'Paradise Camps' Teach Palestinian Children To Be Suicide Bombers

By Julie Stahl | July 7, 2008 | 8:09 PM EDT

Jerusalem (CNSNews.com) - Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres called Monday for a global information campaign into the phenomenon of suicide bombings.

The call came after it emerged that the militant Islamic Jihad is operating summer camps in the Gaza Strip for youngsters, some as young as 11, to instill in them the virtues of becoming suicide bombers.

Palestinians girded with explosives, who blow themselves up in close proximity to Israelis, have proven to be the most deadly terror "weapon" against Israel, usually always causing multiple fatalities in each attack. The bombers have been hailed as martyrs and heroes by most of their own people.

Speaking to a visiting delegation of Anti-Defamation League representatives from the U.S., Peres charged that Islamic clerics were "brainwashing" Palestinian youth, indoctrinating them with lies and promising they will go to paradise if they blow themselves up in order to kill Israelis.

If such leaders really believed paradise could be attained through suicide bombings, he told them, they should do their own dirty work in their own backyards, instead of brainwashing youngsters to do it for them.

Wayne Firestone, Israel director of the ADL, said Monday the issue of suicide bombings was of "tremendous concern" to his organization. It would certainly spread the message, he added.

The phenomenon is antithetical to the values of Islam, Firestone said in a telephone interview. But it would continue until there were "clear voices" from the Palestinian side demanding that it stop.

The PA would only do so, he added, if the world stood up against suicide bombings.

"No civilized society can accept this," Firestone said.

Weekend BBC television footage showed an Islamic Jihad-run summer camps in which young Palestinian boys are given military training and shown pictures of suicide bombers.

"We are teaching the children that suicide bombing is the only thing that make[s] the Israeli people very frightened. Furthermore, we are teaching them that we have the right to do it," said camp counselor, Mohammed el Hattab.

"We are teaching them that after the suicide attacks, the man who makes it goes to the highest state in paradise," he said. In paradise, they are taught, they will be greeted by 70 virgins.

Fourteen-year-old Mohammed was filmed drawing a picture of himself with explosives girded about his body. He said he wanted to become a suicide bomber "to liberate Palestine and be part of the revolution."

The PA has reportedly said it will close down the camps since hearing about them through the media reports.

But according to a source who works in the PA-controlled areas and who spoke on condition of anonymity, hundreds of children aged 11-15 are being trained in paramilitary camps in the Gaza Strip and West Bank. The camps are run, not only by Islamic Jihad and Hamas, but also by PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat's Fatah faction.

Congressmen have in past years expressed concern about PA summer camps at which children are taught acts of violence against Israelis.

The source said he was not aware specifically of "suicide bomber" training in the Islamic Jihad camps. Nevertheless, he said, the children are taught how to fight in "field conditions" as well as given lessons on history and politics.

Judit Arenas of the British-based Coalition To Stop the Use of Child Soldiers said that while she did not know specifically of this report, the main concern of the coalition was that the welfare of the child comes first.

"We could actually call strongly on Islamic Jihad to put the best interests of the child first," Arenas said by phone.

Arenas said her organization was "keeping a close eye" on what was happening in the PA areas as well as the territories still under Israeli control. It had been concerned about reports of military-type children's camps.

However, she said the children concerned would not be considered child soldiers, because there was no chain of command structure or military-type recruitment process.

Nevertheless, the children must be protected from being considered viable targets because they have been given military training.

Reports of the training camps come amidst claims by Hamas and Islamic Jihad that they have dozens of Palestinians ready to become human bombs.

Two Israelis were killed in a suicide bombing last week in the northern Israeli town of Binyamina.

Twenty-one young people were killed and more than 100 others wounded and maimed in a suicide bomb attack on a Tel Aviv disco last month.

Seven more were killed in a similar blast outside a Netanya mall in May. And last March, two teenagers were killed in a suicide attack on schoolchildren waiting for a bus.