Hamas and the Indoctrination of Palestinian Children-Part III

Note: this section contains the list of works cited at the end

Section III: Unconventional Education and its Impact
Hamas’ Extra-Curricular Methodology
Hamas, not content to rely exclusively on school textbooks to accomplish their goal of radical Islamic indoctrination, masterfully employs a number of media to promote their focused message to children. These media all converge in a focused, strategic effort to inundate the child’s mind with the message of jihad and violent struggle against Israel. Included in this media barrage are children’s television programs, children’s summer camps, a children’s magazine, poetry, songs, posters along streets, comic strips, post cards, school notebooks, websites, active involvement and even parental encouragement!
“One of the signs of victory is the Palestinian mother who prepares her son to be a warrior and then receives the news of his death for the sake of Allah with cries of happiness” – Hamas Prime Minister, Ismail Haniyeh [Weiner and Weissman, “Hamas’ Determination”]. Since Hamas’s philosophy of education begins in the home, the home is a fitting place to begin the discussion of the unconventional media used by Hamas to inculcate radical Islam into the children. From interviews to video re-enactments, parental encouragement of children’s involvement in jihad reinforces this mindset in Palestinian children. While certainly not all Palestinian parents encourage their children to engage in jihad, there is still an ‘ideal’ presented for parents to aspire to, as illustrated in Haniyeh’s comment. This ‘ideal’ seems to be winning at least some converts. Dream 2 TV broadcast an interview with Maryam Farhat, better known as Umm Nidal in which she was asked about her response to hearing that her son had died in an attack on Israelis. Her response was in lock-step with Hamas’ philosophy:
At first I did not cry. I said ‘Allah Akbar’ and bowed in gratitude. The truth is I was ashamed to say, ‘Allah, help me in my tragedy,’ because I consider this a blessing, not a tragedy. I prepared boxes of halva and chocolates, and handed them out to his friends [in celebration] [Weiner and Weissman, “Hamas’ Determination”].
Umm Nidal was also quoted as saying, “Israelis are not civilians and there are no prohibitions on killing them. I am willing to sacrifice all my sons” [Weiner and Weissman, “Hamas’ Determination” footnote 42]. Another example of this parental fanaticism was seen in an interview on PA television in February 2006, in which the mother of Wafa Al-Bas, the 21-year-old Palestinian female who was caught with a 20-pound bomb in her undergarments, was asked about her reaction to her daughter’s attempt to execute a suicide mission. Her reply was anything but grief-stricken: “If it was a boy, I would have supported it, but since she is a girl I discouraged it” [Weiner and Weissman, “Hamas’ Determination”].
Once the child is old enough to attend kindergarten, the ‘official’ jihad indoctrination begins. On May 31, 2007, Hamas’s Al-Aqsa TV broadcast the “end of the year party” for a kindergarten class from the Al-Mujamma’ al-Islami Islamic Society, one segment of Hamas’s da’wah in Gaza [“Inculcating Kindergarten Children”]. These kindergarteners, dressed in camouflage, with headbands that read “There is no God but Allah”, put on a show in which they carried plastic rifles and waved flags with the Muslim Brotherhood emblem. Some of these children were even masked, and performed military-style exercises- they somersaulted, jumped, crawled as if they were being fired upon, and waved swords, all the while a song praising Hamas played in the background [“Inculcating Kindergarten Children”]. There was even a chant in which one child yelled questions and the other children yelled the answer:
Q. Who is your model? A. The prophet [Muhammad]!
Q. What is your path? A. Jihad!
Q. What is your greatest aspiration? A. To die for the sake of Allah!
Q. What is your movement? A. Hamas!
Q. What is your army? A. Qassam
[“Inculcating Kindergarten Children”]
