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UNRWA chief: Gaza school curriculum does not include Holocaust

Sept. 1, 2009 3:32 P.M. (Updated: Sept. 2, 2009 4:21 P.M.)
Gaza – Ma’an – Karen Abu Zayd, the commissioner-general of the UN agency for Palestinian Refugees, UNRWA, said on Tuesday that curriculum at UN schools in Gaza does not refer to the Jewish Holocaust.

During a news conference at the Gaza harbor Abu Zayd said, “I can refute allegations that UN school curriculum includes anything about the Holocaust. Anyone can have a look at the school books. Really we focus on human rights in curriculum.”

She went on to say, “Last year was the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and we found that the Palestinians were deprived of many rights.” The human rights curriculum also teaches some history, she said.

Abu Zayd explained that the curriculum for these schools was written in the regional UN office in the Gaza Strip, and that it is revised by a group of editors from Palestine and from abroad.

The UN official was responding to accusations from refugee camp committees in Gaza that UNRWA was teaching a version of history to Palestinian students that "confirms the Holocaust and raises sympathy for Jews."

In a letter to UNRWA’s Gaza director John Ging on Sunday, the committees urged the refugee agency to scrap its program.

"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."

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.

The refugee committees argued in their letter that 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."
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