All the academics who sign statements of solidarity with "Palestine" claim to have done so out of a deep respect for human rights. Their advocacy for Palestinians and refusal to acknowledge Israel's right to exist received a great deal of attention in June, but their silence regarding the villains who train, equip, and brainwash Palestinian children into becoming child warriors has gone mostly unnoticed for many years. Since these academics don't seem to care about the human rights of Israelis, they should consider what role they play in denying the rights of Palestinian children.
Every summer since the Oslo Accords, reports have come out of Gaza about the summer camps for children, and every year the reportage gets more elaborate. This summer's camps run by Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) are the subject of a recent MEMRI report demonstrating that they are nothing more than terrorist training camps for children. Today's uncritical supporters of "Palestine" should worry that they are lending tacit support to the indoctrination and weaponization of child warriors.
This year's theme at Hamas camps is "Sword of Jerusalem," which is how the terror organization refers to the eleven days of warfare in May during which 4,600 missiles were launched from Gaza at Israel. There are four divisions this year: one for junior-high-school students, one for high-school students, another for university students, and a fourth division for adults, presumably the slow learners of the Palestinian resistance. From child soldiers to adolescent warriors to young adults on the brink of a career in violence, Hamas camps have everyone covered.
PIJ, the other terror organization that controls life in Gaza, has its own summer camps for children, operating in the summer of 2021 under the slightly more optimistic theme "Sword of Jerusalem — the Promise Draws Near."
It was announced with great fanfare by several fat adult men pretending to be politicians from PIJ's "political wing," who explained that the children in the PIJ camps were being trained in how "to remove the alien corn [i.e., Israel] that was planted by the West and took over Palestine." What these cynical old men are really doing is teaching kids to kill and die.
The pictures from PIJ camps show children being introduced to their rifles, at first with mock-ups made of wood or plastic and then with more realistic models that fire at a simulator. Eventually they move on to the real thing, learning to field-strip and clean their Kalashnikovs. Photos show them running obstacle courses, training under simulated battle conditions of fire and smoke, and learning how to clear rooms like SWAT teams.
As a Hamas recruiter explained in a June 26 press conference, the summer camps have been part of life in Gaza for many years. MEMRI has documented these videos since 2013, and before that Pierre Rehov featured them in his documentaries. Palestinian Media Watch, an NGO, has documented the abuse of children for warfare for decades. So none of the thousands of researchers, teachers, or scholars who sign statements of solidarity with "Palestine" can say that they were unaware of perhaps the worst case of child abuse ever committed in the conflict. They simply refuse to acknowledge it.
Of course, most of the petition signers are highly unoriginal, as the scores of shockingly similar statements "in solidarity with Palestine" attest. In fact, many are simply taking their cues from the New York Times. And when it comes to Palestinian children, the Times cares only about dead ones, whom it can use as evidence of purported Israeli perfidy.
The Times has probably run hundreds of stories about child warriors from Myanmar, Afghanistan, Sudan, Somalia, Yemen, Nigeria, Colombia, and elsewhere in Latin America, but nothing on Palestinian children. As Seth Frantzman points out in the Jerusalem Post, "a child killed by an Israeli airstrike is important" to the Times, but "a child recruited by Hamas or another terror group and whose life is put at risk receives less attention."
Middle East studies specialists are even more culpable because they understand the abuse of Palestinian children better than most non-specialists. So the Middle East Studies Association deserves special opprobrium for its solidarity with "Palestine."
Teachers' unions should have an especially keen interest in matters of child safety. Will any of the teachers who have pledged solidarity with "Palestine" also reprimand the child abusers of Hamas and PIJ?
Psychologists should be even more attuned to child abuse. Yet a group called Psychologists for Social Responsibility, whose mission statement boasts of "the ethical use of psychological knowledge, research, and practice," issued a declaration of solidarity with "Palestine." It should denounce just as unequivocally the psychological abuse of Palestinian children at the Hamas and PIJ camps.
Scholars of Palestinian descent may be the most culpable. From the safety of her tenured position at Rutgers University, Noura Erakat, assistant professor of Africana studies and criminal justice, is always willing to overlook Palestinian violence and slander Israel. Hers is the third signature on the Rutgers statement, and she knows firsthand the consequences of child abuse in the Palestinian territories, as her cousin Ahmed Erekat was killed after he rammed his car into a group of IDF soldiers at a checkpoint near Jerusalem on June 23, 2020. He spent his formative years imbibing the normalization of violence as dozens of Palestinians used vehicles to attack Israelis, while his uncle, PLO chief negotiator Saeb Erekat, rewarded their families and justified their attacks as "self defense."
Petitioners should show that their "solidarity" amounts to something more than hatred of Israel.
Every one of the thousands of virtue-signaling academics who signed a petition or letter expressing solidarity with "Palestine" should watch the MEMRI videos and look at the pictures from the Hamas and PIJ summer camps. Those who have children should contemplate the disparity of sending their own children off for a week or two to sing around the campfire and play "Capture the Flag" while the children of Gaza will sing songs of martyrdom and play "Butcher the Jews."
I call on all the institutions and individuals that wrote, circulated, or signed a petition or letter of solidarity with "Palestine" to condemn with equal fervor the children's summer camps run by Hamas and PIJ. I challenge them to prove that their solidarity amounts to something more than hatred of Israel.
A. J. Caschetta is a principal lecturer at the Rochester Institute of Technology and a fellow at Campus Watch, a project of the Middle East Forum, where he is also a Ginsburg-Milstein fellow.