This summer, bodies connected to the Palestinian Authority (PA), the PLO, and Fatah, in cooperation with the PA National Security Forces (NSF), ran summer camps for Palestinian children and teens. Especially noticeable were the Pioneers of Tomorrow camps, launched by the Higher Council for Youth and Sports (HCYS), an official PLO body headed by Jibril Rajoub, who is also Fatah Central Committee secretary. The Palestinian law that defines the mission of the HCYS states that it is "the only body responsible for all activities for youth: sports, social activity, and the youth movements wherever the Palestinian people congregate." Among the goals of the HCYS, as set out in this law, are "training the youth to take responsibility for the homeland and the revolution" and "instilling the spirit of loyalty to and sacrifice for the homeland."About 30,000 campers participated in the 300 or so HCYS camps, in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, as well as in Lebanon and Syria.
It should be noted that the HCYS receives funding from the EU (through the NET-MED Youth and EuroMed projects), the UN, and various countries, including from UNICEF (through NET-MED Youth), the UN Development Programme, the government of Japan (through UNICEF), and the government of The Netherlands (through UNICEF).
In addition to the typical summer camp activities, the camps also offered activities of a military and political nature. The NSF participated in some of the activities; in some camps, the campers, both boys and girls, wore military uniforms, and even received various types of military training. The camps also provided a platform for teaching about political matters, such as the importance of the Palestinian struggle, glorifying the "martyrs," the Palestinian right of return, Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa mosque, and more.
It should be noted that PA and Fatah officials have stressed the importance of these camps. At the concluding ceremony for the camps held at the PA presidential headquarters in Ramallah, PA President Mahmoud 'Abbas stressed the role of the youth in "liberation," praised the youth's involvement in the cause of Al-Aqsa, and promised that the national Palestinian struggle would continue.
The HCYS also operated summer camps for Palestinian youth in the Palestinian diaspora in Lebanon, and the concluding ceremony for these camps was attended by Jibril Rajoub and other Palestinian officials.
The following is a report on HCYS summer camps in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and Lebanon. Fatah and NSF summer camps will be discussed in Part II of this series.
Military Training At Summer Camps Organized By Higher Council For Youth And Sports, In Cooperation With PA National Security Forces
At the weeklong "Martyrs" camp in Nablus, operated by Fatah, the PA's NSF, and the HCYS, the teen campers, aged 14-16, wore military uniforms and underwent military training. According to Khalida Hanani, Deputy Public Relations Director for the NSF for the Palestine TV channel, the camp's aim was to create "a generation with awareness that is capable of taking responsibility." To this end, she added, the campers were familiarized with the role played by the security and intelligence apparatuses in the PA.
Camper Tayseer Al-Shelah told the channel in an interview that the campers had learned "military things" and added that this was because "we are the generation of the future [and] will liberate Jerusalem. We are the hope of the Palestinian people."
Campers engage in military training. Source: Facebook.com/msimi.wood, August 3, 2017.
"Martyrs" camper Tayseer Al-Shelah. Source: Facebook.com/msimi.wood, August 3, 2017.
The HCYS Facebook page posted a stream of photos from the summer camps, some of which show the children training in military uniforms. Below are some of the photos from one of the HCYS special summer camps for the children of martyrs, which was held in Jenin:
Camp Activities: Cleaning Up Cemeteries, Reciting The Fatiha In Memory Of The Martyrs
Campers clean up the Martyrs Cemetery in Kalandia. Source: Hcysn.wordpress.com, August 5, 2017.
Camps For The Children Of Martyrs
As noted, the HCYS also runs special camps for the children of martyrs, with names such as "In the Eyes of the Sons of Martyrs," which was held in Jenin. This year's camp, its seventh, was run by the HCYS together with the NSF and the National Gathering of Palestinian Families of Martyrs. The National Gathering was established in 1994 by the families of martyrs with the aim of seeing to "the rights of the martyrs and their families and strengthening the principle and values of martyrdom out of loyalty and duty to the martyrs and their sacrifice."
During the concluding ceremony of this camp, all those present stood for a moment of silence, and recited the Al-Fatiha verse in memory of the martyrs. It was also reported that statements made during the ceremony "emphasized the loyalty of the martyrs who sacrificed [their lives] for Palestine."
A report on the concluding ceremony of the "In the Eyes of the Sons of the Martyrs" summer in camp in Jenin. Source: Fatehnews.org, August 14, 2017.
At The Summer Camps, Campers Create Map Of Palestine, Poster Of Pact Of Omar
The educational agenda at the HCYS camps included teaching political content to the campers. Before the camps began, Majed Mish'ati, director of camp counselors at the HCYS camps, said that the counselors would be teaching the campers about "national symbols" such as the Nakba, the flag, the problem of the prisoners, the [right of] return, and Al-Aqsa.
Among its posts on camp activities, the HCYS Facebook page included several photos showing children creating maps of Greater Palestine, and of two girls holding a poster of the Pact of Omar, which is considered the Jerusalem residents' writ of surrender to Caliph Omar bin Al-Khattab in 638. The writ sets out the relationship between the Muslim regime and its non-Muslim subjects in Jerusalem, who are considered dhimmis, that is, under the protection of the ruling regime.
