November 15, 2012 Special Dispatch No. 5051

Palestinian Outrage In Response To UNRWA Holocaust Curriculum

November 15, 2012
Palestine, Jordan | Special Dispatch No. 5051

In recent years, the Arab media has dealt extensively with the issue of Holocaust studies in schools run by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), focusing on Palestinian objections to these studies.

There have been several reports that UNRWA intended to include material on the Holocaust in its school curricula, which sparked outrage in various circles (Hamas, PLO, Jordan). In October 2009, UNRWA denied rumors that it intended to introduce Holocaust studies in its school in Gaza. The rumors spread after the Popular Committees of Gaza Refugees sent UNRWA a letter protesting its intention to teach "this lie invented by the Jews."[1] Similar rumors circulated in February 2011, triggering firm objections from Palestinians and UNRWA teachers. Threats by UNRWA employees to fight the decision led the agency's director of operations in Jordan, Sandra Mitchell, to announce in March 2011 that UNRWA followed the accepted curricula of the host country, and that it would not deviate from it without coordinating with the ministry of education in that country.[2]

This issue recently resurfaced after UNRWA spokesman Christopher Jones said the agency intended to introduce Holocaust studies at its schools in the Palestinian Authority (PA) and Gaza, as well as in Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon, as part of the topic of human rights, which is taught in grades 7-9.[3] His statement triggered a wave of criticism and accusations against UNRWA by both the PLO and Hamas, which even included Holocaust denial.

The following are statements on this issue:

UNRWA logo.[4]

UNRWA Teachers Union In Jordan: Holocaust Studies – Equating The Hangman With The Victim

The UNRWA Teachers Union in Jordan condemned the decision, claiming it "equated the hangman with the victim," and demanded to "teach special material on the Palestinian issue, and especially the refugee's right of return to their homes and land, from which they were exiled as a result of Zionist aggression in 1948." The union condemned UNRWA for ignoring "acts of massacre committed against the Palestinian people, which [UNRWA] has been discussing for 65 years, since the Palestinian Nakba," and stressed its commitment to the decision to refuse Holocaust studies in agency schools, which had been made by UNRWA employees in the previous year.[5]

Particularly harsh statements were made by Palestinian-born Jordanian writer As'ad Al-'Azouni: "Why does UNRWA insist on teaching false material that is dubbed 'the Jewish Holocaust' in its schools in Jordan and in other Arab countries where it operates?... Why has UNRWA once again announced its intention to teach the grand historical lie called 'the Jewish Holocaust'? UNRWA is intentionally violating the sanctity of the Palestinian cause... There is conclusive proof that it and its officials are involved in doing away with the Palestinian cause by [promoting] the resettlement of the Palestinian refugees in their [current] places of residence... UNRWA's curriculum is venomous. They have an entire course on peace and tolerance, and I do not know which devil approved this, when Jewish schools teach their students the art and the roots of Jewish hatred towards non-Jews."[6]

PLO Also Objects To Holocaust Studies

'Abd Al-Hamid Hamad, a member of the central committee of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (part of the PLO) and of the PLO Department of Refugee Affairs, also objected to UNRWA's plan. He accused UNRWA officials of adopting the Israeli narrative, which, he said, attributes new characteristics to the tragedy that befell the Jews in Europe and demands that the world recognize the harm they claim was done to them and compensate them for it. According to him, "the position of UNRWA heads [in favor of introducing Holocaust studies] is not understandable and ignores the expulsion and uprooting of the Palestinians, and the eradication of their national identity by the Zionist gangs ever since the Nakba of 1948."[7]

Hamas: Teaching Holocaust Studies – A Crime Against The Refugees And An Attempt To Dissolve The Right Of Return

Dr. 'Issam 'Adwan, the head of the Hamas Department of Refugee Affairs, said that UNRWA was subject to pressure by the occupation and the U.S., which were blackmailing it, reducing its funding, and mandating Holocaust studies due to Israeli demands. He claimed there was a plot against the Palestinians aimed at dissolving the issue of refugees, and warned that "the Palestinian refugees will demand accountability from UNRWA officials if they conduct themselves in a way that harms [the refugees'] interests." 'Adwan also claimed that UNRWA had signed agreements with the refugees in Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, and the PA, according to which it was committed to the local curricula, and called on students "to rip apart the [Holocaust] textbooks and throw them in the garbage, because they are not worth the ink used to print them."[8]

The Hamas Department of Refugee Affairs claimed that the decision was "a crime meant to harm the refugee issue and cancel the right of return," and called on UNRWA "to cease approving dubious plans as part of the services it provides to Palestinian refugees wherever they are." According to the department, "students at UNRWA schools do not need enrichment materials on the topic of the Jewish Holocaust as much as they need to learn again about Palestine's history and geography, [that should be taught] as basic material, not enrichment material. It is their right to know about the massacres carried out by the Zionist enemy against the Palestinian people from the Nakba until now."[9]

Columnist In Hamas Newspaper: UNRWA Helps Spread The Fictional Tale Of the Holocaust

'Issam Shawar, a columnist for the Hamas newspaper Filastin, criticized UNRWA for firing employees and reducing aid to the Palestinians, and at the same time "helping to tell the fictional tale of the Jews [and] the Holocaust, and wanting to teach [the Holocaust to] our children and students as part of its mandatory curriculum. It is the epitome of audacity that UNRWA wants a resident of the Al-Wahdat refugee camp in Jordan to identify with the Jew who expelled him... and occupied his land and home. This is conclusive proof that the agency, which is part of the U.N., acts against the Palestinian people and the Palestinian cause in a fundamental way, and thus realizes the objectives of the U.N., which was established solely to fulfill the goals of the Jews, and which legitimizes the occupation state called 'Israel' while refusing to recognize a Palestinian state, even in observer status. Germany's aid to the U.N. and UNRWA is conditional upon Holocaust studies because [Germany] is being blackmailed by the Jews, whereas the U.N. is subject to American threats to cease financial aid if the General Assembly recognizes Palestine as a member. These threats resurface every time the Palestinians come close to achieving any goal with this international organization, even an unimportant one. The West is one of the tools of the Israeli occupation, and this is a solid fact that will never change."[10]


[1] See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 2560, Opposition to Incorporating Holocaust Studies in the UNRWA Curriculum, September 24, 2009.

[2] Al-Sabeel (Jordan), March 17, 2011.

[3] Al-Dustour (Jordan), October 21, 2012.

[4], September 16, 2012.

[5] Al-Quds Al-Arabi (London), October 18, 2012.

[6], October 18, 2012.

[7], October 17, 2012.

[8], October 17, 2012.

[9] Al-Quds Al-Arabi (London), October 18, 2012.

[10], October 16, 2012.

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