II: Educational Philosophy of Hamas
Fateh and Hamas: Educational similarities
“Palestinian education and propaganda are more dangerous to Israel than Palestinian weapons.” – Former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon
Any discussion of the education of Palestinian children has to take into consideration the influence of the Fateh-led Palestinian Authority , for this was the organization which determined the direction of Palestinian education prior to the January 2006 elections; however, it would be difficult to identify with any precision exactly where the PA’s education stopped and where the Hamas education began. Two main reasons account for this blurring of educational boundaries: 1) in terms of education, both groups seemed to have similar ideologies regarding Israel and the Jewish people, and 2) Hamas was actively involved in the PA’s educational system [“Incitement to Terror and Hatred”]. Interestingly, as of 2003, Hamas involved itself not only in the PA (Fateh) controlled educational system, but also in its own alternative educational institutions which actually competed with those of the PA, with no serious PA disciplinary action against Hamas for its involvement in the educational process [“Incitement to Terror and Hatred”]. Documents seized in Gaza at the Palestinian Preventative Security Service (PPSS) compound and dated November 2002 make clear Hamas’s infiltration into the PA educational system, as well as the increasing influence on Palestinian students by Hamas activists serving as teachers in PA schools [“Hamas Penetration”]. These documents detail that the head of the PPSS, Rashid Abu Shabak, believed that such infiltration had “…begun to constitute a real threat to the PA’s political vision, its interests, presence and influence…”; he went on to state that “the influence of the Hamas movement through its teachers in the schools is absolutely clear” [“Hamas Penetration”]. Despite such concern, the PPSS, under the leadership of Abu Shabak, continued the “policy” of “selectively hiring Hamas activists as teachers…”, and opposed “…their sweeping removal from the educational system” [“Hamas Penetration”]. These documents make it clear that the PA was reticent to take action against Hamas even when the PA’s authority and status were being “undermined” [“Hamas Penetration”]. In a memo written by Abu Shabak, apparently to the Assistant Head of the PPSS for Activity Issues in the Gaza Strip, Majed Abu Smallah, Abu Shabak stated his position on the employment of teachers affiliated with Hamas: “it will be wrong for us to totally prevent (the employment of teachers from the Hamas) and it will be wrong to permit (their employment) and then start dismissing those who commit a violation” [“Hamas Penetration”, Appendix A].
If there was a difference in the educational philosophy between Fateh and Hamas, it would have been merely in the degree of extremism taught, not in the material itself. As I will discuss, the new textbooks developed by Fateh appointees for grades one and six, contain ideological statements closely aligned with the Hamas Charter. The bluntly anti-Jewish themes in textbooks used prior to 2000 were also in agreement with Hamas’s ideology, not to mention statements by Palestinian leaders such as Yassir Arafat which encourage Palestinian children to aspire to become shahids (martyrs) [Weiner and Weissman, “Hamas’ Determination”].
These philosophical similarities in education between the Fateh-led PA and Hamas are important to note. Despite the more secular nature of Fateh as compared to Hamas, Fateh often presented religious concepts such as martyrdom as “practical obligations” in its education [Weiner and Weissman, “Hamas’ Determination”]. Martyrdom, in fact, was an important theme in Fateh’s educational program. Firial Hillis, Director of the Palestinian Children’s Aid Association, went on record in 2003 as admitting that a core element of the “official education policy” was to education “young children” to strive for “Shahada” (martyrdom):
The concept of Shahada for him [the child] means belonging to the homeland, from a religious point of view. Sacrifice for his homeland. Achieving Shahada in order to reach Paradise and to meet his God. This is the best. We also teach our children to protect the homeland, belonging and to reach Shahada. [Marcus and Crook, “PA Journalist”].
Hamas’s current philosophy of education, to a large extent, represents an unbroken continuity with that of Fateh and the PA. This continuity between the two educational systems can be seen in Figure 1, which details similarities between the Hamas Charter and Palestinian Authority textbooks used in PA-run schools.
Hamas Charter PA beliefs
“When our enemies usurp some Islamic lands, Jihad becomes a duty binding on all Muslims.” [Article 15] “..if the enemy has conquered part of its land ..then Jihad becomes the individual religious duty of every Muslim man and woman…[Islamic Education for Seventh Grade, p.108]
“In order to face the theft of Palestine by the Jews, we have no escape from raising the banner of Jihad.” [Article 15 “…there will be a Jihad and our country shall be freed. This is our story with the thieving conquerors. You must know, my boy, that Palestine is your grave responsibility..”
[Our Arabic Language for Fifth Grade, p. 69-70]
“Israel will rise and will remain erect until eliminated by Islam…” [Introduction] “Remember: The final and inevitable result will be the victory of the Muslims over the Jews.”
