Gaza Camps Offer Arts and Crafts, Not AK-47s

UN hopes its summer camps can hose down extremism in Palestinian territory
By Nick McMaster,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 4, 2008 1:58 PM CDT
During a mock confrontation, militants of the Hamas-affiliated Popular Resistance Committees evacuate a wounded person from an explosion in Nusseirat refugee camp, Gaza Strip, Wednesday Aug. 6, 2008.    (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)
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(Newser) – The UN’s Relief and Works Agency is combating extremism in the Gaza Strip with some unconventional weapons: hula hoops, finger-painting, and sports, the Christian Science Monitor reports. The agency runs summer programs in 350 locations for Gaza’s youth in an attempt to counteract Hamas’ militant equivalent, where young Palestinians learn martial arts, train with fake weapons, and are taught religious intolerance.

That goal has earned the program’s director two assassination attempts in as many years in the Palestinian territory. He has foes in Israel and the West, too, who claim the camps are infiltrated and radicalized—but John Ging insists his programs are kept as apolitical as possible. Kids “come here freely to get away from politics and away from the differences that separate us," one official said.