A kinder, more moderate Hamas? That's the image Gaza's ruling militant group is hoping to sell, in any case. Having scaled back the rocket attacks on Southern Israel that prompted Israel to strike back last December and invade Gaza in a conflict that lasted three weeks, Hamas has refocused on public relations. "Armed resistance is still important and legitimate," Hamas leader Ayman Taha told the New York Times in July. "But we have a new emphasis on cultural resistance."
The new emphasis includes state support for films, television, art shows, and poetic works that portray Gaza residents struggling under Israeli policies. It also includes countless government-run summer camps....
Cool, right? But.
But what, you ask? Well, these pictures show lots of young, skinny, Palestinian boys lying in the dirt pretending to shoot wooden guns, doing sit-ups and other training-looking exercises, and perhaps worst of all, doing the iconic terrorist monkey bars:
Let's revisit that blurb now, shall we?
The new emphasis includes state support for films, television, art shows, and poetic works that portray Gaza residents struggling under Israeli policies. It also includes countless government-run summer camps, which Israel has criticized as ideological training grounds where kids learn how to use weapons.
Now, Israel would say that even if they were fingerpainting and planting trees all day, but that doesn't change the fact that when you look at these pictures you have to concede that Israel might have a point here.
Look, I'm not about to start going all Chicken Little about these camps. I don't think they are likely to do much one way or the other in terms of turning the next generation of Palestinian men into potential terrorists when you consider the larger context of being from Gaza and having had Israel and the U.S. & Co. basically directly ruin your entire life--and on top of that having nothing to do and no outlets. Whether or not a given young man in this situation went to a kind of iffy summer camp run by Hamas when he was twelve doesn't seem likely to be that big a deal when you consider that.
But if Hamas is trying to moderate its image (which impression, to be fair, I got from the MoJo blurb and not from anywhere else), this is probably not the best way to do it. At least not on the Internet.