Palestinian Hamas leaders flatly refused to allow the United Nations Relief Works Agency (UNRWA) to include references to the Holocaust in a proposed school curriculum change, reported Palestinian Media Watch (PMW) on September 8th. The change would have added a human rights section to the school books for eighth-graders in Gaza, although U.N. officials have not made it clear whether Holocaust education would, in fact, have been included. An official statement by the UNRWA, made September 4th, stated that “in Gaza, UNRWA is strengthening this program by developing a dedicated human rights curriculum anchored in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.”
On August 26th, the Simon Wiesenthal Center called for the U.N. to fire UNRWA’s Commissioner General and Gaza Director for “refusing to teach the U.N. curriculum on the Nazi Holocaust and for denying that the Holocaust is a human rights issue.” The Center quoted UNRWA Gaza Director John Ging as saying, “there is no intention to integrate materials and topics [on the Holocaust] that are inconsistent with the desire of Palestinian society.” However, the September 4th statement by UNRWA denied the legitimacy of that quote. In their official statement, the UNRWA replied that “the quotes attributed by the Simon Wiesenthal Center to…UNRWA Gaza Director, John Ging are false. We condemn Holocaust denial in all its forms and we reject the politicization of the Holocaust.”
In an open letter to John Ging, Hamas’ Popular Committees for Refugees protested the human rights curriculum because it allegedly included reference to the Holocaust. Al-Ayyam, the daily newspaper of Palestine, reported that “Hamas demanded that the Jewish Holocaust be deleted from the UN-prepared human rights curriculum for 8th grade.”
The Washington Post quoted a defender of Hamas’ position on September 2nd. Jamila al-Shanti, a Hamas legislative official, said that “talk about the holocaust and the execution of the Jews contradicts and is against our culture, our principles, our traditions, values, heritage and religion.”
PMW, an Israeli non-governmental organization, referred to a current Palestinian schoolbook, asserting that “although the history book does not flat-out deny the reality of the Holocaust, its complete failure to refer to it even in the slightest is disconcerting.”
History of the Arabs and the World in the 20th Century, a 12th-grade schoolbook used in Gaza has a section on World War II that mentions war crimes but never mentions the specific Nazi ethnic cleansing of Jews. The book teaches that Germany “espoused the superiority of the Aryan race, from which the Germans originated, passed racist laws and limited the work positions to Germans alone.”
A 2007 memorandum by PMW presented to The EU and the Middle East Peace Process said, “the books teach that international law determines that fighting ‘colonial rule, foreign rule, and racist regimes…is a legitimate struggle.’ These…are all terms used in the schoolbooks to define Israel.”
Hamas leaders refuse to allow Gazan youth to be educated on the reality of the Holocaust, with some leaders going so far as to deny that the Holocaust ever happened. According to an August 31st article in BBC News, “The head of its education committee in Gaza, Abdul Rahman el-Jamal, told the BBC that the Holocaust was a big lie.” Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was quoted by Iran’s state news agency on September 22nd as saying that he is proud that his repeated remarks that the Holocaust is “a lie and a mythical claim” have sparked such international controversy.