In July, Iran’s Supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, told cheering crowds of Iranians chanting “Death to Israel” and “Death to America” that he hoped their prayers would be answered. A few days ago, Hassan Rhouhani, the president of Iran, appeared on “60 Minutes” and told Americans not to take such chants personally. Rhouhani said those types of remarks reflect anger over past U.S. government actions rather than a threat against the American people.
There’s something for everyone in Iran’s rhetoric, leading some to suspect that hardline talk such as Khamenei’s is done to satisfy a conservative constituency, while the gentler talk of Rhouhani is the true voice of Iran.
But the Iran nuclear deal being pushed through Congress by the Obama administration will return billions of dollars in frozen assets to the Iranian government — perhaps as much as $150 billion — and Iran supplies money and weapons to terror groups like Hamas, Hezbollah and al Qaeda. Is there any reason to doubt that some of the frozen assets, once released to Iran, will be used to finance terror attacks against Israel — and beyond?
That concern is behind a stunning new short film released by the Center for Near East Policy Research in Jerusalem that shows children being trained to be terrorists this past summer in Hamas-run schools. What makes the film riveting is that the children are interviewed, as are their instructors, and state clearly their desire to be martyrs.
“What this film does is put a human face on what this is all about,” said David Bedein, director of the Near East Center for Policy Research based in Jerusalem, which released the eight-minute film called “Iran: Billions for Terror.” Bedein has lived his adult life in Israel working as an investigative journalist. As a boy he summered in Winthrop.
“This is a very natural thing (for the kids),” Bedein told the Journal in a recent interview from Jerusalem. “It’s a pattern we see — the willingness of the children to talk, the willingness of the teachers to talk.”
Hearing them speak is quite an eye-opening experience. “Yesterday, the kids blew up model Zionist villages,” one counselor explained matter-of-factly.
“We will liberate Palestine by kidnapping soldiers, (and with) suicide bombers and resistance,” explained a boy who appears to be about 12 years old.
“We say this (to the Jews),” said yet another boy: “We swear by Allah that we will kill you soon.”
Perhaps the most startling revelation in the movie is the recruitment of girls into the training camps, which the film said took place this summer for the first time. They are shown being congratulated at a banquet by a senior Hamas official, Ismail Haniyeh, as well as being trained, like the boys, as soldiers with guns.
“Jerusalem belongs just to the Muslims,” said a woman, only her eyes visible through her hijab, who is identified as an instructor. “The Jews are pigs. They don’t have any connection to al-Aqsa and Jerusalem. They belong in a pig pen…”
One long-term concern of Bedein has been that schools run by UNWRA — the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine refuges in the Near East which is a permanent organization devoted solely to providing support for Palestinians displaced from their homes and livelihoods in 1948 — is that, “UNWRA schools have had military training groups and classes and programs in the past.”
This year, explained Bedein, the training was forced outside the schools by the United States and its funding leverage. However, he said, “Hamas established their own training centers using funding they got from elsewhere.”
“What’s problematic is the Hamas groups inside the UNWRA schools continue to operate, and the schoolbooks used are filled with incitement.”
Bedein’s point is that the relationship between the UN sponsored schools and the Hamas training is so integrated that the separate funding of the military training over the summer created nothing more than a technical separation.
“Our next film will show what’s happened in the new school year. This will be interesting to watch because while the U.S. government did not pay for the summer training programs, the U.S. will be financing the UNWRA schools that have just started the new school year.”
Bedein sees a connection between the Hamas training programs for young students and the risk to Israel if the frozen Iranian funds are released under the nuclear deal.
“There are millions of Palestinian Arabs around the Middle East and around the world,” said Bedein. “Imagine if they have the funding to continue this training all over the world.”
The short film can be seen at israelbehindthenews.com, the website of Near East Center for Policy Research.