In response to criticism regarding the content of children’s television programming on Tomorrow’s Pioneers, which is shown on Hamas’s Al Aqsa TV network, Mustafa Barghouti, the Palestinian information minister and Hamas chairman of the Al-Aqsa Communications Network, cloaked his defense of such material in patriotic terms, saying the program had a clear policy to “raise a generation of Palestinians which cling to their land and country” [“Inculcating Kindergarten Children”].
A logical result of the radical Islamic indoctrination of Palestinian children are terrorist groups actively using children, with Hamas’ approval, in carrying out military activity including attacks. Here again, the “education” these children have received in the Palestinian Authority and Hamas educational systems facilitates such activity. In fact, their participation in combat support roles is exactly the kind of thing they have been taught in their textbooks [Marcus and Crook, “Palestinian Children in Combat”]. The two most prominent roles played by children are passing along information in the ‘theatre of operations’ and bringing water to the fighters [Marcus and Crook, “Palestinian Children in Combat”]. In the sixth grade Palestinian text book, History of the Arabs and Muslims, page 34, these roles are idealized as having been fulfilled by Asma, the daughter of Abu Bakr, a companion of Muhammad who was hiding with Muhammad in a cave. “Asma… was my age when she played a role in supplying provisions and water and passing information…to the Prophet and his companion”; as a follow-on to this story, the book proceeds to pose the following question to the sixth grade reader: “What role can I play in order to support the national resistance movement against the occupier and colonialist?” [Marcus and Crook, “Palestinian Children in Combat”]. Other examples of Palestinian youth engaging in violent acts include an attempted shooting in Aful, Israel, by youth ages 13, 14 and 16; a suicide attack (with no casualties except for the bomber), perpetrated by a 17-year-old Palestinian youth; and a thwarted effort to use Palestinian youths ranging in age from 11-14 to smuggle weapons and ammunition from Egypt to Israel [“Exploitation”]. In an interview with the Islam Online website on May 26, 2002, Salah Shehada, a former leader of Hamas in Gaza made clear Hamas’s view of children and jihad. He stated that children must receive proper training before being sent on suicide bombing missions and that they should be put in a special unit in Hamas’s military wing so that they can be indoctrinated with the ideas of jihad [“Exploitation”]. In fact, among the main reasons that children are such a valuable asset to terrorist organizations, one reason stands out among the rest: the ease with which children are indoctrinated with mindsets that encourage and enable this kind of violent behavior [“Exploitation”].
In addition to textbooks, Hamas and its affiliates spread Hamas ideology in schools using creative tools. The Islamic Student Movement, a Hamas-affiliated, activist organization which spreads Hamas ideology, has produced a postcard as well as school notebooks which are distributed to Palestinian children, and carry messages reinforcing Hamas indoctrination. On the postcard, which commemorates Issa khalil Shawkah, a Hamas terrorist, are messages promoting the concept of self-sacrifice and the heroic nature of death in a suicide attack:
Oh, Mother, the time for leaving [this world] is quickly approaching.
Oh, Mother, do not speak of me should I fall and lie dead on the ground.
Go and prepare for me my shroud, you must not hesitate.
For death does not frighten me, as my heart’s most fervent wish is to die the death of a holy martyr for the sake of Allah (al-Istishhad) [“Incitement to Terror and Hatred”].
The school notebooks have a similar goal to the above postcard- the propagation of the Hamas jihadist ideology. Figure 2 shows a notebook published by the Islamic Student Movement and distributed in Bethlehem schools, and likely distributed in other areas under PA control; the notebook bears a design similar to that of the Muslim Brotherhood, and contains radical Islamic messages to reinforce Hamas’s message to the youth [“Incitement to Terror and Hatred”].

