The moral necessity of despair when Arab teachers object to the humanization of Jews


Jewish Chronicle editor Stephen Pollard once commented that, sometimes, the only proper reaction to a particular event is despair.

The following represents such an example.

According to a recent reportrumors of a UN decision to introduce Holocaust studies in schools in Palestinian refugee camps run by UNRWA  have outraged Jordanian teachers, who say they will refuse to teach history that “harms the Palestinian cause.”

Roughly two million Palestinian refugees are registered with UNRWA’s Jordan offices, and they operate 172 schools in 10 refugee camps across the kingdom.

The Executive Committee of UNRWA teachers in Jordan responded to news that Holocaust studies would be added to the curriculum on ‘conflict resolution’ by issuing a statement which reads in part: 

“We condemn this decision, which equates the butcher and the victim,” [emphasis added]

The teachers’ statement demanded instead classes on the Palestinian “right of return” to Israel.

The statement continued:

‘Teaching UNRWA students about the so-called ‘Holocaust’ as part of human rights harms the Palestinian cause … and changes the students’  views regarding their main enemy, namely the Israeli occupation.”

“We shall monitor the curriculum being taught under the title ‘concepts of human rights’ [which is] aimed at reducing [Palestinian] students’ awareness of the right of return…” 

The reaction by Jordanian teachers follows a decision last year, by the association of UNRWA employees, to ban the introduction of Holocaust studies in UNRWA schools.

Remember that these are not Islamist extremists we’re talking about, but middle class Jordanian educators, ordinary men and women who evidently are outraged by “rumors” of a UN decision to teach children about the Nazi slaughter of one out of every three Jews on earth.

Identifying with six million victims of Nazi genocide is evidently seen as harming the Palestinian cause.

Moreover, it’s important to understand that though the Holocaust did not come close to putting an end to antisemitism across the world, news of the unspeakable horrors in extermination camps such as Auschwitz, Sobibor, Treblinka and Majdanek did attach to expressions of Judeophobia, in most of the enlightened world, a significant moral stigma. 

Holocaust memory in our times creates a bulwark of sorts against the most virulent expressions of antisemitism, as it demonstrates the potential deadly consequences of unchallenged racism against Jews – and, indeed, against other minorities.

It is indeed telling that the central address of antisemitism in modern times is the Arab and Muslim Middle East – where the cultural antibodies against Jew hatred have failed to materialize.

If the citizens of the Middle East were to internalize the lessons of the Holocaust they would be forced to confront their own society’s often homicidal  antisemitism – a self-reflective habit of mind which the honor-shame culture of the Arab world does not promote.

The reaction by Jordanian teachers to the suggestion that they educate Palestinian children about the unspeakable crimes committed against Jews is, therefore, not surprising, as such a curriculum would necessarily turn a mirror on their own extensive moral and cultural shortcomings.

Finally, how can anyone seriously contemplate Palestinian peace with living Jews if they are often unable to reconcile themselves with even the humanity of murdered Jews?

The only healthy response to such stories is simply despair.

15 comments on “The moral necessity of despair when Arab teachers object to the humanization of Jews

  1. So many are committed and determined to witness the destruction of the state of Israel and they have the ears and the support of so many. They aren’t interested in facts, however and plenty don’t give a damn about the Palestinians but their bogus support give them a let in to express their anti Semitic sentiment as aggressively as they mnand those regions surrounding it.

  2. A basic education about the Holocaust might explain to kids why Israelis are – in Peter Beaumont’s terminology – “paranoid”.

  3. SOAS is a disgrace for allowing this ‘study’ centre to exist there. I graduated from there 15 years ago and it wasn’t interested in presenting a balanced view then but it’s moved on to promoting violent anti Jewish bigotry. Why is this allowed to continue? That’s rhetorical of course. It is there to attempt to add legitimacy to the misrepresentation of the. Holocaust. Claiming that far fewer numbers were involved. Whilst it may not state this as fact, because they have nothing to support it is a theory they covertly promote. They are a disgrace.

  4. This is the politicization of history and ensures that it is propaganda which only misleads and does not inform. The failure to present all facts guarantees a warped and distorted unbalanced narrative. It is well documented that many Arab leaders looked to Hitler, supported him and considered him a saviour. Perhaps they should revisit their shameful record and see that they supported evil which thankfully was ultimately defeated. To not teach the Holocaust is deplorable and reveals a racist, phobic and intransigent mindset. Methinks they need to repent. Denial of the Holocaust is rife in the Arab world. These supposedly educated teachers instead of teaching about the dangers and destructiveness of hatred and anti-semitism would sooner foster more hatred and ignorance in the lives of their pupils. Surely this is evidence that these teachers are consumed with hatred, bias and an ideology that is the antithesis of western liberal tolerance based on Judeo-Christian principles. Better title for them would be masters of brainwashing and corrupting minds.

    • Excellent post. You are absolutely correct. It terrifies me that these virulently antisemitic ‘teachers’, who unashamedly use phrases such as ‘the so-called “Holocaust” ‘, are even allowed anywhere near children. – Their aim is to foster and promote hatred in a new generation, and they get really angry with anyone trying to interfere with that aim.

    • Chris. Misrepresentation of the worst sort. It is obvious, even from the patently biased link you provided that this was simply a refusal to allow politically motivated, one-sided historical revisionism being taught in Israeli schools. That is the action of a reasonable government. The facts surrounding the War of Independence ARE of course taught in Israeli schools.

      Teachers refusing to countenance the teaching of the worst, biggest scale act of genocide in human history – not because they don’t like the political slant of the course, but on the principle that acknowledging that this even happened might “harm the Palestinian cause” – is an act of unforgiveable historical revisionism in itself.

      Your attempt at moral obfuscation is hopeless.

    • Chris, teaching about the Nakba is not prohibited in Israel. There was legislation recently denying gov’t funds to teach Israelis that Israel’s founding was a catastrophe, but citizens are free to do so.

      Second, to even compare the flight of Palestinians during the 48 war (a war the Arabs started to annihilate the new Jewish state) to the attempted annihilation of Jews by the Nazis is not morally serious.

      http://www.jpost.com/DiplomacyAndPolitics/Article.aspx?id=213396

      • “not morally serious”

        I have to say I admire Adam’s diplomatic vocabulary in situations like this.

      • “Nearly a million Arabs – in 2020 it will be nearly two millions, you will see.”
        Sure, why not? After all, their “history” now goes back “9,000 years.” Has anyone mentioned to Abbas the existence of 30,000 year old Neanderthal fossils in the area? Maybe it’s time for him to revise those numbers once again, before the 10th year of his 4 year term.

    • I’ve never seen a figure for Palestinian Arab refugees from the 1948-49 war larger than 750 thousand. The UN’s own census from that time period places it closer to 711 thousand. Similarly, the Jewish refugee population from the Arab-Israeli conflict is generally given as ~900 thousand, give or take 50 thousand.

    • The Nakba might not be a special subject on the Israeli curriculum – but it’s not prohibited as such, to my knowledge.

      And besides – the expulsion of Arabs (terrible though it was) occurred within the context of war between two peoples.

      Comparing it to the Holocaust is absolutely ridiculous.

Comments are closed.