Gaza summer camp claims to mimic Israeli prison life

Narrow hallways, interrogation rooms painted black, isolation cells and handcuffed mannequins — this is all part of the setting of a new summer camp operated by Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

This is not the first year the group has operated summer activities for children in cities and refugee camps throughout the Strip. This year, however, the organizers came up with an original theme — “the suffering of the Palestinian prisoners” — which they say allows children to experience firsthand the daily lives of prisoners held in Israel.

Camp guide Hytham al-Madhun explained that the mock prison setup of six rooms simulates the incarceration conditions of Palestinian prisoners. The first room is said to be an interrogation cell. In this room, Madhun describes to the kids “the prisoners’ firm resilience in the face of Israeli interrogators’ threats and their refusal to admit the charges ascribed to them.”

Palestinian youths train at a Hamas-run summer camp in Gaza City in 2011. photo/ap-hatem moussa

One of the camp’s main heroes is the imprisoned Ibrahim Hamed, who was the head of Hamas’ military wing in Ramallah and is responsible for murdering dozens of Israelis. The guides proudly tell the children how Hamed, recently sentenced to 54 life terms, continually has refused to give his interrogators any information, including his given name.

The next room is set up to be a prisoner’s cell; there, the guides tell the children that Israeli agents pose as prisoners as they try to get the Palestinian prisoners to talk and admit to their acts. Other areas the Palestinians have built include what they say are elements of an Israeli prison: a solitary confinement chamber, a torture den, a prison hospital and a small prison courtyard.

Ahmad Rantisi, an organizer of the summer camp, said its goal is to allow children to get a tangible experience of what Palestinian prisoners go through, and to strengthen their belief in the protection of Palestinian land and the price that must be paid.

Camper Abed al-Aziz recounted what he had learned, saying, “We were taught about the Palestinian prisoners who suffer greatly for the Palestinian people and that the occupation forces deprive them from the basic human rights they deserve.”

In addition to the mock prison, the children participate in different activities, including military training, religious studies, and walking in their bare feet across boards with rusty nails and knife blades.