Figure 2: Islamic Student Notebook distributed to students [“Incitement to Terror and Hatred”]

In close support of efforts to educate children for active combat, television and videos play important roles. Palestinian Authority TV, which seemed to promote Hamas’s religiously inspired message had been “incessantly broadcasting” a violent, jihadist agenda which “extols and glorifies the dead and especially their willingness to be killed, and portrays their afterlife as idyllic”, right up until Hamas founded its own television network [Kupelian, “Palestinian TV”]. One PA TV music video, aired 13 times in 10 days during 2004, was aimed at encouraging children to be willing to involve themselves in combat, even if this involvement results in their death as a martyr [Marcus and Crook, “Palestinian Children in Combat”]! The video contains scenes of children engaged in “frenzied war dances” and interspersed with these scenes are clips of children involved in combat violence; in addition to the video, the lyrics are just as violent: “…You will not be saved, Oh Zionist, from the volcano of my country’s stones. You are the target of my eyes, I will even willingly fall as a Shahid…” [Marcus and Crook, “Palestinian Children in Combat”]. Another such video which was repeatedly aired on PA TV beginning in December 2000 showed a child actor portraying Muhammad al-Dura who was killed in a crossfire between Israeli troops and Palestinian terrorists. In the video, the actor calls on other children to follow his example of martyrdom: “I am waving not to part but to say, ‘Follow me’” [Weiner and Weissman, “Hamas’ Determination”]. The video even shows Al-Dura playing in paradise [Marcus and Crook, “Palestinian Promotion”]! While the PA pulled this video from the air in 2003 due to U.S. pressure, it began running it again in 2006 [Weiner and Weissman, “Hamas’ Determination”]. An interesting side-note to the al-Dura story: while the Israeli military immediately accepted responsibility for al-Dura’s death, a subsequent investigation revealed that the child had probably been killed by a Palestinian bullet, possibly even an intentional shooting for the purpose of producing a martyr [Palestinian TV Urging, 2001]!
On January 7, 2006, Hamas launched Al-Aqsa TV in Gaza, patterned after Hezbollah’s Al-Minar Television, to support and promote their ideological agenda to instill radical Islamic doctrine into the mindsets of Gazans, and their children [Hamas launches Al-Aqsa, 2006]. Hazim Sharawi, an Al-Aqsa TV personality who, not coincidentally, was educated as a child in a Hamas-run mosque, was quoted as saying that he wants “Hamas children” to know that “the true map of our homeland…includes land now in Israel” [“Hamas Launches Television Network”]. Fathi Hammad, the director of Hamas TV, had big plans for programming when he launched the television network, including an “American Idol” type show called “A Night on the Air” in which “loyal Hamas kids” would “compete to sing the best militant, patriotic song” [“Hamas Launches Television Network”]. Hamas’s educational philosophy found an enthusiastic proponent in Hammad. In a speech delivered after Israel withdrew from Gaza, Hammad said “…we of Hamas emphasize by means of the Izzedine al-Qassam Battalions that we will continue the jihad until Palestine has been liberated [sic], from the [Jordan] river to the [Mediterranean] sea [“Hamas Launches Al-Aqsa”].
Another recent video on Hamas TV shows a young Palestinian boy as he grows from youth to manhood, and begins with him as a young child going to a mosque, praying, reading the Quran and holding an automatic rifle. He then is shown as an older, Hamas fighter who battles against Israel and ultimately dies as a shahid, or martyr. As he dies, a choir sings “the pure blood will produce honor and glory” [Palestinian promotion of child martyrdom, 2007]. In another Hamas TV video, horrifying for its portrayal of a calloused mother leaving her four-year-old daughter behind as she goes on a suicide mission, suicide bomber Reem Riyashi’s final act is reenacted. This video ran regularly from March to May 2007 and I have included part of the transcript:
“Mommy, what are you carrying in your arms instead of me?” (viewer sees Reem preparing a bomb). “A toy or a present for me?…” (Reem hides the bomb in her clothing)…“…Come back quickly, mommy” (the girl waves to Reem from a balcony, then later sees a TV news report about her mother’s suicide attack)…
“…Instead of me you carried a bomb in your hands…only now, I know what was more precious than us… My love [for Muhammad] will not be [merely] words… I am following Mommy in her steps!” (the last scene shows the little girl opening a drawer and retrieving sticks of dynamite) [Four-year-old girl vows, 2007].
A brief sampling of other videos should further illustrate the importance of television in Hamas’s strategy of indoctrinating children. One Hamas video promotes the idea that children are a continuation of Hamas founder and spiritual leader Sheikh Yassin, and shows the children in uniforms, holding rifles and engaging in military training; another video which ran hundreds of times on the PA’s television network shows a young boy leaving a ‘goodbye’ letter for his parents as he leaves to become a shahid, a death he calls “sweet” [Marcus and Crook, “Palestinian Promotion”].
