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Swiss Ambassador Ruch
photo by Rhonda Spivak


Swiss Ambassador and Special Rep to Middle East Claims UNRWA Schools in Gaza are teaching Holocaust Education and a Western Style Curriculum

by Rhonda Spivak, April 29, 2011

 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 Patrice Lumumba University in Moscow.”



In his remarks at the J-Street conference Ambassador Ruch’s suggested that the curriculum in UNRWA schools is much more like a ‘Western curriculum.” Does that statement  really stand up to scrutiny?
On April 17, 2011, this reporter sent an email to Ambassador Ruch making him aware of a recent report by a leading monitoring organization showing that PA textbooks taught in UNRWA schools, just as they are taught in other schools in Gaza and the West Bank, generally do not even acknowledge the right of Israel to exist—hardly a Western style curriculum (let alone glorification of Jihadi martyrs)
The Institute for Monitoring Peace and Cultural Tolerance in School Education (IMPACT-SE), which reviews textbooks from  Israel, the Arab world and Iran, recently unveiled its 2011 report on PA school textbooks.
The organization reviewed 118 textbooks currently used in Palestinian schools – 71 of which are for students in grades one through 12, and 25 that are taught in religious schools in the West Bank and issued by the PA Ministry of Wakf and Religious Affairs.IMPACT-SE also examined 22 teacher guides distributed by the PA Ministry
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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

Opinions expressed in letters to the editor or articles by contributing writers are not necessarily endorsed by Winnipeg Jewish Review.