GAZA CITY (Ma’an) -- Gaza government officials on Tuesday urged school children to leave classrooms if human rights lessons included information about the Holocaust.
The Hamas-led government said it would do everything it could to prevent children being taught about the Holocaust in UNRWA schools in the Gaza Strip. It accused the UN agency of overstepping its humanitarian and relief role.
UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness explained that human rights education has been part of the agency's curriculum in schools across the region since 2002. In Gaza, the agency runs 228 schools, educating over 200,000 children.
"Because of the situation in Gaza, we have been enriching further our human rights education" in the coastal enclave, Gunness said, explaining that the program was anchored in the principles of the UN Declaration of Human Rights.
Gaza Education Minister Mahammad Ashquol said his ministry "will never allow teaching Holocaust to Gazan refugee camp children."
"Messing up Gaza's education system is a red line which can’t be ignored," he added.
The Hamas-run Ministry of Culture also issued a statement slamming the inclusion of information about the Holocaust in the UN curriculum, which it described as a "challenge" to Palestinians.
Ministry officials said the lessons were an overt intervention in Palestinian affairs, and that the "suspicious plot" should be countered. They urged teachers to refuse to include the Holocaust in their lessons, claiming that teaching the subject amounted to "complicity in a crime against culture."
Further, officials asked children to leave the classroom if teachers tried to tell them about the Holocaust or gave them books about the atrocity.
The UNRWA spokesman said children in Gaza deserved an education which was not disrupted or politicized.
Rather, they deserve to learn "in peaceful, non-politicized spaces in which they can attain the highest level of human development," Gunness said.