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Hamas Refuses UN Plan to Teach Holocaust Print E-mail

By Hillel Fendel
August 31,2009

UNRWA's mandate is one that has perpetuated the refugee situation for more than 60 years (!) and continues to keep the Palestinian refugees in a situation of humanitarian catastrophe. Hamas has condemned a United Nations decision to teach refugee children in Gaza about the Holocaust, saying it is a “lie invented by the Zionists” and would reinforce Israeli control over the Holy Land.

Reuters broke the story on Monday, saying the Hamas terrorist movement, which currently controls the Gaza Strip, demands that UNRWA – the UN organization that controls many aspects of the lives of Arab refugees and their millions of descendants - withdraw plans for a new history book in UN schools in Gaza.

In an open letter to John Ging, who heads the Gaza chapter of UNRWA (the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East), Hamas wrote that it had learned that UNRWA was about to start using a text for 13-year-olds that included a chapter on the Holocaust. “We refuse to let our children study a lie invented by the Zionists,” the letter stated.

Hamas: "So-Called Holocaust"
Hamas's official spokesman in Gaza, Sami Abu Zuhri, did not say the Holocaust was a “lie,” but told Reuters that Hamas opposes “forcing the issue of the so-called Holocaust onto the syllabus, because it aims to reinforce acceptance of the occupation of Palestinian land."

Some Israelis questioned what UNRWA was doing dabbling in education altogether. “Why isn’t UNRWA rehabilitating and finding permanent housing for the refugees, instead of perpetuating their misery for decade after decade?” they want to know.

“The UNRWA Holocaust dispute is irrelevant,” says Yoav Sorek, director of The Israeli Initiative.  "UNRWA is supposed to be a relief agency. In fact, though, it became a political being, a state within a state. Currently, about 70% of its more than $500 million budget goes for education, while only 30% goes to social and medical services. While education itself is certainly important, this money could really be used to help rehabilitate the refugees and help them start new productive lives. Even if they receive education, their chances of getting jobs in those fields in the West Bank and Gaza are very slim.”

“These people will still be under the control of leaders who do not care about their wellbeing,” Sorek lamented, “leaders whose only hope of staying in power is by keeping those refugees in a pathetic situation where they can be used as political pawns in a continuing battle against Israel. In Lebanon, for instance, where the refugees live in the worst conditions of all refugee camps, those who have an education are prevented from entering about 20 different professions."

The Israel Initiative, a peace plan proposed and promoted by former Tourism Minister Benny Elon, emphasizes the need for rehabilitation of the Arab refugees. “We demand that the mandate for the refugees be turned over to UNHCR (United Nation High Commission for Refugees), which has the ability to rehabilitate the refugees and give them hope for the future,” the backers of the plan declare.

UNRWA’s website states it is a “relief and human development agency, providing education, healthcare, social services and emergency aid to over 4.6 million refugees living in the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, Jordan, Lebanon and the Syrian Arab Republic.”

The Israel Initiative states, “UNRWA's mandate is one that has perpetuated the refugee situation for more than 60 years (!) and continues to keep the Palestinian refugees in a situation of humanitarian catastrophe. Billions of dollars given to the agency throughout the years by Western governments and organizations have not led yet to the rehabilitation of even one family.”

Earlier this year, Jewish Agency director Natan Sharansky wrote in the Wall Street Journal  that after the Disengagement of 2005, he asked the chief of staff of Palestinian Authority chairman, Mahmoud Abbas, “Now that we have uprooted thousands of Jews and empowered Gazans to be masters of their own fate, can we hope that within a year's time there will be fewer refugees in the camps?”  Sharansky wrote that the man answered, "Absolutely not. The refugees will be relocated only in the context of the final status [agreement]. How can we move them if we do not know where they will live? Maybe they will live in Israel."

Sharansky concluded, “Even the Palestinian Authority, the most moderate among Palestinian political groups, would not consider easing their own people's plight in the wake of Israel's compromise. This is because the suffering of the refugees is essential to their broader political struggle.  How does the West respond to the obvious exploitation of Palestinian refugees? Soon after my meeting with Mr. Abbas's chief of staff, I met with the ambassador of one of the West's most enlightened countries. I asked: Why are the Palestinians not willing to help their own refugees?  ‘I can understand them,’ he answered. ‘After all, they don't want the refugee problem to be taken off the agenda.’"

 

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