Campers create maps of Palestine. Source: Facebook.com/783470818391948, August 4 and 8, 2017.
Campers display their Pact of Omar poster. Facebook.com/783470818391948, August 5, 2017.
At Camps' Concluding Ceremony, 'Abbas Stresses National Struggle For "Liberation And The Establishment Of A Palestinian State"
Numerous PA officials were in attendance at the concluding ceremony of the HCYS summer camps, which was held at the presidential headquarters in Ramallah. President 'Abbas, in his speech at the ceremony, emphasized the role of the youth in "liberation," and noted that the price that some of them had paid for it was martyrdom, imprisonment, or injuries. He said:
"We all believe in the youth's struggle for liberation and the establishment of our independent Palestinian state, with East Jerusalem as its capital. Over 50 years ago, the martyr Yasser Arafat said, 'Let us allow a thousand flowers to bloom.' He was referring to [our] boys and girls, because he, and all of us, believe in these young generations... Hundreds of thousands of our young people have carried the flag, leading the campaign; some of them gave their lives, some were imprisoned, and others were injured, but the campaign continues, and will continue, until we attain independence on our national land."
Addressing the youth, he stressed that they reflected the "national future," as manifested by the youth's resistance to "the measures taken by the occupation" at Al-Aqsa (i.e. following the July 14, 2017 killing of two Israeli policemen in a terror attack there): "You are our hope and our lives depend on you, because we see in you the future of Palestine; we see in you our national future, and [we see in you] Jerusalem... This became clear in the past month [July, 2017] in Jerusalem... When Israel decided to set up roadblocks and metal detectors at the entrance to Al-Aqsa mosque, the men, young people, women, and children of Jerusalem rose up and declared that they rejected these occupation measures and succeeded in [bringing about the] opening [of] the entrances to Al-Aqsa and the removal of the roadblocks, with their steadfastness and determination..."
'Abbas concluded his speech by declaring that the Palestinians would continue their national struggle, using another Arafat motto: "We continue the national struggle until a boy from among our boys and a young girl from among our young girls wave the flag of the Palestinian state over the walls of Jerusalem."
At Palestinian President 'Abbas speech at the HCYS camps' concluding ceremony. Source: Facebook.com/783470818391948, August 13, 2017.
Palestinian President 'Abbas (center) speaks at the HCYS camps concluding ceremony; Also seated to his right are Presidency Secretary-General Al-Tayyeb Abd Al-Rahim, PA Education and Higher Education Minister Sabri Sidam, and to his left are the HCYS head Jibril Rajoub, the HCYS secretary-general 'Issam Al-Qaddoumi. Source: Facebook.com/President.Mahmoud.Abbas, August 13, 2017.
Jibril Rajoub, Other PA, Fatah Officials Attend Concluding Ceremony Of HCYS Camps In Lebanon
PA and Fatah officials were also present at the concluding ceremony of the HCYS camps in Lebanon, which was held at the UNRWA Siblin Training Centre in Sibline. They included: HCYS head Jibril Rajoub, Palestinian Ambassador to Lebanon Ashraf Dabour, secretary-general of Fatah and PLO organizations in Lebanon Fathi Abu Al-'Aradat, Fatah Revolutionary Council member Amana Jibril, HCYS Secretary-General 'Issam Al-Qaddoumi, and UNRWA in Lebanon Director Claudio Cordone.
Dabour said at the ceremony: "This revolution is, as the martyr Abu Ammar [Yasser Arafat] said, the rifle of the insurgent, the scythe of the farmer, the pen of the writer, the scalpel for the injuries, and the young boy and girl waving the flag of Palestine over the walls of Jerusalem and the spires of Jerusalem. [This revolution] is the fighter, the feda'i [fighter who risks his life], the woman, the man, and the sheikh. Yes! This is the revolution. The campaign continues by means of you, heroes! By means of you, we are continuing, sons of Palestine, as your eyes are lifted to liberated Jerusalem, with Allah's help."
He added: "The sons of our people, the [Palestinian] refugees everywhere in the world, [and] the participants in the summer camps call to their brothers in Palestine and in Jerusalem who are defending the land, standing fast, and showing endurance, saying to the occupier: 'This is our land. Here we will reside and live. Jerusalem belongs to us and Palestine will be an independent and liberated state, with Allah's help, and Jerusalem will be its capital."
HCYS head Jibril Rajoub and other Palestinian officials at the concluding ceremony for HCYS camps in Lebanon. Source: Facebook.com/783470818391948, August 19, 2017.
* B. Chernitsky and S. Schneidmann are reseach fellows at MEMRI.
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unesco.org/new/en/ramallah/about-this-office/single-view/news/eu_and_unesco_ramallah_launch_net_med_youth_project_in_pales/, April 27, 2015.
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 The first surah of the Quran, read out at various occasions, including at funerals and memorial ceremonies.
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