UNRWA teacher union threatens strike over Holocaust classes

A decision by the  United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) to incorporate teaching about the Holocaust in schools they run for Palestinian children has been met with hostility by the teachers union.

The teachers’ union leadership issued a statement last week warning the UN refugee agency against teaching the subject of the Holocaust in UNRWA schools in Jordan, and called for incorporating subjects that pertain to the Palestinian cause and the Palestinian refugees’ right of return.

The teachers threatened to go on strike if UNRWA does not back down from its decision, adopted last month, to teach about the Holocaust. A new UNRWA curriculum plans to teach about the genocide of approximately six million European Jews during World War II by Nazi Germany, and incorporate the topic within human rights issues in its education curriculum.

There appears to be some confusion about whether the Holocaust teaching program is going ahead. The Jordan Times reported last week that UNRWA had scapped the plan because of  Teacher Union pressure.

A recent statement announcing the plan triggered a wave of protest among UNRWA Arab cadres in the five areas of their operation – Jordan, Lebanon, theWest Bank, Gaza and Syria.

Sami Mshasha, UNRWA’s spokesperson in the West Bank, has said that the agency, which provides education and health services to over four million Palestinian refugees, planned to include an “enrichment” subject on human rights that includes the Holocaust.

A member of the executive committee for teachers, who attended the meeting with Mitchell, told The Jordan Times that the UNRWA statement “was probably meant to be a test balloon to detect the reaction of teachers and refugees in general but due to the strong opposition, the agency retracted its plans”.

Asked whether the agency would continue with plans to include the enrichment subject on human rights in other fields of operations, the source said the Union of Arab Workers at UNRWA would refuse to teach such a topic.

The teachers have the support of Jordan’s Islamic Action Front (IAF) the Ammon News reports saying that the Islamists  have denounced UNRWA’s decision to incorporate the subject of the Holocaust. The Islamist opposition political party said that the decision disregards Israeli atrocities against the Palestinians.

In a press conference on Monday,  they  called on UNRWA to incorporate issues concerning Palestinian rights, including the right of return as a sacred and legal inalienable right.