[Our Arabic Language for Fifth Grade p. 67]
“..Join Jihad!.” This call will … continue to be heard until liberation is completed, the invaders are vanquished and Allah’s victory comes.” [Article 33] … The oppressors [Israel] have overstepped the boundary. Therefore Jihad and sacrifice are a duty.… … Draw your sword… let us gather for war with red blood and blazing fire…Death shall call and the sword shall be crazed [from much slaughter]… Oh Palestine, the youth will redeem your land..”
[Reader and Literary Texts for Eighth Grade, p. 120-122]
“…there will be a Jihad and our country shall be freed. This is our story with the thieving conquerors.”
[Our Arabic Language for Fifth Grade, p. 69-70]
“…death for the cause of Allah its most sublime belief.” [Article 8] “Martyrdom for Allah is the hope of all those who believe in Allah…[Islamic Education for Seventh Grade, p.112]
“I hope that all my children will die as martyrs.”
[Mother of a man killed fighting Israel, PA TV, September 9, 1998].
“…reinforced by successive battalions from the multifarious Arab and Islamic world, until the enemies are defeated and Allah’s victory prevails.” [Introduction “Our brothers in Arab and Muslim countries felt the danger… the [Arab] Nation will recruit its forces and there will be a Jihad and our country shall be freed, by Allah’s will.” [Our Arabic Language for Fifth Grade, p. 69]
“The Nazi Zionist practices against our people…” [Article 31 “They [the Jews] try to carry out Nazi slaughters on us” [Hafez Barghouthi, editor of Al-Hayat Al- Jadida, 23 July, 1999]
“The clearest examples of racist belief and racial discrimination in the world are Nazism and Zionism.”
[The New History of the Arabs and the World, P. 123]
Figure 1: Comparison between the Hamas Charter and PA educational agenda
Thus it should come as no surprise that a June 2005 report by the Center for Monitoring the Impact of Peace (CMIP) detailed anti-Israel messages in Palestinian educational material such as textbooks…etc [Weiner and Weissman, “Hamas’ Determination”]. As anti-Jewish and anti-Israel as some of the statements in the current batch of Palestinian textbooks are, the content of previous textbooks was even worse. Until 1999, the PA used textbooks from Jordan and Egypt which contained even more overt anti-Semitism; however, as a result of intense international pressure to do away with such textbooks, the PA, in September 2000, created 14 new textbooks for first grade and sixth grade [Hamas’ Determination, 2006]. Every year since then (at least through 2006), two grades have chosen new textbooks produced by the Center for Developing the Palestinian Curricula. While these new textbooks are not as rabidly anti-Semitic as the previous textbooks, they still promote a message of “re-conquering Israel” and incite Palestinian children to martyrdom for Allah [Weiner and Weissman, “Hamas’ Determination”]. The new 2007 textbooks developed for the 12th grade by Fateh appointees are considered by at least one watch-dog organization to be the most anti-Israel of the textbooks produced since 2000 [“Creation of a Terrorist”]. Since these books were developed under the supervision of Fateh appointees, they therefore represent the philosophy of Fateh. It should also be mentioned that such anti-Israel tainted textbooks were a violation of Palestinian commitments under the Oslo agreements, in which the Palestinians agreed to encourage peaceful relations with Israel as well ceasing anti-Israeli incitement in schools, religious centers and media [“Palestinian Education”]. Lastly it is worth noting that while the United States was the single largest financial backer of the Palestinians as of February 2007, having given more than $1.5 Billion in financial assistance, the U.S. is presented as an enemy of Arab people in these same textbooks [Marcus and Crook, “From Nationalist Battle” 23]. None of the infrastructure benefits which Palestinians have derived from this assistance is mentioned in these textbooks, yet ironically, the U.S. financial assistance given to Israel is mentioned, and is touted as evidence of the U.S.-Israeli strategic alliance [Marcus and Crook, “From Nationalist Battle” 23]. Such anti-U.S. bias in the face of immense financial donations could spell trouble for the Palestinian government, whatever it will eventually look like once the dust settles from the Hamas takeover of Gaza, since “Palestinian curriculum development…is relevant to congressional concerns about the…levels of U.S. assistance to the Palestinians…” [Pina, “Palestinian Education”].
While the Palestinian Authority was quickly sinking in the mire of corruption, Hamas was busy building up its social infrastructure and alternative educational system. “Da’wah”, which is Hamas’s term for their social infrastructure, plays a central role in Hamas’s philosophy of education, because education in the Hamas system is facilitated by the overall da’wah effort. In fact, the goal of da’wah is to influence “…the younger generation’s awareness and daily lives — to reshape Palestinian society with radical Islamic values so that it will actively participate in the struggle to destroy Israel and replace it with an Islamic Palestine” [“Incitement to Terror and Hatred”]. Thus, education and Hamas’s social project are a two-pronged mechanism for achieving their goals; kindergartens, middle schools, high schools and summer camps are examples of the educational institutions which Hamas maintains under da’wah [“Inculcating Kindergarten Children”]. Furthermore, needy students are given grants through the da’wah, which helps perpetuate the flow of ‘new blood’ into the Hamas indoctrination machinery [“Incitement to Terror and Hatred”].
