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UAE may include Holocaust in school curriculum – DW – 01/28/2023


The news caused quite a stir. In early January, the UAE embassy in Washington announced on social media that the Arab state would include the Holocaust in the curriculum of primary and secondary education.

According to a statement on Twitter, the plan follows the Abraham Accords — the normalization agreement with the U.S. Israel — signed by the UAE about two years ago, along with Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan.

An earlier peace treaty was signed between Egypt in 1979 and Jordan in 1994. However, many other Arab countries have so far refused to engage in any formal engagement with Israel.

Now, the UAE is clearly playing a leading role in responding to the Holocaust. The Holocaust as a regular school subject is rare in the Arab world.

In Washington last November, Ali al-Nuaimi, a member of the UAE Federal National Assembly, had declared that “the memory of the victims of the Holocaust is of paramount importance”.

The Israeli foreign ministry reacted positively to the news from the UAE. It praised the “historic decision” in an Arabic tweet.

Deborah Lipstadt, the U.S. special envoy for monitoring and combating anti-Semitism, also highlighted the plan on Twitter, saying she hoped other countries would soon follow suit.

Further details remain unknown

So far, little is known about what might be included in a school curriculum.

According to the UAE newspaper the whole countrythe concept is being developed in collaboration with Jerusalem’s Yad Vashem World Holocaust Memorial Center and the Israeli-British Institute for Monitoring Peace and Cultural Tolerance in School Education (IMPACT-SE).

Jerusalem Hall of Fame at Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum
Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem is advising UAE on course contentPhoto: Nir Alon/ZUMAPRESS.com/picture alliance

But not many details have been made public. In an interview with DW, IMPACT-SE Director Markus Scheff said that they are happy to provide advice and information that they hope will be helpful for Holocaust education. And, he added, a review of the Holocaust teaching materials provided to them so far shows that they meet UNESCO’s standards of peace and tolerance.

The institute has yet to see the final draft of the textbook. The final draft has also not been provided to Yad Vashem.

uae newspapers the whole country Indicates that the final version of the course is in the process of being drafted, but a release date has not yet been announced.

Nor is anyone sure when school programs using Holocaust study materials will begin. A proposed interview with the UAE embassy in Berlin on the issue had not taken place, and information was not available from other sources at the time of publication.

The Museum at the Crossroads of Civilizations, home to the Holocaust Gallery in Dubai
Museum at the Crossroads of Civilizations in Dubai hosts Holocaust exhibitionPhoto: Karim Sahib/AFP

Jewish community ‘proud’

The UAE’s small Jewish community welcomed the project. Community leader Alex Peterfreund told AFP it was “proud” of the plans.

Belgian Peterfreund said: “By teaching about the Holocaust, the UAE wants to show what can happen when people of different religions and cultures cannot live together.”

It is also encouraging that Hebrew courses in the UAE and other Gulf countries higher demand Recent years.

Jews have lived in what is now the United Arab Emirates for over 1,000 years. Today’s Jewish community – estimated at around 3,000 – is made up of their descendants and immigrants who moved there for professional reasons.

The Jewish community is very visible in the UAE. There are several synagogues and kosher restaurants, and a Jewish center has opened. “Jewish life is thriving here,” Levi Duhman, chief rabbi of the UAE, told the Israeli newspaper jerusalem post in September.A few years ago, the UAE even had yemeni jews persecuted by the Houthis. They took refuge with relatives in the UAE.

Rabbi Levi Duchman, a Brooklyn-born Chabad rabbi who heads the UAE Jewish Community Center, leads the hymn among a group of children
Rabbi Duhman welcomes UAE plan to include Holocaust in UAE schoolsPhoto: Andrea DiCenzo/Getty Images


Ebtesam al-Ketbi, director of the UAE Policy Center, an Abu Dhabi think tank, applauded the decision. “The initiative is part of the UAE’s efforts to promote tolerance and coexistence,” Ketby told DW. “It is important to teach students about such events in order to prevent such painful historical experiences from being repeated.”

She said the Holocaust was “the single most important example of racism against people of different religions or races”.

Ahmed al-Mansoori, Founder, Crossroads of Civilizations Museum Group in dubai, It includes a historical exhibit on the Holocaust, which makes a similar point. The Holocaust is still widely denied, al-Mansoori said in a recent interview with AFP: “If we want people to sympathize with us, we have to sympathize with others.”

Not everyone agrees. The exhibit’s guest book also contained negative comments, including slogans such as “Down with Zionist imperialism,” AFP reported.

A tweet by prominent Emirati political scientist Abdulkhaleq Abdulla also attracted attention. He tweeted that the Holocaust had “neither national nor educational value” as a subject. Abdullah said the plans he wished to announce were not real.

Hamas, the Palestinian organization that runs the Gaza Strip and is listed as a terrorist organization by the European Union, also issued a statement. A spokesman said teaching the topic was “an endorsement of the Zionist narrative”. In 2009, Hamas called the massacre a “Zionist lie” after the group suspected that the United Nations would teach about the Holocaust to Palestinian children in the Gaza Strip.

The extent to which school-based education can counter Holocaust denial or relativization in the future remains to be seen.

Emad Hassan contributed to this article.


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