The so-called “spiritual” leader of Hamas has ordered that the Holocaust not be taught to Palestinian children. Younis Al-Astal—who is about as spiritual as Al Capone—has declared that the United Nations’ proposal to include Holocaust education in a course on human rights would constitute a “war crime.” It would be “marketing a lie and spreading it.” Instead, he would have Palestinian children learn only about the so-called crimes of the Israeli occupation and the self-inflicted wound that Palestinians call the Nakba.
I am not so sure I would trust the United Nations and especially its Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) to teach anything relating to Jews, Israel or the Holocaust. That agency has been part of the problem, not the solution, by perpetuating the refugee status of Palestinians who could have been integrated into the Palestinian mainstream over the past sixty years. By making an industry out of their permanent status as refugees, UNRWA has made peace more difficult and hatred more acceptable. The agency has turned a blind eye to Hamas terrorists who routinely used UNRWA facilities as launching sites for rockets. It has protected terrorists. It has sought to legitimate Hamas as a social service agency rather than as a fascist group of anti-Semites who employ violence in the false name of Mohammad.
Now, perhaps in an effort to appear balanced, UNRWA has agreed to provide basic information about the Holocaust to eighth grade students. These would be the only Palestinian students who learn about the murder of six million Jews at the hands of Hitler, since the Palestinian Authority has banned the teaching of the Holocaust to students on the West Bank. It is unlikely that the UNRWA educational unit would include factual information about the leader of the Palestinians during the Second World War, Haj Al-Husseini (the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem) and his active role in the Holocaust when he lived in Berlin as a guest of Adolph Hitler. But even a sanitized, watered down account of the Holocaust is too much for the Hamas leadership, which does not believe in history, but rather in propagandistic accounts that serve the terroristic goals of the organization.
In the end, UNRWA will buckle to Hamas, as it always does. Even if a compromise were to be reached, it might be worse than the current situation in which nothing is taught. There is absolutely no way in which Hamas would ever allow any kind of objective analysis of the Holocaust to be taught to their students. The essence of Hamas education is brainwashing and the shutting down of any marketplace of ideas. What Hamas fears most is truth, science, history and objectivity.
A state built on lies cannot long endure, unless it is an entirely totalitarian state such as North Korea, which denies its citizens access to any alternative information or point of view. Even Iran cannot stop ideas from filtering through its network of censors. Nor can China or Venezuela. But Hamas can and does impose total censorship over those it controls. If it were to become a state, its control over the minds and actions of its citizens would become even more total. The sad reality is that totalitarian censorship—provided it is completely totalitarian—really does work. The people of Gaza really believe that the Holocaust never occurred. They really believe that firing rockets at school children is God’s command. They really believe that Jews are a combination of the devil monkeys, pigs and vermin. They really believe that Jews control the world and that Barak Obama is a puppet whose strings are pulled by hook-nosed “Yids.” They really believe that Israel doesn’t want peace and seeks to destroy the Islamic world and its holy places.
It is difficult to build an enduring peace on such a structure of lies. That is why the Oslo Accords, and other peace agreements between Israel and the Palestinians, insisted that the Palestinians stop teaching their children to hate, stop teaching their teachers to lie and stop inciting violence against the Jews. In this respect, the Palestinian leadership, both in Gaza and the West Bank, has been an utter failure. Not much can be expected from the Hamas leadership, but even the Palestinian Authority has failed miserably in this regard. Abu Mazen received his PhD for a thesis that denied the Holocaust. He claims to have changed his views, but he is still unwilling to teach his students the true history of World War II.
Israel, on the other hand, has a free and open press in which the Palestinian narrative is presented honestly and fully—indeed sometimes more favorably to the Palestinians than is warranted by the facts. Israeli books present varying accounts of the conflict and teachers may supplement the texts. Some schools and teachers obviously present biased views, but students are free to subject their teacher’s biases to the open marketplace of ideas.
It should come as no surprise therefore that far more Israelis than Palestinians favor a compromise peace. The two-state solution cannot be built on lies. The truth, it turns out, is good for peace. The reality of the Holocaust is an important aspect of truth, regardless of what Hamas may say.