UNWRA as Promoter of Hamas’ Educational Philosophy
Hamas’s current educational philosophy did not develop in a vacuum, it was greatly influenced by a surprising source. Founded in 1948 by the United Nations General Assembly, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNWRA) was tasked with providing Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon, with various social services including healthcare and education; UNRWA provides these educational services for 59 refugee camps, serving 3 million Palestinians [Weiner and Weissman, “Hamas’ Determination”]. While UNRWA’s education mission was noble, its execution of this duty over the intervening years was anything but praiseworthy. According to Dr. Dore Gold, former Israeli Ambassador to the UN, “…the agency did nothing to alter Palestinian educational texts that glorified violence and continuing war against Israel”; Gold went on to detail the presence of martyr posters on school walls and even in the homes of UNRWA staff [Weiner and Weissman, “Hamas’ Determination”]! It should not be surprising then that Palestinian children educated in these camps were ripe for the Islamic harvest, nor that UNRWA would be a sympathetic proponent of Hamas’s ideology. Further degrading the situation, once Hamas was established, it eventually gained a majority foothold in the ‘teachers’ sector’ of the UNRWA clerk’s union which gave a clear indication of the level of control Hamas supporters would exert over UNRWA educational institutions, and this occurred before the Hamas 2006 electoral victory [Weiner and Weissman, “Hamas’ Determination”]! According to journalist Arlene Kushner, the UNRWA camps were launching pads for numerous terrorist attacks, and were the site of weapons caches and explosives manufacturing. She went on to say that “…UNRWA employees, who are themselves refugees, are often in the service of Hamas” [Weiner and Weissman, “Hamas’ Determination”]. The fruit of UNRWA’s affiliation with Hamas is evident in the alumni of its educational system: Dr. Dore Gold has identified 46 terrorists who received their education from UNRWA schools, including Ashadi Zakayira Tubasi and Fuad Ismail Mohamad Al-Horani who murdered dozens of Israeli citizens in suicide attacks [Weiner and Weissman, “Hamas’ Determination”]. Other alumni include well known Hamas leaders Ibrahim Maqadam, who established the military division of the Muslim Brotherhood in Gaza, and who helped establish the same apparatus for Hamas, and Salah Mustafa, a “high ranking” Hamas leader [Weiner and Weissman, “Hamas’ Determination”]. Perhaps the most prominent alumni of UNRWA’s educational system is the current prime minister of Hamas (and currently the de facto leader of ‘Hamastan’ in Gaza) Ismail Haniyeh, whose early education was from UNRWA educators.
Hamas’s philosophy of education
In brief, Hamas seems to have adopted a phased approach to ‘education’. From childhood through fifth grade, the Hamas educational apparatus indoctrinates children to view Israel as an illegitimate and illegal usurpation of Palestinian land, stolen by the Jews, who are presented as sub-human enemies that must be expelled from the land and killed where possible. It should be noted that Hamas, in its Charter, sees Israel as existing on land that is Islamic Waqf , therefore not only does Islam require Israel’s destruction, but to accept Israel’s existence is a “violation of Islamic law” [Marcus and Crook, “The Hamas Ideology”]. Once children reach the sixth grade, the Palestinian school textbooks actively encourage them to engage in violent “combat” activity. From the sixth grade through the end of high school this process continues with the involvement of Hamas activist teachers to the extent that by the time the youth enter the Palestinian Universities, where terrorist organizations do a great deal of recruiting, they are ready to be enlisted as valuable members and leaders of Hamas [“Incitement to Terror and Hatred”].
Central to Hamas’s philosophy of education is the idea that “education”, which in Hamas’s definition is really nothing more than political and religious indoctrination, is absolutely essential to the ‘proper’ development of “political awareness” in Palestinian youth [“Incitement to Terror and Hatred”]. To understand Hamas’ philosophy, one must begin with their foundational position paper, the Hamas covenant. Contained in this document are clear explanations of Hamas’s intention to inculcate radical Islamism and a sense of jihad into the minds of the young. Article 15 of the Hamas Charter states that :
…jihad is an individual religious duty on every Muslim… that requires that Islamic education be given to the masses locally and in the Arab and Islamic spheres. The spirit of Jihad, fighting, and joining the ranks must be broadcast to the umma. Fundamental changes must be made in the educational system to liberate it from the effects of the ideological invasion that was brought by the Orientalists and missionaries [Hroub, 276].
