In its latest spat with UNRWA over educational issues, Hamas has blasted the UN relief agency over textbooks that are deemed to be “too peaceful.”
The Associated Press (AP) reported on Thursday that Gaza's Hamas authorities have blocked UNRWA from introducing textbooks promoting human rights into local schools, saying the agency ignores “Palestinian cultural mores” and focuses too heavily on "peaceful" means of conflict resolution.
Motesem al-Minawi, spokesman for the Hamas-run Education Ministry, said that the government believes the curriculum does not match the "ideology and philosophy" of the local population.
He said the textbooks, used in grades 7 through 9, did not sufficiently address “Palestinian suffering” and did not acknowledge the right to battle Israel.
"There is a tremendous focus on the peaceful resistance as the only tool to achieve freedom and independence," he said, according to AP.
Hamas says that "armed resistance" is a key component of its struggle against Israel.
The group also objected to the books' inclusion of the "Universal Declaration of Human Rights," a document approved by the UN General Assembly in 1948 that recognizes "the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family." Hamas believes that certain parts of the declaration violate Islamic law, including the right of people of different faiths to marry and the right to change one's religion.
The latest spat comes just two days after Hamas accused UNRWA of including "inappropriate" chapters in the curriculum that “recognize Zionism”.
Hamas said these chapters meant “to brainwash Palestinian students and convince them to accept the Zionist enemies while they continue to kill our people, carry out more oppressive procedures, Judaize the holy city (Jerusalem) and build the apartheid wall."
On Thursday, Al-Minawi said government officials had met with UNRWA officials and offered to form a joint committee to revise the book.
UNRWA, the acronym for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, runs some 245 schools serving more than 232,000 students in Gaza.
Hamas has pressed the UN not to organize mixed folkloric dancing for boys and girls; to keep Holocaust education out of its curriculum and it has used harsh rhetoric against previous senior UN officials. Last year, UNRWA canceled its annual Gaza marathon after Hamas banned women from participating.
Chris Gunness, a spokesman for the agency, told AP that UNRWA has "no plans to change its education programs in Gaza," though he said the agency would have further discussions with Hamas. He said the curriculum had been developed with educators, parents groups, teachers and others.
"We have done our utmost in developing these materials to be sensitive to local values while also being true to the universal values that underpin the work of the United Nations," he said.
Since violently taking over Gaza in 2007, Hamas has enforced a stringent interpretation of Islamic law in Gaza. The terror group has banned women and teenagers from smoking hookahs in public, ordered that women's clothing stores are not allowed to have dressing rooms, men cannot have hairdressing salons for women and that mannequins shaped like women must be dressed in modest clothing.
The group has also banned co-ed schools in Gaza, leaving many Christians fearful that their schools are in danger of closure.