: Good or Bad?

By Benjamin Schuman-Stoler

First of all, hello! We at Moment and ITM hope you had a lovely holiday season. Here’s to a beautiful 2009! (Or at least one without World War 3 and total economic meltdown.)

In case you haven’t seen it, our January/February issue is out, with a pretty set of photographs chronicling Jewish/black relations in this country to celebrate the inauguration of our 44th president. Darn, what’s his name again?

Hillary Clinton

Hillary Clinton

The important news of the day involves yesterday’s confirmation hearings of Hillary Clinton for Secratary of State.  Clinton took the opportunity to prepare the country for a new kind of State Department that would have a renewed focus on diplomacy and direct negotiation with Iran and other previously untouchable rogue states; thereby signaling a break from the kind of shunning politics the Condoleeza Rice State Department often utilized.

We are all hanging on every thread of information that could clue us in to how the Obama administration will deal with Israel, especially with the Gaza crisis upon us. Clinton did not get into specifics, but she drew the line on inclusive diplomacy at Hamas. Here’s what she said, from the LA Times:

“The president-elect and I understand — and are deeply sympathetic to — Israel’s desire to defend itself under current conditions and to be free of shelling by Hamas rockets,” she said. “However, we have also been reminded of the tragic humanitarian costs of conflict in the Middle East, and pained by the suffering of Palestinian and Israeli civilians.”

Clinton echoed the Bush administration stand in part by declaring: “You cannot negotiate with Hamas until it renounces violence, recognizes Israel and agrees to abide by past agreements. That is just for me an absolute. That is the United States government’s position; that is the president-elect’s position.” Continue reading