History,  Israel/Palestine

The BBC and Al Jazeera on Hamas and the Holocaust

Guest post by DaveM

On August 31 the BBC ran this story in its website:

The head of its education committee in Gaza, Abdul Rahman el-Jamal, told the BBC that the Holocaust was a “big lie”. He said that to teach it would be to “grant a big favour” to Israel, which has been fighting Hamas for years.

Yet this is only part of the story. Al Jazeera covered it in more depth the previous day. Notice its language and tone:

There was anger in Palestinian circles – in Gaza, the West Bank and Internal Land (1948) [i.e. Israel] – which was caused by the timing of UNWRA’s decision to include a clause in its Palestinian educational curriculum on what is described as the Jewish Crematorium or Holocaust with the timing of the Israeli decision banning use of the word ‘Nakba’ [catastrophe referring to 1948].

And a committee on Arab education in Israel has threatened civil disobedience.

The People’s Committees [also translates as Popular Committees] in the Gaza strip stated that UNWRA is putting forward in its Human Rights curriculum for 8th graders a clause explaining the Holocaust which the Jews claim they were subject to in Europe. [my emphasis]

The People’s Committees also state that this subject is presented in a way which may confirm that the Holocaust did happen and could stir up sympathy with the Jews.

The People’s Committees in a letter to the UNWRA director of operations in the Gaza strip John Ging expressed its rejection of and objection to some of the most recent UNWRA administration’s policies, decisions and practises.

In their letter the People’s Committees stress their refusal that “our children are taught this lie which was contrived by the Zionists then circulated and exaggerated by their media apparatus which dominates [or controls] the Western Media.”

The committees considered that if this subject [i.e. the Holocaust] proves human rights violations then “The issue of the Palestinian Nakba and continual Zionist crimes which our people are subject to, and UNWRA institutions are not spared from this either, must be what is taught first and foremost prior to anything else.”

Adnan Abbu Hasana, UNWRA spokesman, initially refused to confirm or deny if this was included in the curriculum. Though later on when speaking to United Press International he said “We refute that our current human rights programme includes any clause on the Holocaust.”

Along with the publication of the People’s Committee’s letter came a succession of condemnations from the interior ministry of the Gaza Government and the Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas) along with parliamentary figures.

The interior ministry stressed its “absolute and complete” refusal “of the teaching of these sorts of ideas and culture which are alien to our society, and beliefs.”

Yunis Al Astal, a Hamas leader, considered that what is being circulated about the UNWRA decision, specifically in relation to the Holocaust, is occurring within much larger crimes.

He stated “I don’t exaggerate when I say this is ranked among [i.e. considered] war crimes. This is because it grants a favour to the Zionist Usurpers and provides sympathy for their deceptions and myths”

– 200,000 Palestinian students will be studying in UNWRA schools in the new semester stating on the 23th of this month.

The rest of the article is about how the Israeli Education minister is going to replace the word Nakba with Tragedy in the history books, as if there is some sort of moral equivalence here with Holocaust denial.

Notice the language and tone used by Hamas here; the terms Zionist and Jew are interchangeable. First the People’s Committees are complaining about the curriculum causing sympathy with the Jews. Then they complain that the Holocaust was a lie concocted by the Zionists. The lines between these two terms are blurred.

Also there are a few questions.

Is AlJazeera.net itself actually making the claim that the Holocaust is something Jews allege happened to them or are they attributing that to the Popular Committees? In fact if anyone from AlJazeera.net could let us know (in English please) that would be great.

Why has the BBC website only given us part of Hamas’s response a full day after a much more detailed report by AlJazeera.net? Would it not have made more sense to translate and publish the full response, giving its readers all the information rather than just excerpts– in this case just six words from Abdul Rahman el-Jamal? This is actually a big story.

If UNWRA are this craven in the face of Hamas complaints about their curriculum and won’t even challenge them on that, how can we be confident they would stand up to them or prevent any attempts by Hamas militias to, for example, store weapons and ammunition in UNWRA buildings and sites?

Strangely the BBC article concludes:

However, the event’s significance is often disputed in parts of the Middle East where Israel is seen as the enemy and the Holocaust is seen as a tool used by Israel to justify its actions.

That’s not strictly true, certainly not in my experience.

If it was seen as insignificant then surely it wouldn’t engender a huge amount of media coverage, some of which we can see here.

The public dispute seems to be based around the Holocaust’s reality.

Some deny it . Others justify and celebrate it.

Those who know that it did happen and was a crime against humanity have to keep that to themselves.

However the Holocaust’s significance doesn’t appear to be under any dispute whatsoever.