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New Program In Gaza Schools Teaches Military Skills, Cultivates 'Resistance Spirit'

In August 30, 2012, on the eve of the start of the new school year, Hamas's Education Ministry launched a program titled "Futuwwa"[1] in the government high schools for boys in Gaza, in cooperation with the National Security force, which is subordinate to the Interior Ministry.[2] The program is currently intended for high school boys, but in the future it may also be extended to girls and to junior high schools.[3] The program's goals are to inculcate values of courage, sacrifice and love of jihad, and to train the pupils in combat skills.[4] It has sparked criticism from pupils and parents in Gaza, as well as from columnists, experts, and educators, who saw it as an attempt to raise a generation of militant Hamas supporters.

Teaching Military Skills, Inculcating Discipline And Values

The program was presented at a convention attended by Education Ministry officials and the National Security commander and officers. The Education Ministry's director of curricula, Muhammad Sayyam, said that each school would be assigned a National Forces officer who would teach the pupils along with the physical education teacher. He added that the Futuwwa program has two parts: a practical part, involving the teaching of military skills through activities like marching, foot drills, obstacle courses, war games and civil defense exercises; and a theoretical part, involving classes on military values like order, cleanliness, discipline, obedience, sacrifice, patriotism, manliness, courage, morality, security and society, confidentiality and precautions against enemy spies.[5] On another occasion, Sayyam said that a program of this sort had been implemented in Gaza under Egyptian rule, but had been discontinued after the Israeli occupation in 1967. He also said that the ministry intended to extend the program to girls' schools.[6]

Pupils_performing_Futuwwa_drills
Pupils performing Futuwwa drills.
[7] For a video on the program, go here

Strengthening The Spirit Of Resistance And The Love Of Jihad

An official poster circulated by the Khan Younis Education Administration specifies the program's goals (see image below). These include: "Preparing the believing youth for a life of loyalty, honesty, faith, courage, sacrifice and love of jihad...; raising awareness of [the values of] resistance, in order to cultivate a generation of young people capable of serving the resistance, once they join it... and preparing the pupils in terms of faith and physical [fitness] to [serve as] resistance fighters."

Poster_announcing_the_program_goals_to_conquer_Israel
Poster announcing the program's goals[8]

According to the program director at the Interior Ministry, Muhammad Al-Nakhalah, the program's goals are to guide the youth in the correct path and explain their role in a society that is engaged in resistance and upholds the Islamic values and mission; teach them to honor the national flag, anthem and slogans; strengthen their affinity with the homeland, Jerusalem, the spirit of resistance and the steadfast principles; and teach them principles of security, so they can avoid the traps laid by “those who lie in wait for the Palestinians.” He said the program may be extended to junior high schools.[9]

On the other hand, the Culture Ministry undersecretary of finance, Anwar Al-Bar'awi, stressed that the program was not military in nature, but completely civilian, and would contribute to the students and to society at large, and enhance security. The undersecretary of education, Muhammad Abu Shuqair, said that the program was meant to educate and cultivate a generation of strong and disciplined youngsters who are serious, manly and aware; to develop their talents and abilities; involve them in positive activities and keep them away from negative ones; and improve order, discipline and behavior in schools, which would improve the student's performance and academic level.[10]

Criticism Of The Program: It Will Create A Generation Of Militant Hamas Supporters

The program met with criticism from parents and pupils, and from various Palestinian experts, who said that Hamas was training soldiers for its security apparatuses and trying to create a generation of militant youngsters seeped in Hamas's ideology. Experts even warned of negative effects on the pupils' behavior. A Fatah-affiliated website stated that the pupils were surprised to discover that the PE lessons had been replaced by lectures from military officers about first aid, explosives and drugs, and complained about harsh treatment by the officer and about overtaxing physical exercises.[11] A pupil said that Hamas was trying to distract the pupils from their regular studies and teach them instead to defuse explosive charges, in order to raise a generation that would keep Hamas in power. Another pupil complained that Hamas wanted to turn all schools into obsolete military schools, while other countries were achieving advanced forms of education.[12]

A parent said that the program was an "indirect [means of] forced recruitment, meant to prompt our sons to enlist in the police force immediately after graduating from school." He complained that the pupils had not been told about the program in advance, and the parents were not consulted. [13]

Samir Zakout, director of field studies at the Al-Mezan Centre for Human Rights, called the program "hollow" and said it would "militarize an entire generation of pupils." He pointed out that not everyone is cut out to be a soldier, and "therefore, there is need to raise a generation that upholds the values of justice and freedom and fights the occupation in other ways."[14] Political analyst Muhammad 'Aliyan said, in a similar vein, that the program was meant to create a "militarized generation of resistance [fighters] ideologically affiliated with Hamas." Educator Isma'il Saleh also criticized the program, saying that Hamas should have consulted with doctors and psychologists before introducing it. He expressed concern that, without the right preparation, it would adversely affect the pupils' behavior, and added that it should have been elective, not mandatory.[15]

There were also some pupils and parents who welcomed the program. According to a Fatah-affiliated website, one of the parents said that the exercises were good because they improved physical fitness, enhanced the pupils' awareness of negative phenomena in their surroundings, such as drugs, and taught them to deal with various events and to handle explosives.[16]

The_program_jiahdi_directors_visiting_a_school
The program directors visiting a school[17]

© The Middle East Media Research Institute All Rights Reserved

Endnotes:

[1] "Futuwwa" is an Islamic term meaning "bravery" or "chivalry."

[2] Mohe.ps (Hamas Education Ministry website), August 30, 2012.

[3] Dw.de, October 14, 2012.

[4] Paldf.net, September 18, 2012.

[5] Mohe.ps (Hamas Education Ministry website), August 30, 2012.

[6] Dw.de, October 4, 2012.

[7] Nsf.gov.ps (Interior Security Services website), October 11, September 16, 2012.

[8] Paldf.net, September 18, 2012.

[9] Moi.gov.ps (Hamas Interior Ministry website), September 18, 2012.

[10] Mohe.ps, August 30, 2012.

[11] Palpress.co.uk, September 11, 2012.

[12] Dw.de, October 4, 2012.

[13] Palpress.co.uk, September 11, 2012.

[14] Mbc.net, October 19, 2012.

[15] Dw.de, October 4, 2012.

[16] Palpress.co.uk, September 11, 2012. The Arabic section of the German website Deutsche Welle likewise reported that many parents welcomed the program. Dw.de, October 4, 2012.

[17] Nsf.gov.ps, September 16, 2012.

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