David M. Litman
Palestinian youths at a graduation ceremony for a military-style camp organized by the Hamas terror group in Gaza, Aug. 18, 2017. Photo: Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90.
The immorality of Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) is unsurprising. Terrorist disregard for the welfare of children is nothing unusual. The real story is how the world will once again shrug its shoulders as children are taught to be hateful terrorists.
Their acquiescence makes them complicit.
Take, for example, the United Nations. At a press conference for the Hamas “Vanguard of Liberation” camps, the spokesperson defended teaching children “armed resistance” by referencing a 1990 UN resolution that explicitly justified terrorism.
The UN has since become more subtle. Perhaps it realized the awkwardness of being an organization supposedly committed to “peace and security” while also expressly justifying the deliberate bombing of pizza parlors full of children.
Yet, it still works to provide cover for those terrorists.
The UN Secretary-General produces an annual report on “children and armed conflict.” As the group NGO Monitor has ably demonstrated, the report finds ways to apply unique standards, used nowhere else, to slander Israel (read: Jews) as child killers.
All the while, the annual reports have been almost entirely silent when it comes to the Palestinian terrorist groups’ incitement and recruitment of children.
To be clear, lack of evidence isn’t the problem.
The UN’s silence isn’t unique, either. The websites of “human rights” groups like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch return no results when searching for condemnation of the summer camps.
The game played is particularly cynical, because it victimizes Palestinian children twice, and all just to continue blaming Israel (read: Jews) for the world’s wrongs. They are first victimized when Hamas robs them of a childhood, and places hatred in their hearts and weapons in their hands. They are then victimized a second time when “human rights” actors knowingly divert their gaze elsewhere, so as not to complicate the narrative of “Israel is bad.”
There is also the lame attempt of whataboutery. A favorite of anti-Israel social media users when videos and images of the terrorist camps begin emerging was to reuse old pictures of Israeli children examining weapons during an Independence Day celebration exhibit in 2016. The comparison is obviously silly.
I grew up nearby one of the largest airshows in the world, the EAA AirVenture. Every summer, many hundreds of thousands visit the airshow with their children, where they can get up close and personal with all sorts of military equipment exhibits. Just peruse the airshow’s gallery and you’ll find all sorts of children gawking at weapons as deadly as an F-35.
There’s obviously no moral equivalence between a summer camp that teaches kids how to use weapons and abduct Israelis on the one hand, and bringing children to a military exhibit fit for a history museum on the other.
But then again, it isn’t consideration for the welfare of children that invokes the absurd comparisons, the spreading of modern-day blood libels against Israel, and the willful ignorance towards Hamas’ crimes against children.
Rather, it is the hatred of Israel, and the “human rights” intelligentsia is seemingly more than willing to sacrifice the well-being of Palestinian children to score a few points against the Jewish State.
The harm is not just theoretical, either. Several years ago, I helped prepare a report on the growing trend of Palestinian children being used to carry out terror attacks during the “Knife Intifada.” Dozens of attacks were carried out by Palestinian children, some as young as eight-years-old. Even before then, terrorist groups in Gaza were using children to dig their terror tunnels. At least 160 children reportedly died digging those tunnels even before Operation Protective Edge in 2014.
Or take an example from just a couple of months ago. Muhammad Sabar Ibrahim Suleiman, just 16-years-old, was a Hamas operative who died during the fighting in May alongside his father, a Hamas commander. Subsequently released video shows Muhammad wearing a Hamas uniform, and being trained to use weapons — just like at a Hamas summer camp.
Of course, The New York Times put Muhammad’s picture on its front page, implying he was a victim of Israel, rather than a victim of a terrorist organization and a father who placed a gun in his hands and put him in harm’s way.
All of this illustrates the broader win-win game Hamas plays. Israel either defends itself and loses the PR war, or Israel stands down and innocent Israelis will lose their lives.
By remaining silent amid Hamas and PIJ’s crimes against their own children, while unfailingly condemning Israel for acting in self-defense, organizations like the UN and Human Rights Watch only encourage the terrorists to brainwash and endanger even more children.
David M. Litman is a lawyer who advocates for Israel and human rights.