Swiss Ambassador Ruch
photo by Rhonda Spivak
Ambassador Jean-Daniel Ruch, Special Representative of Switzerland for the Middle East, said at a session at the recent J Street convention in Washington in March 2011 that in Gaza the school curriculum used to teach Palestinian children in schools run by UNRWA [the United Nations Reflief and Works Agency] is different and “more Western” than the curriculum taught to children in non-UNRWA schools run by Hamas.
Ruch, whose government recognizes Hamas and believes that Hamas ought to be brought into the peace process, either formally or through back channels, said that he feared that:
“We have a whole new generation [ in Gaza]which is…being educated by Hamas with their social agenda and political agenda. Those people will be fed with the feeling of injustice, anger or revenge. Thank God you still have half the children who are being taught in UNRWA UN schools, where the curriculum is much more like a Western curriculum including teachings on the Holocaust. But still half of the children who will be brainwashed and formatted for implementing a Hamas view…”
Unfortunately, Ruchs statement regarding a Western curriculum in UNRWA schools with teachings on the Holocasut is misleading, as this reporter told him after the session.
In 2010, this reporter spoke with a spokesperson from UNRWA who claimed that UNWRA was bringing in a Holocaust Curriculum in UNWRA schools in Palestinian refugee camps in Gaza and the West Bank. The conversation took place several months after Canada had taken a decision to allocate its money to UNRWA for food-relief only, and not to UNRWA’s general account which would go to funding such items as education. In the conversation, the UNRWA spokesperson tried to convince this reporter that Canada’s stance re: UNRWA was wrong, and that UNRWA was teaching a curriculum that ought to be supported by Western countries, such as Canada, as a new curriculum on Holocaust education that was being introduced. The spokesperson specifically said a new text book for teaching about the Holocaust was in the process of being prepared.
Shortly after that conversation, inquiries were made of Michael Kingsley, of UNRWA from a colleague of mine asking Kingsley if UNRWA planned to introduce a Holocaust curriculum. On May 3, 2010, Kingsley wrote in response:
“I am writing to clarify that there is no “Holocaust curriculum” as such in UNRWA schools and there are no plans to introduce one. For some time, UNRWA has enriched the curriculum in its schools with materials and courses on human rights and peaceful conflict resolution, not least in Gaza, where UNRWA’s management has been particularly imaginative in advancing this and other aspects of UNRWA’s educational programme. In these courses, the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) is introduced as a pivotal international instrument. In that context, the Holocaust is referenced as an event which not only influenced the drafting of the UDHR, but also gave impetus to the progressive development of the human rights obligations in international law. I hope this clarifies.”
Kingsley’s statement above makes it clear that suggestions of an actual Holocaust curriculum or texts to that effect are unfounded.
Note that UNRWA schools in the West Bank and Gaza follow the curriculum and use the school books of the Palestinian Authority as the host entity, in the same way that UNRWA schools in Lebanon, Syria and Jordan use the school books and curriculum from their host entities. This was confirmed in an email this reporter received on August from Chris Gunness, UNRWA spokesman based in Jerusalem, on August 8, 2010 who wrote “ By agreement with all host authorities where we work, we teach host authority books…”
Further as David Bedein, Director of the Israel News Resource Agency has documented and reported, “There is one aspect of the Palestinian educational system in the UNRWA camps that does relate to holocaust. In every Palestinian school library, Palestinian students have easy access to the doctoral thesis written by Palestinian Authority President Machmud Abbas only 26 years ago entitled, “The Other Side: The secret relations between Nazism and the leadership of the Zionist movement” which he submitted in to obtain his PHD at Moscow.”
A “WESTERN CURRICULUM ?
“In geography textbooks, Israel usually does not appear in maps of the Middle East, instead “Palestine” is shown to encompass Israel, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Jaffa is also shown on maps of Palestine, but Tel Aviv and other predominantly Jewish cities, such as Ramat Gan, kibbutzim and moshavim, are notdisplayed.”[emphasis added].
Other textbooks read for the study asked students to “color the Negev Desert on the map of Palestine.” Another textbook included a map of the Old City of Jerusalem – which did not contain the Jewish Quarter.