The issue of incitement to violence aimed at Palestinian children and young people is under the spotlight again with the emergence of new evidence of the naming of summer camps after terrorists.
In recent days, images have emerged of two West Bank summer camps named after Dalal Mughrabi. Mughrabi is responsible for the most lethal terror attack in Israel’s history, the 1978 Coastal Road massacre, in which 37 people, including 12 children, were murdered after a bus was hijacked.
“The Sisters of Dalal Summer Camp” in Tulkarem, a city in the north of the West Bank, was attended by female secondary school students and organised by the Fatah Shabiba youth movement high school committees with the support of the PLO Supreme Council for Sport and Youth Affairs.
Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas is chair of the PLO and head of its largest faction, the Fatah movement.
The Tulkarem camp also received official approval from the PA. Dressed in military-style uniforms, the teenage participants met with PA officials at the PA National Security Forces regional command headquarters. Among those speaking was the district governor, Abu Bakr, who relayed Abbas’ “blessings”. Bakr’s speech, reported the official PA daily, also drew attention to the “Martyr Dalal Mughrabi’s position in the struggle and the revolution”.
Pictures of another camp named after Mughrabi were also posted last week on Facebook by the PLO Supreme Council for Sport and Youth Affairs. The Dalal Mughrabi summer camp in Tubas, in the north-east of the West Bank, appears to have younger participants than the Tulkarem camp, and it is attended by both girls and boys.
The PLO Supreme Council for Sport and Youth Affairs also posted a picture on its Facebook page of a summer camp named after Omar Abu Laila. He carried out a shooting spree in the West Bank in March in which an IDF soldier and a rabbi, who was the father of 12 children, were murdered.
A flavour of the content of summer camps has been provided by the Fatah Shabiba youth movement. It released a video, featuring children wearing the logo of the 2019 summer camps, which shows “how Fatah teaches its children loyalty to the Martyrs’ blood”. The video features children chanting a song which honours both the former Iraqi dictator, Saddam Hussein, and several notorious terrorists. The children sing “O God, have mercy on Saddam Hussein”. There are similar incantations featuring the names of Ahmed Yassin, the founder of the terror group, Hamas; Khalil al-Wazir, the head of the PLO’s military wing and the mastermind of a string of attacks in the 1970s and 1980s; and Salah Khalaf, deputy head of the PLO and head of the terrorist organisation Black September. Khalaf planned the Munich Olympics massacre in which 11 Israeli athletes were tortured and murdered.
This year’s activities are not new. The PA has faced repeated criticism in recent years for its policy of naming schools, sports tournaments and summer camps after terrorists.
Last year, for instance, it was reported that 600 secondary school students belonging to Fatah’s Shabiba youth movement in Jenin participated in the “Martyr Abu Jihad Camp”. The camp was held at a facility of the PA National Security Forces. Camps named after Mughrabi were also reported in 2017. Details of activities at the summer camps – which were organised by the PLO Supreme Council for Sport and Youth Affairs and the PA’s National Committee for Summer Camps, both of which are funded by the PA Budget – were also exposed. These included children reenacting stabbing attacks and being taught to die as “martyrs”.
Sports tournaments are also frequently named after terrorists. Very often these are not historical figures, such as Mughrabi, but, like Omar Abu Laila, individuals who have carried out more recent atrocities. Shortly after the outbreak of the “knife intifada” in September 2015, for instance, the PA named a school football tournament after Ahmad Manasrah. Alongside his 15-year-old cousin, Manasrah had the previous month carried out a stabbing attack in Jerusalem which seriously injured a 13-year-old boy and a 25-year-old man. “I went there to stab Jews,” the teenager later told police.
But it is not just sports tournaments and summer camps which are named after terrorists. Evidence compiled by LFI and submitted to the UK government in 2017 shows that more than 20 Palestinian Authority schools in the West Bank and Gaza are named after terrorists or Nazi collaborators. These included not just Mughrabi, Khalaf and Yassin, but also Nash’at Abu Jabara, who built the suicide belts used by bombers during the Second Intifada in which hundreds of Israeli civilians were injured and murdered, and Amin Al-Husseini, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem during the British mandate. Al-Husseini was a Nazi collaborator who moved to Berlin during the second world war, was responsible for an SS division, and fought against the release of 5,000 Jewish children who perished in the gas chambers.
The PA has publicly boasted that it is responsible for this policy, with its news agency suggesting in 2015: “The Ministry of Education and Higher Education emphasised that naming state schools is under the authority of the Minister alone.”
Moreover, it is not just the names of PA schools which appear to glorify violence, but the lessons which are taught in them.
As LFI has repeatedly highlighted, the new school curriculum introduced in September 2017, teaches the virtues of martyrdom, describes terrorists such as Mughrabi as “heroes” and repeats antisemitic tropes.
The Institute for Monitoring Peace and Cultural Tolerance in School Education (IMPACT-se) has published a series of reports which argue that the curriculum “exerts pressure over young Palestinians to acts of violence in a more extensive and sophisticated manner”; has expanded its focus from the “demonisation of Israel to providing a rationale for war”; and is “more radical than ever, purposefully and strategically encouraging Palestinian children to sacrifice themselves to martydom”.
Martyrdom and jihad are, in the words of one textbook for children aged 11, “the most important meanings of life”. “Drinking the cup of bitterness with glory,” it suggests, “is much sweeter than a pleasant long life accompanied by humiliation.” Teenagers are taught that those who sacrifice themselves will be rewarded with “72 virgin brides in paradise”. So-called martyrs – such as Mughrabi – are described as heroes and held up as role models. The schoolbooks also contain antisemitic messages, such as that Jews sexually harass Muslim women and that they attempted to kill the Prophet Mohammed.
Through the payment of the salaries of PA Ministry of Education civil servants and teachers involved in implementing it, UK ministers have admitted that British aid is directly helping to support the delivery of the curriculum.
Supported by a cross-party group of MPs, LFI vice-chair Dame Louise Ellman introduced a bill in January which would mandate that UK assistance to the Palestinian Authority education system must comply with international values of peace and tolerance. It would also require an annual review to ensure compliance. LFI has also called for the Department for International Development to suspend direct aid to the PA which is related to implementing and teaching the curriculum until Ramallah commits to substantive reforms.