Perhaps the most egregious and best known of the video propaganda used by Hamas has been a recurring theme on their Tomorrow’s Pioneers children’s television show. A Mickey Mouse look-alike named Farfur made his debut on the program in 2007 and quickly earned his nickname “Terror Mouse”. His recurring message to the children viewing the program was one of hatred for the Jews, Islamic world domination, and violent struggle against Israel to liberate ‘Palestine’ [Marcus and Crook, “Hamas Steals Mickey Mouse”]. Based on the reactions of the children calling into the program, this character seemed to have influence over their young perceptions. One girl called in to one of the broadcasts and chanted a song with lyrics such as: “…oh Jerusalem it is the time of death…oh Jerusalem we will never surrender to the enemy and we will never be humiliated…” [Marcus and Crook, “Terror Mouse”]. As if these incitements weren’t bad enough, Hamas TV finally took the character off its show due to the international outcry, but the method they chose to remove him was nothing more than a continuation of the anti-Semitic ideology he spouted: Farfur was beaten to death by an ‘Israeli’ because he wouldn’t sell the ‘Israeli’ his land. His screams could be heard as he was killed off-camera (see the video: http://www.pmw.org.il/). In response, a three-year-old child called in to the program, obviously distressed and agitated by killing of Farfur and the anti-Jewish incitement of the program, and called the Jews ‘dogs’ and said “we will fight them” [“Mickey 290607” Video]. While Farfur may be gone, the use of a cartoon character to spread his message is not. Farfur was replaced by his “cousin” Nahool, a large puppet Bee suspended on a wire. In response to a little girl who called in stating she wanted to be a journalist when she grew up, Nahool replied: “Why? So that they will photograph the Jews when they are killing Farfur and the little children?” [Marcus and Crook, “Blood Libels”]. On July 13, 2007 on “Tomorrow’s Pioneers”, Nahool said: “We shall avenge the enemies of Allah, the murderers of the prophets [i.e., the Jews], the murderers of innocent children, until Al-Aqsa will be liberated from their filth” [Marcus and Crook, “Blood Libels”].
The Internet is yet another tool which Hamas uses to great effect. Reuven Paz, director of the Project for the Research of Islamic Movements (PRISM), stated that “reaching younger people, who are, not coincidentally, the main users of the Internet, is the main goal of radical Islam” [Weiner and Weissman, “Hamas’ Determination”]. As of 2004, Hamas maintained approximately 20 Websites in seven languages. It’s online children’s magazine, Al-Fateh (“The Conqueror”) at www.al-fateh.net, is designed to appeal to youth; it utilizes alluring graphics and comic-strip style drawings. The content consists of poems, discussions of religious topics, and heroic stories from Arabic and Islamic history, in addition to articles praising suicide bombers, extolling terror attacks and preaching hatred for Israel and Jews [“Hamas Website”]. Al-Fateh has been brazen in its targeting of children with its jihad-related propaganda. At one point it presented a story about a Palestinian child who aspired to be a jihad warrior like his older brothers: “I want to commit a fedayeen action against the ‘evil Zionists’ and I want so much to sacrifice myself by attacking the evil Zionists that stole our dear land” [Weiner and Weissman, “Hamas’ Determination”]. On another occasion, it published the will of Sa’id al-Houtari who, as a suicide bomber, killed 21 and wounded 150 at the Dolphinarium in Tel Aviv. The will, in part, reads:
…I will turn my body into shreds and explosions which will pursue the sons of Zion…will wound them and burn what is left… for is there any [act] more sublime than dying as a martyr [to perpetrate a suicide bombing attack] on the soil of Palestine for the sake of Allah…”
It was signed “The living shaheed” (which again reinforces the notion to children that martyrdom doesn’t really end the martyr’s life) [“Educating Children for Hatred and Terrorism”].
In issue 38, Al-Fateh ran an article “The Stories of Uncle Izzedine for the Little Girl Israa’ Al-Quds” which was a collection of stories told to this little girl. One of these stories was about Muhammad al-Dura, who as mentioned earlier was a Palestinian boy killed in a crossfire. In this story, a fictitious account is related (as being true) concerning a paramedic named Bassam al-Balbisi who tried to rescue al-Dura but was gunned down by an Israeli soldier: “He paid no attention to their submachine guns of hatred…but the hatred of the Jews followed his movements. One of them… aimed his gun at the paramedic and fired a round of bullets, casting him, dead, onto the ground…” [“Educating Children for Hatred and Terrorism”]. Appendix A shows the cartoon sketch of the paramedic being shot through an Israeli sniper scope.
In perhaps the most grotesque example of indoctrination, Al-Fateh ran a brief tribute to Zaynab ‘Ali ‘Issa Abu Salem, a female who blew herself up at an intersection in French Hill, Jerusalem in 2004 in an attempt to murder as many as possible [“Educating Children for Hatred and Terrorism”]. The tribute included a photo of her decapitated head laying on a sidewalk, her headscarf still wrapped around her head. Under the photo, part of the tribute reads: “Her head was severed from her pure body and her headscarf remained to decorate [her face]. Your place is in heaven in the upper skies, oh, Zaynab…sister [raised to the status of heroic] men” [“Educating Children for Hatred and Terrorism”].
In addition to stories and poems, www.al-fateh.net also hosts children’s comics that aid in reinforcing their ideology (see Appendix B). One such comic shows Palestinian children finding toys in the street. One of the children warns the other to not touch them, as they are “booby-trapped bombs” placed there “…by the evil Zionists to kill innocent Palestinian children” [Marcus and Crook, “Hamas Hate-Comics”].
