Residents of an illegal Jewish settlement in the West Bank are under fire for allowing their fourth- and fifth-graders to participate in a weapons training.
According to The New Arab, school boys participated in a weapons training program during a summer camp in the Yakir settlement in Samaria while school girls took part in “modesty and creativity activities.”
During the training sessions, boys were given M16 rifles for an “army day” event that had the full support of the Israeli army. But according to some of the children's parents, the program resembles what many call “Hamas camps,” where school-age children are taught to use weapons. Despite the reports of criticism, the camp's director said he wasn't personally approached by any parents who were critical of the program.
“We did not receive any calls from parents,” the director reportedly told Ynet News. “This was done with the approval of the security personnel in the town. They brought the weapons and everything was conducted in complete safety.”
After the report was allegedly criticized by parents, the Shomron Regional Council responded, saying that “Yakir is a leading community in educational and moral values. As part of the educational activities of the summer camp, an 'army and community day' was held in cooperation with the IDF, just as activities are held to familiarize (children) with the IDF on Independence Day each year.”
Defending the weapons program for children, the council added that it “will continue to educate children to values of Zionism, love of the land and values of the IDF without apology.”
But according to The New Arab, many liberal Israeli organizations have been raising concerns regarding the current trend that seems to imply Israeli students should be “militarized” at an early age. Many parents are also expressing concern that the country's schooling system is tying education to Israeli security.
In 2015, the Canada-based NGO Centre for Research on Globalization (CRG) also showed concerns related to militarization of young children. At the time, CRG stated that “Israeli pupils are being raised to be 'good soldiers' rather than good citizens,” adding that many Israeli teachers believe that allowing schools and the Israeli army to work together “will only get worse” under the country's Education Minister Naftali Bennet, who also serves as the head of the settler movement’s far-right party Jewish Home.
It's somewhat terrifying to think that when it comes to their own children, many proponents of the Israeli government's radicalization tactics seem to be perfectly OK with the idea of turning the youth into soldiers. But if their so-called enemies do the same, they use this fact as propaganda against Palestinians.