Detailing the practical outworking of its educational platform, Mahmoud al-Zahar, one of the founders of Hamas and a former PA foreign minister stated bluntly:
We will turn every facet of life into resistance. Education will deal with the culture of resistance. We will not tell them [the children] that Palestine is a state that runs from Rafah to Khan Yunis [the limits of the Gaza Strip]. We will tell them it runs from Rafah in the south to Ras al-Nakura [the Israel-Lebanon border] in the north, and that Palestine’s western border is the [Mediterranean] sea and the eastern border the [Jordan] river [thus encompassing all of Israel] [Weiner and Weissman, “Hamas’ Determination”].
Hamas’s philosophy of education begins in the home, where the earliest education of children takes place, and incorporates the mother’s influence into their overall educational strategy. Article 18 of the Hamas Covenant discusses the importance of the woman’s role in preparing children for the liberation struggle: “The woman in the house of the Mujahid… has the most important role in… raising the children with the ethical character and understanding that comes from Islam… [Hroub, 278]. Article 18 goes on to explain the context of the “understanding that comes from Islam”: “…training her children to perform their religious obligations and preparing them for their contribution to the Jihad that awaits them” [Hroub, 278]. To ensure that Muslim girls grow up with the proper appreciation for their obligations to educate their future children in Islam and jihad, Hamas’s educational philosophy encompasses even the education of these future-mothers: “…it is necessary to take care that the schools and curricula educate the Muslim girl in order to become a righteous mother aware of her role in the battle of liberation” [Hroub, 278-279].
Once the children are old enough to attend school, they experience a much more direct Hamas-influenced education, (especially after Hamas’s electoral victory in 2006). Article 16 of the Hamas charter details a number of areas that need to be addressed by Hamas’s educational system: performing religious duties, studying God’s book and the Prophetic tradition (sunnah), and Islamic history and heritage [Hroub, 277]. Hamas is very careful to point out that it is important to use “…a curriculum that will provide the Muslim with the correct world view in ideology and thought” [Hroub, 277]. While this may seem rather innocuous, a careful reading of the next line shows that this “correct world view” includes teaching that there are “enemies” who must be systematically studied in preparation for the coming struggle: “…it is necessary to study carefully the enemy’s material and human potential, to know his weaknesses and strengths…the powers that support him…” Article 16 concludes with a telling statement on Hamas’s philosophy of education: “…so that the fighting Muslim (mujahid) can live in his time with the full knowledge of his destiny, purpose, path, and the events surrounding him.” (emphasis added) [Hroub, 277]. The use of the highly charged words “fighting Muslim” and “mujahid” are a clear signal that Hamas’s intention is to use education of children to further the armed struggle against Israel. In fact, the soul of the Hamas educational plan was to impart religious values that glorified both sacrifice and martyrdom [Hroub, 238-239]. If the Hamas – leaning literature is to be believed, the success of the efforts to instill these values into society – and youth – were evidenced by the intifada itself. In his work, Hamas: Harakat al-moqawama al-Islamiyya: nazhrat fi al-fekr walmamarasa, Jihad Saleh furthers this idea: “… absolute proof that the launching of the intifada was the result of that preparation and development. The PLO has been around for over a quarter of a century, but why have we not seen an uprising swept forward by such rapid momentum before?” [Hroub, 239].
In what may be a portent of coming rulings on non-Islamic literature, an article dated March 6, 2007 reported that the Hamas-run Ministry of Education ordered the removal from schools of Speak Bird, Speak Again, a 400 page anthology of Palestinian folk tales, claiming it was filled with “sexual expressions” [Daraghmeh and Nammari, “Hamas Orders Book”]. Sharif Kanaana, a novelist and professor of anthropology at Bir Zeit University in the West Bank, however, believes the book was removed simply because genitals are mentioned [Daraghmeh and Nammari, “Hamas Orders Book”]. Whatever the true reason for the book’s removal, it ignited a fierce debate between the more secular Fateh and Hamas. Hanan Ashrawi, a former Palestinian cabinet minister, said in response to the removal of the book, “education and culture and social issues should not be handled by anybody that has a closed, ideological, doctrinal attitude…it should be in the hands of professionals” [Daraghmeh and Nammari, “Hamas Orders Book”]. In light of Hamas’s impending, continued management of the Education Ministry resulting from a power-sharing deal with Fateh prior to the Gaza takeover, Ashrawi went on to call for the creation of an independent governmental body to handle issues related to arts and education [Daraghmeh and Nammari, “Hamas Orders Book”]. Despite the destruction of 1500 of the books, Hamas apparently gave in to pressure to rescind the removal of the book by the time of a March 10th Washington Post article [“Outcry”]. Hamas’s Nasser Shaer, then Minister of Education, claimed he knew nothing of the “illegal measures” taken to remove the book and so has reversed the decision [“Outcry”].