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Hamas and the Education for Peace


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The battle for the character of education in the Gaza Strip: Hamas and the PIJ repeatedly demand that UNRWA not teach about the Holocaust in its schools, claiming that it is a “fabricated, twisted history” that “poisons” the minds of young Palestinians and thus serves Israel’s interests.

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Hamas and the Education for Peace

  1. 1. The Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center March 14, 2011The battle for the character of educationin the Gaza Strip: Hamas and the PIJrepeatedly demand that UNRWA notteach about the Holocaust in its schools,claiming that it is a “fabricated, twistedhistory” that “poisons” the minds ofyoung Palestinians and thus servesIsrael’s interests. An UNRWA school in the Gaza Strip (electronicintifada, August 5, 2010)057-11
  2. 2. 2 The Hamas administration’s announcement against Holocaust studies1. On February 17, 2011, the Committee on Refugee Affairs of the Hamasadministration released an announcement saying it would not allow UNRWA toteach about the Holocaust in its Palestinian schools in the Gaza Strip assupplementary material and part of its human rights curriculum. According to theannouncement, UNRWA has surprised the Palestinians with a curriculum that is“shameful and unacceptable, one that is aimed at poisoning the minds of ourchildren by employing means that only serve the occupation” (Safa, February 17, 2011).2. The announcement goes on to say that the supplementary material taught by UNRWAdiscusses “the suffering, oppression, slaughter, and ethnic cleansing of the Jews, portrayingthem as being miserable, oppressed, and enslaved”. The Hamas administration takes theview that the study of the Holocaust in itself justifies “the massacres committed by theoccupation and the barbaric measures used against the Palestinian people”.3.In its announcement, the committee stressed that UNRWA must support the Palestinianpeople’s rights and put an emphasis on the suffering and tragedy of the Palestinian peoplesince the nakba until now instead of teaching “this fabricated, twisted history”.According to the announcement, the Committee on Refugee Affairs of the Hamasadministration already warned UNRWA before, saying that under no circumstanceswill UNRWA be allowed to “turn Palestinian schools in the Gaza Strip intoplatforms for the occupation… to camouflage its ugliness” (Safa, February 17, 2011).4.The PIJ has also accused UNRWA of promoting “foreign” plans and agendas thatgo against its humanitarian roles and activities. As examples, the organization listed UNRWA’sintention of making the Holocaust (a subject “more akin to a fairy tale”) part of thecurriculum, as well as the participation of UNRWA representatives in a conference held inSderot.1 According to the PIJ, the budgets earmarked for these study programs leave UNRWAwith fewer funds for humanitarian aid (Filastin al-Yoom, February 27, 2011).1 Gaza-Sderot Conference, a follow-up to the annual Sderot Conference for Society. Representatives from UNRWAwere invited to take part in the conference, held in February 2011 in the Sapir College.
  3. 3. 3 Holocaust studies as part of a broader struggle on the character of the Gaza Strip education system5.This is not the first time that the Hamas administration interferes with the curricula ofUNRWA schools, and Holocaust studies in particular. For example: a.In December 2010, the Committee on Refugee Affairs of the Hamas administration protested the fact that an UNRWA-sponsored delegation of 9th grade honor students to the U.S. and Europe had visited Holocaust museums. According to the committee, UNRWA does not have free rein to decide on its study subjects. Furthermore, being an agency for aiding Palestinian refugees, UNRWA should focus on the rights of Palestinian refugees and the suffering of the Palestinians. “We hope it will not happen again, and if it does, the Palestinian Authority must take measures to cease the ideological corruption of Palestinian youth” (Palestine-info in English, December 18, 2010). b.In September 2009, the UNRWA education system came under criticism from the Hamas leadership over the issue of the Holocaust of the Jewish people. The affair began with reports that started circulating in the Gaza Strip about UNRWA’s plans to include basic Holocaust studies in its 8th grade human rights curriculum. Hamas spokesmen, in response to what they considered a dangerous precedent (the Holocaust is not taught in Palestinian Authority schools), strongly denounced UNRWA, calling the Holocaust “a lie made up by the Zionists,” and calling support for teaching Holocaust studies “a war crime” and “support and service for the Zionists.”26. The ongoing debate on Holocaust studies in UNRWA schools is part of a broaderstruggle on the character of the formal and informal (i.e., summer camps)3education system in the Gaza Strip. Since taking over the Gaza Strip, Hamas has beenseeking to achieve control over the education system to provide students with radical Islamiceducation (in accordance with its political doctrine), incorporating hatred against Israeland the West, Holocaust denial, and support for the continuation of the terroristcampaign against Israel (“resistance”).2 See our September 6, 2009 Information Bulletin: “The battle for hearts and minds in the Gaza Strip: Hamas attacksUNRWA for planning to teach the Holocaust in its schools. The attack reflects Hamas’ ambition for absolute controlover education in the Gaza Strip and to inculcate students with its radical Islamic ideology, including hatred andterrorism against Israel”.3 See our May 26, 2010 Information Bulletin: “Educating the younger generation in the Gaza Strip: summer campsorganized by UNRWA in “competition” with Hamas, are a target for threats and assaults. Armed men recentlytorched an UNRWA summer camp. Hamas condemned the event but minimized its importance, advising UNRWA tochange its ways”.
  4. 4. 47.In this context, UNRWA is perceived by Hamas as its main competition with regard toeducation and indoctrination of the next Palestinian generation. UNRWA, whose 221 schoolsin the Gaza Strip are attended by some 200,000 students aged 6-15, has some considerablerelative advantages over Hamas, including access to greater financial and logistic resourcesand a more extensive network of teachers and schools.