Hamas is defending its practice of forcing teenage boys in Gaza to undergo paramilitary training. A story run by Lebanon’s Al-Jadid television, and translated to English by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), quoted principals and Hamas officials defending the training as “chivalry” class and “sports training.”
Principal Khaled Hashish admitted that the class, in which high school students march with fake guns and practice martial arts and military formations, “resembles the military training of soldiers.”
However, he argued, the training is part of “sports training” and its goal is to teach youth to “develop physical strength, chivalry, seriousness, and to be active.”
The “sports training” is taught by a man in military fatigues, who can be seen shouting orders at the young students as they stand in formation. The training is mandatory for high school boys, and takes place every day.
The father of one of the students praised the class as well. “When you raise a young boy on sound values, they stay with him as he grows up. This kind of knowledge is never forgotten,” he said.
Hamas spokesmen argued that the program allowed youth to “release negative energy.” The program was not a Hamas initiative, they claimed, but rather, was the brainchild of deceased Fatah head and Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat.
Arafat was afraid to implement the program due to concern over Israel’s response, they said.
The initiative, which is in its second year, is just one of many Hamas programs that openly aim to encourage children to adopt its aims and embrace terrorism. Hamas has previously released a cartoon honoring its “military wing,” and this year began a program to teach “resistance” to Israel in Gaza’s public school system.
The Hamas-affiliated student union, which operates in Gaza high schools, published a cartoon in May that urged students to “keep the world clean” – with the accompanying image showing a figure in the colors of the PLO flag throwing a Star of David in the garbage.