Hamas and other organizations strongly object to the inclusion of Holocaust studies in the UNRWA school curriculums.

UNRWA school in the Jabalia refugee camp in the Gaza Strip (Electronicintifada.net website)
UNRWA school in the Jabalia refugee camp in the Gaza Strip (Electronicintifada.net website)


1. On October 17 the Department of Refugee Affairs of the de-facto Hamas administration said in an announcement that it strongly opposed UNRWA's alleged intention once again to introduce Holocaust studies into the curriculum of the schools it operates in the Palestinian refugee camps. The announcement added that UNRWA's intention was "a crime against the refugees and the right of return." It called on the UN agency to revoke it and desist from making "questionable" decisions regarding the services it provided to the Palestinian refugees (Safa News Agency, October 17, 2012).

2. The announcement was made after rumors were spread in Jordan that UNRWA intended to introduce Holocaust studies in the curriculum of its schools in the Palestinian refugee camps as part of conflict resolution studies. The rumors angered Jordanian teachers as well, who said in a statement that they would refuse to teach history that "harmed the Palestinian cause." Similar statements were made in Lebanon (For the responses to the UNRWA decision in the Gaza Strip and several Arab states see the Appendix).

3. UNRWA unofficially denied that it was planning to introduce Holocaust studies into its curriculum this year. However, no official response could be obtained from the UNRWA spokesman (Al-Ghad, Jordan, October 16, 2012).

4. UNRWA operates 243 schools in the Gaza Strip for more than 200,000 pupils (UNRWA website, October 17, 2012). It also operates schools inJudea and Samaria and in Arab countries where Palestinian refugee camps are located. In recent years the issue of teaching Holocaust studies has arisen periodically, causing protests which led UNRWA to revoke its decision. Particularly strong responses were expressed in the Gaza Strip, the result of Hamas' objection in principle to teaching the Holocaust, which it refers to as "an imaginary lie."[1]

5. Hamas' strong reaction against Holocaust studies isalso part of a systematic campaign of exerting pressure on UNRWA. Hamas' objective is to force UNRWA's educational system (schools, summer camps) to integrate into the Hamas administration's educational system and to have Hamas curriculums taught in UNRWA schools. Superficially the pressure exerted by Hamas seems to be having some effect, at least partially, as has been evidenced, for example, by the disruption of UNRWA summer camps.[2]

Responses in the Gaza Strip

6. An announcement issued by the Department of Refugee Affairs of the de-facto Hamas administration in the Gaza Strip stated that students in UNRWA schools did not need material about the Holocaust to complement their basic studies. The announcement requested all political movements, Palestinian civilian social institutions, popular and civilian committees and the UNRWA workers' unions to protest UNRWA's "questionable" decisions (Safa News Agency, October 17, 2012).

7. Dr. Issam Adwan, who heads the Department of Refugee Affairs in the de-facto Hamas administration, claimed that UNRWA had yielded to pressure from Israel and the United States, which had reduced the amount of aid it gave the Palestinians and conditioned it on Holocaust studies in accordance with demands from Israel. He said that they would tear up textbooks about the Holocaust and throw them into the garbage (Filastin al-Yawm, October 17, 2012).

8. The Popular Resistance Committees issued a warning to UNRWA not to teach the Holocaust. According to the announcement, it was "a miserable attempt to spread Zionist propaganda" and the Palestinian people would "oppose it in every way and with all means." The announcement also said that UNRWA should take an interest in issues concerning the lives of the Palestinian refugees, especially the Nakba, rather than teaching the children "a Zionist lie" (Filastin al-Yawm, October 17, 2012).

Responses in Jordan

9. In response to the rumors, the Executive Committee of the UNRWA teachers union in Jordan[3] said in an announcement on October 15 that they condemnedthe decision, which "equates the butcher and the victim.”[4] The teachers demanded that instead of Holocaust studies, the so-called "right of return and the history of the 1948 war" be taught. They said that teaching about the Holocaust as part of the topic of human rights damaged the Palestinian cause and would change to opinions of the students regarding the true identity of their enemy (Www.timesofisrael.com website, October 16, 2012).

Responses in Lebanon

10.The Thabet Organization for the Right of Return in Beirut condemned UNRWA's decision. It called on UNRWA to focus on the goal for which it was founded and exchange Holocaust studies for "the Palestinian Nakba" studies (Ma'an News Agency, October 18, 2012).[5]

[1] For further information see the March 8, 2011 bulletin "The battle for the character of education in the Gaza Strip: Hamas and the PIJ repeatedly demand that UNRWA not teach about the Holocaust in its schools, claiming that it is a “fabricated, twisted history” that “poisons” the minds of young Palestinians and thus serves Israel’s interests."

[3] UNRWA operates 172 schools in Jordan in ten refugee camps with about 120,000 children as students (UNRWA website, October 17, 2012).

[4] http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/arab-teachers-rejection-of-holocaust-education-highlights-arab-anti-semitism/2012/10/17/

[5]  UNRWA operates 68 schools in Lebanese in 12 refugee camps with about 32,000 children as students (UNRWA website, October 17, 2012).