GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip – The United Nations has launched a new plan to teach the Holocaust in Gaza schools, drawing fierce condemnation from Gaza's militant Hamas rulers, school teachers — and even the body tasked with peace negotiations with Israel.
If implemented, it would be the first time most Palestinian children learn about Jewish suffering. But the outcry underscores how sensitive the issue is to Palestinians.
"Playing with the education of our children in the Gaza Strip is a red line," Hamas Education Minister, Mohammed Asqoul told a website of the group. He said Hamas will block attempts to teach the Holocaust "regardless of the price."
The uproar erupted after a U.N. official told a Jordanian daily in February that UNRWA, the main U.N. agency serving Palestinian refugees, would introduce a short case study about the Holocaust to Gaza students as part of its human rights curriculum.
"Instead of pre-emptive accusations, it is important for Palestinians ... to fully understand the tragedies and suffering that happened to all people through generations, without divvying up facts and taking things out of context," the official, Sami Mushasha, was quoted as saying.
UNRWA representatives refused to comment on the record, but one official said the agency was committed to introducing the curriculum for the next school year, beginning in September.
He added that officials were hesitating because they feared Hamas would incite loyalists to damage U.N. schools or harm their teachers if they introduce the materials. He requested anonymity because he was barred from discussing the matter with the media.
Hamas frequently accuses the U.N. of spreading immorality, and unknown assailants have attacked the agency's property in the past, including the torching of summer camps last year.
Since Hamas seized power of Gaza in 2007, it has viewed the U.N. as the main challenger to their influence in the coastal territory. Officials have tried to limit the international group's vast influence in Gaza, where it operates schools for some 200,000 children.
But the controversy over teaching the Holocaust in Gaza is more than a power struggle between the U.N. and Hamas.
Many Palestinians are reluctant to acknowledge Jewish suffering, fearing it would diminish recognition of their own claims. Views range from outright denial to challenging the scope of the Holocaust.
Read more at Associated Press.