Saturday, February 15, 2014

Hamas blocks UN textbooks in Gaza

Hamas blocks UN textbooks in Gaza because they focus too much on ‘peaceful’ conflict resolution.

Ibrahim Barzak : Associated Press : February 13 2014

Gaza’s Hamas authorities have blocked a UN refugee agency from introducing textbooks promoting human rights into local schools, saying it ignores Palestinian cultural mores and focuses too heavily on "peaceful" means of conflict resolution.

Motesem al-Minawi, spokesman for the Hamas-run Education Ministry, said that the government believes the curriculum does not match the "ideology and philosophy" of the local population. He said the textbooks, used in grades 7 through 9, did not sufficiently address Palestinian suffering and did not acknowledge their right to battle Israel. "There is a tremendous focus on the peaceful resistance as the only tool to achieve freedom and independence," he said.

Hamas, which has killed hundreds of Israelis in suicide bombings and other attacks, says that armed resistance is a key component of its struggle against Israel.

The group also objected to the books’ inclusion of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights - a document approved by the UN General Assembly in 1948 that recognizes the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family. Hamas believes that certain parts of the declaration violate Islamic law, including the right of people of different faiths to marry and the right to change one’s religion.

Al-Minawi said government officials had met with UNRWA officials and offered to form a joint committee to revise the book. Adnan Abu Hassna, a local UNRWA spokesman, confirmed that the curriculum had been suspended while the sides work out their differences.

The spat is just the latest in a line of disagreements between Hamas and UNRWA. The United Nations Relief and Works Agency, known as UNRWA, assists Palestinian refugees and their descendants throughout the region. In Gaza, the agency runs some 245 schools serving more than 232,000 students plus dozens of medical clinics and it distributes food to many of the territory’s 1.7 million residents.

But Hamas has frequently squabbled with UNRWA in a rivalry for the hearts and minds of Gaza’s people. Hamas has pressed the UN not to organize mixed folkloric dancing for boys and girls; to keep Holocaust education out of its curriculum and it has used harsh rhetoric against previous senior UN officials. Last year, UNRWA cancelled its annual Gaza marathon after Hamas banned women from participating. 

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