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Refugee group wants UN to scrap Holocaust curriculum

Aug. 30, 2009 12:16 P.M. (Updated: Aug. 31, 2009 9:16 P.M.)
Gaza – Ma'an – A group of refugee camp committees in the Gaza Strip wants the United Nations to remove history of the Jewish Holocaust from its classroom curriculum.

In a letter to director John Ging, the committees urged the refugee agency to scrap its program because mention of the genocide "confirms the Holocaust and raises sympathy for Jews."

Holocaust denial is not uncommon in Gaza's refugee camps, where many feel marking legitimate Jewish suffering discounts the injustices done to Palestinians displaced from their homes in 1948.

Nevertheless, UNRWA's eighth grade curriculum includes an overview, as part of its course on human rights, of the estimated six million Jews killed in European concentration camps. It was thought that by explaining the plight of Jews in Europe before they arrived, Palestinians would gain sympathy for their suffering, as well.

But in light of the latest Israeli assault in Gaza, the committees insisted that teaching what they called an Israeli or Jewish "version" of history plays on already heightened sensitivities in the besieged coastal strip, and noted that several UN installations were badly damaged in the winter invasion.

UNRWA did not immediately return calls seeking comment.

"The refugee camps committees categorically refuse to let our children be taught this lie created by the Jews and intensified by their media," the committees' letter said. "First of all, [the Holocaust] is not a fact, and secondly, those who added it to the curriculum intended to mess with our children's emotions."

It said Palestinians should be taught about the Nakba (catastrophe), an Arabic term that refers to the forced exodus of some 750,000 refugees from their homes when Israel was established, rather than the Holocaust.

The Gaza group's letter was sent the same day that Israeli Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar told the government's cabinet that the word Nakba had been removed from all lesson plans. "It can be said with certainty that Arab Israelis experienced a tragedy in the war, but there will be no use of the word 'Nakba,' whose meaning is similar to Holocaust in this context."

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had said when he was opposition leader two years earlier that using the word Nakba in schools was "tantamount to incitement against Israel."

On the other hand in January some were angry when, at the height of the Gaza war, Palestinians erected a memorial site near the West Bank city of Ramallah to mourn Nazi Germany's crimes against the Jewish people.

Hundreds of Palestinians were estimated to have attended the event in Ni'lin, which coincided with the UN-declared World Holocaust Remembrance Day, with photographs purchased from an Israeli museum.
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