Hamas has condemned textbooks from the United Nations' Palestinian refugee agency that include lessons about pacifists such as Martin Luther King Jr., Mahatma Gandhi and Rosa Parks, saying they offend Palestinian cultural sensitivities and are “inappropriate” for Palestinian children.
The independent Palestinian news agency Ma’an reported that the Hamas-run Ministry of Education in Gaza accused the U.N. Relief and Works Agency of incorporating the “inappropriate” textbooks in their schools’ curriculums. The agency runs schools for Palestinian children.
A Palestinian girl wears a headband that reads, "No god but Allah and Muhammad is his messenger, Islamic Jihad," while posing for a photo during a protest by Palestinian Hamas and Islamic Jihad members in the Jebaliya refugee camp, the northern Gaza Strip, Friday, Feb. 7, 2014. (AP/Hatem Moussa)
The Hamas ministry said in a statement that the materials "do not fit the culture of our Palestinian society, and is meant to brainwash Palestinian students and convince them to accept the Zionist enemies while they continue to kill our people, carry out more oppressive procedures, Judaize the holy city [Jerusalem] and build the apartheid wall."
Hamas education ministry spokesman Mu’tasim Al-Minawi called the books “completely detached from the reality of an Arab Muslim Palestinian student.”
The militant group which runs Gaza particularly objected to the highlighting of historical figures who have promoted nonviolent forms of protest.
“The vast majority of examples [in the books] refer to [Mahatma] Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks, Helen Suzman, the Soweto Uprising, the Magna Carta and apartheid, even though Islamic-Arab-Palestinian alternatives exist,” Al-Minawi said in a statement, according to the Times of Israel. “There are many models which could be used which are closer to the students’ understanding.”
He expressed concern that the books are focused on “peaceful resistance as the only way of achieving freedom and independence” and that the eighth-grade curriculum, for example, is “not dedicated to human rights but to domesticate the psyche of the Palestinian pupil, fostering negative feelings toward armed resistance.”
“Resistance” and “armed resistance” are often used as euphemisms by Palestinians when referring to terror attacks against Israeli civilians and soldiers, such as missile launches from Gaza on Israeli cities.
Al-Minawi further complained that Palestinian history was marginalized or presented in a “superficial” and “distorted” way in UNRWA’s books.
The education ministry posted a message on its website on Tuesday telling teachers that if UNRWA does not remove the curriculum which “contaminates the minds of our dear students,” they should refuse to teach it.
UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness told the Times of Israel, “UNRWA has no plans to change its education programs in Gaza,” adding that human rights are taught in all UNRWA schools from grades 1 through 9, and address the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
“We have done our utmost in developing these materials to be sensitive to local values while also being true to the universal values that underpin the work of the United Nations,” Gunness said.
UNRWA spokesman Adnan Abu Hasnah told Ma’an that the U.N. agency “would never adopt curricula that violate customs and traditions of the Palestinian people.”
Hamas previously protested when UNRWA has wanted to teach about the Holocaust to Palestinian students.
Palestinian activists and their supporters in the west have in the past invoked the image of Rosa Parks to protest Israeli policies including a 2011 “Palestinian Freedom Rides” event meant to equate the U.S. civil rights movement and the Palestinian predicament.