Continuing Hamas’s strategy of social services, the organization provides summer camps in impoverished neighborhoods, playgrounds and on beaches [Stannard, “Hamas Camp”]. To the impoverished youth who attend, Hamas’s summer camps must seem quite impressive. In addition to the fun and games, each child gets a brand new green Hamas baseball hat and T-shirt [Stannard, “Hamas Camp”]. Moreover, the young Palestinians learn to swim, ride horses, have potato sack races and enjoy other diversions, yet there is a very dark side to this seemingly benevolent Hamas outreach: radical jihadist indoctrination, which comes in the form of religious education, paramilitary training and songs about the Intifada, one of which encourages the youth to “kill Zionists wherever they are, in the name of God” [Stannard, “Hamas Camp”]. In one camp, an instructor wore what was obviously a mock suicide belt under his heavy shirt. A reporter asked him what it was and he replied with a smile, “Boom!”; in another part of this camp, children between 10 and 12 years of age sang songs, one of which had the lyrics: “Kill Zionists. HA-A-MAS. Wherever they are. HA-A-MAS. In the name of God. HA-A-MAS” [Stannard, “Hamas Camp”].
In this paper I have attempted to detail the rise of Hamas from its early Muslim Brotherhood roots. I have also attempted to detail Hamas’s role in the indoctrination of Palestinian children, and to demonstrate that Hamas’s educational philosophy represented to a large extent, a continuation of that of the Fateh-led Palestinian Authority. Further I have endeavored to illustrate both Hamas’s conventional tools of education (influence in PA textbooks and schools), as well as the unconventional tools such as websites and summer camps. If surveys are to be believed, the results of the Hamas (and PA) indoctrination are frightful. In 2002, long before Hamas took complete control of the Gaza strip, the Palestinian newspaper Al-Ayyam cited a survey in which a sampling of children from all the districts in Gaza revealed that 72 percent of the children “expressed the hope of becoming martyrs”; several months later, the official PA newspaper, Al-Hayat Al-Jadida announced that “79 to 80 percent of the children expressed willingness to be martyrs” [Weiner and Weissman, “Hamas’ Determination”]. Clearly the indoctrination campaign is working. Dr. Shafiq Massalha, a Palestinian psychiatrist made the chilling assessment that the “next generation of Palestinians will be a very murderous population full of anger and hatred” [Weiner and Weissman, “Hamas’ Determination”]. What led him to such a stark assessment? He completed a study which determined that more than half the Palestinian children between the ages of 6 and 11 “dream of becoming suicide bombers” [Weiner and Weissman, “Hamas’ Determination”]! There have been, in fact, over a thousand studies conducted which have demonstrated a link between violence in the media and aggression in children; those under the age of eight are especially vulnerable due to “…their inability to distinguish between fantasy and reality” [Weiner and Sussman, “Will The Next Generation”]. Palestinian human rights activist Bassam Eid has detailed how in addition to increased aggression in children, violence in the media also produces anti-social behavior, fears that the child may become a victim, a lack of “sensitivity” toward both violence and victim, and a greater desire to both see and take part in, violence [Weiner and Sussman, “Will The Next Generation”]. The media’s failure to portray both the suffering of the victims of violence, and the personal ramifications of such behavior – punishment, and/or painful suffering of the perpetrators of these violent acts – adds to the fog of unreality in these children [Weiner and Sussman, “Will The Next Generation”]. While there is no shortage of voices recommending changing the indoctrination in Hamas’s education, it is highly unlikely that the Hamas minister of Palestinian Education, or the current manifestation of this office in Gaza, whatever if may eventually look like, will act on such recommendations. Further complicating this matter in Palestinian areas is the international, anti-Israeli bias which the world community brings to this issue. In “The Child Soldiers Report”, which looks at the issue of children used as soldiers in 194 countries, the Palestinian indoctrination of children was left out of the report, and Israel was criticized instead [Weiner and Sussman, “Will The Next Generation”]. Ultimately, there will need to be a reversal of philosophy in Hamas’s education model (and the PA’s for that matter) if a true peace is ever to be achieved within the borders of Israel. Realistically, as long as Hamas and the PA education systems are given free reign by Israel, such a peace is unlikely, as future generations of Palestinian children are even now being indoctrinated to hate and kill Jews.

Appendix A
Cartoon depicting fictional Palestinian paramedic being gunned down by Israeli soldier.
[“Educating Children for Hatred and Terrorism”]

Appendix B
Hamas Comic Strip
[Marcus and Crook, “Hamas Hate-Comics”]

List of Works Cited
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Weiner, Justus Reid and Michael Sussman. “Will the Next Generation of Palestinians Make Peace with Israel?” Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, 1 December 2005, 4 August 2007. <http://www.jcpa.org/jl/vp537.htm

Kevin Banks

Geopolitical analyst with extensive background in languages and information technology.
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