Academic journal article Middle East Quarterly

Hamas's Web School for Suicide Bombers

Academic journal article Middle East Quarterly

Hamas's Web School for Suicide Bombers

Article excerpt

All states use education as a medium to encourage responsible behavior in their children, at least in part to develop a law-abiding, civic-minded citizenry. Authoritarian regimes have a history of distorting this trust, often turning schools into places of indoctrination for a state or religious ideology. The Palestinians have, for some time now, created an educational system exemplifying this indoctrinational approach: Their textbooks deny Jewish and Israeli legitimacy within historic Palestine, demonize Jews and Israelis, discourage compromise or negotiated peace, and glorify violent struggle to achieve what are often termed "Palestinian aspirations." Since coming to power through elections in early 2006 and following its military coup in Gaza in June 2007, Hamas has continued this path of indoctrination, utilizing its popular children's website. Al-Fateh.

FORMAL EDUCATION IN GAZA

After a series of clashes, predating Hamas's parliamentary win in 2006 but intensifying thereafter, Hamas took control of the Gaza Strip in a swift but brutal campaign, which lasted little more thana week (June 7-15, 2007).1 Hamas now controls the Gaza Strip, and the Palestinian Authority (PA) retains almost no standing, except perhaps in the field of education: All the schools in the strip - the very small number of private schools, the public schools, and those run by the United Nations Works and Refugee Agency (UNRWA)- follow the official PA school curriculum and use the corresponding textbooks.

This may be surprising in view of the cardinal importance Hamas attributes to the education of children and youth as a means of achieving its ideological and political goals. Article 15 of the Hamas charter states:

It is necessary that scientists, educators, and teachers, information and media people, as well as the educated masses, especially the youth and sheikhs of the Islamic movements, should take part in the operation of awakening . It is important that basic changes be made in school curriculum to cleanse it of the traces of ideological invasion that affected it as a result of the Orientalists and missionaries who infiltrated the region following the defeat of the Crusaders at the hands of Salah al Din (Saladin).2

Despite this, Hamas has yet to introduce its own school curriculum. Perhaps this is due in part to a concern for Palestinian unity; perhaps it is merely a desire to avoid the heavy expense such revisions would necessitate. Most likely this results from Hamas's recognition that continued implementation of the official PA curriculum is the only way currently that allows internationally recognized matriculation examinations to proceed and for diplomas to be awarded. In 2009 for example, practical steps were taken by Hamas to ensure that the examinations would take place at exactly the same time in both Gaza and the West Bank.3

But if Hamas is apparently content at this time to rely on PA-sanctioned curricula, it nonetheless resorts to other methods in order to leave its imprint on Gazan education. Firstly, it sees to it that the teachers employed throughout the strip impart its ideological and political views alongside the official pedagogical and educational approaches.4 One way to get a good idea of the substance of those views is by turning to Al-Fateh, Hamas's web-based magazine for children and youth?

ITS MASTER'S VOICE

Al-Fateh (Al-Fatih) website went online in September 2002. Its name is indicative of its ideological ambition. Al-Fateh (the conqueror) is not related to the Fatah party, Hamas's Palestinian rival; the apparent link is purely fortuitous and only linguistic. Fatah is an invented word. It starts with an acronym from the initial letters in Harakat Tahrir Filastin, the Movement for the Liberation of Palestine, HTF orHataf. It seemed ill-omened that Hataf can be read as hatf or death in Arabic letters where only the consonants are shown. Fatah's founders decided to write the initial letters backwards, as FTH or Fatah, which can also be read asfath or "conquest, victory" when the vowels are changed. …

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