Daily Israel Report

Teapot Tempest: UNRWA Never Planned to Teach Holocaust

Contrary to reports that UNRWA planned to teach Gazan children about the Holocaust, it has now been learned that UNRWA has had no such curriculum.
By Hillel Fendel
First Publish: 3/3/2011, 6:19 PM / Last Update: 3/3/2011, 6:35 PM

Contrary to reports that UNRWA had planned to teach the children of Gaza about the Holocaust, it has now been learned that UNRWA has had no such curriculum.

It was reported earlier this week that the Hamas government in Gaza had banned Holocaust studies in its schools, vowing to make sure to prevent the United Nations Relief and Works Agency from teaching its children about the Holocaust. UNRWA runs most of the area’s schools.

“We will never allow teaching Holocaust to Gaza refugee camp children,” said Gaza Education Minister Mohammed Ashqol. “Messing up Gaza's education system is a red line which cannot be ignored.”

However, investigative reporter David Bedein says that the story is a non-starter, designed to aggrandize both UNRWA and Hamas in the eyes of their respective supporters.

“There is not, and has never been, a plan for a Holocaust curriculum in any UNRWA school,” reports Bedein, who heads the Jerusalem-based Israel Resource News Agency (IRNA).

“When this story first surfaced [last year], our agency explored every level of the PA Ministry of Education,” Bedein noted, “because UNRWA schools in Judea, Samaria, Jerusalem and Gaza follow the curriculum and use the school books of the Palestinian Authority… We also examined all levels of the UNRWA education department to follow this up, and found out that there is no plan whatsoever by UNRWA to launch any kind of Holocaust curriculum.”

IRNA sent a formal query to UNRWA in this regard, and received a response from Michael Kingsley-Nyinah, Director of the Executive Office of UNRWA, which stated emphatically: "I am writing to clarify that there is no ‘Holocaust curriculum’ as such in UNRWA schools and there are no plans to introduce one."

Bedein notes that with the spreading of the false notion that there were Holocaust studies that Hamas refused to accept, UNRWA “gained undeserved new support and credibility with Jewish groups across the globe by engineering condemnations of UNRWA by Fatah and Hamas.”

Gaza Students Learn Abu-Mazen's Take
Bedein noted, however, that “There is one aspect of the Palestinian educational system in the UNRWA camps that does relate to the Holocaust: In every PA school library, the students have easy access to the doctoral thesis written by Palestinian Authority [chairman] Mahmoud Abbas only 26 years ago [later published as a book] entitled, ‘The Other Side: The secret relations between Nazism and the leadership of the Zionist movement,' which he submitted to obtain his Ph.D. at Patrice Lumumba University in Moscow. That is the level of Holocaust education taught in the UNRWA Palestinian schools, inculcating a new generation of Palestinian pupils to believe that the World Zionist Congress worked in tandem with the Third Reich to murder millions of Jews.”

Abbas has accused Zionist interests of inflating the number of Holocaust victims, which he wrote were actually fewer than one million.

Kept as Political Pawns
UNRWA has been slammed for spending approximately 70 percent of its budget on education. Yoav Sorek, director of The Israeli Initiative, has said, "While education itself is certainly important, this money could really be used to help rehabilitate the refugees and help them start new productive lives. Even if they receive education, their chances of getting jobs in those fields in the West Bank and Gaza are very slim… [They] will still be under the control of leaders who do not care about their wellbeing, leaders whose only hope of staying in power is by keeping those refugees in a pathetic situation where they can be used as political pawns in a continuing battle against Israel.”

The Israel Initiative states, “UNRWA's mandate is one that has perpetuated the refugee situation for more than 60 years (!) and continues to keep the Palestinian refugees in a situation of humanitarian catastrophe. Billions of dollars given to the agency throughout the years by Western governments and organizations have not led yet to the rehabilitation of even one family.”