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PA spokesman gives false information to media

Itamar Marcus and Nan Jacques Zilberdik  |
PA spokesman falsely tells media:
PA schoolbooks include Holocaust education

PA-funded Zayzafuna charges:
- PMW report is "misleading attack" on the youth magazine
- UNESCO's cessation of funding is "giving in to blackmail"
- Child's essay did not glorify Hitler, but "accused" him       

by Itamar Marcus and Nan Jacques Zilberdik

The Palestinian Authority has responded in two different ways to PMW's exposure of Zayzafuna, the PA-funded youth magazine, and its glorification of Hitler.

In an essay in the magazine, Hitler tells a young girl in her dream that he killed the Jews “so you would all know that they are a nation which spreads destruction all over the world. And what I ask of you is to be resilient and patient, concerning the suffering that Palestine is experiencing at their hands.” In her dream, the girl then thanks Hitler for his advice.

The first approach was taken by PA spokesman Ghassan Khatib who told Associated Press that the article glorifying Hitler was "not acceptable."

But he also added the following false statement:
"We educate young people in our textbooks about the Holocaust and the massacres of Hitler against Jews and against others, and we refer to these massacres as crimes against humanity."

This is not true. There is no mention of the Holocaust in PA schoolbooks. PMW's study of PA schoolbooks documents that when teaching about the Second World War, although the books mention Nazi racism and even the Nuremberg trials, they fail to refer to the crimes for which the Nazis were tried at Nuremberg and do not explain that the victims of these crimes and racism were Jews. A recent study by IMPACT-SE ( also confirms that the current PA schoolbooks used in 2011 still do not teach about the Holocaust.

The second PA response came from the magazine Zayzafuna itself and was reported in the official PA daily. The magazine charged that PMW's interpretation, that Hitler was being glorified because he killed Jews, was wrong. The management claimed that the story was intended to be critical of Hitler. Regarding the Palestinian girl's conversation with Hitler, management stated that "her words were simply an accusation of him."

It should be noted that the fact that the Palestinian girl in the essay thanks Hitler for his advice in dealing with the Jews who pose a danger to the world was ignored by the magazine in its response. It also should be noted that PMW's interpretation of the text was accepted as precise by the American Ambassador to UNESCO, the Wiesenthal Center, B'nai B'rith, and UNESCO, which immediately cancelled its funding of the magazine.

For years, it has been PA policy not to recognize or educate its youth about the Holocaust. The PA has either denied that the Holocaust ever happened, distorted it by saying that Jews planned it themselves, or downplayed it, asserting that the number of Jews killed in the Holocaust was much lower than the "claimed" 6 million. PMW reported last year that PA leaders and UNRWA employees expressed strong opposition to a proposed plan to teach Palestinian children about the Holocaust in the curricula of UNRWA schools. (See statements below.)

The following are responses by the Zayzafuna magazine and the PA Journalists' Union:

"The management of the children's magazine Zayzafuna condemned the misleading attack led by Israeli media sources (i.e., the exposure by Palestinian Media Watch) concerning the ideas which were published in vol. 32 of Zayzafuna, in February 2011, following which the magazine was accused of incitement to violence. The magazine stated that what was written in the above-mentioned volume, by a 10-year-old girl who told Hitler, 'You are the one who killed the Jews', was only a dream. Her words were simply an accusation of him, and not a question, as the media sources had interpreted it. Out of concern for our children's sensibilities, Zayzafuna magazine emphasized that it opposes the culture of violence, murder and incitement by any party whatsoever, and that it is the right of peoples to live in security and in peace. The important question, if we're raising this issue, which was understood out of context, is, why in the first place a 10-year old girl is having nightmares [containing messages] opposed by our people, which longs for freedom, for life in its state... On a different subject, the magazine expressed surprise at the position of UNESCO in Ramallah concerning continued support for the magazine in the future, as stated in a letter which the international organization published in the press. The magazine called upon UNESCO, as a rational organization, not to give in to blackmail and to a one-sided view, and to retract its decision."
[Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, Dec. 27, 2011]

"The [Palestinian] Journalists' Union condemned the misleading attack led by Israeli media sources (i.e., the exposure by Palestinian Media Watch) concerning the ideas published by the Zayzafuna children's magazine... The Union stated that the magazine's aim is to encourage children to write and to express their views, dreams, and aspirations, and to guide them towards the realm of creativity and literature, without interference and without close supervision."
[Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, Dec. 28, 2011]

The following is an excerpt from the story by Associated Press, including the quote from the PA spokesman, claiming the PA teaches about the Holocaust in its schools:

Headline: "UNESCO cuts funding for Palestinian youth magazine over Hitler praise."
"UNESCO, the UN's cultural agency, is to pull funding for a Palestinian youth magazine that published an article suggesting admiration for Adolf Hitler.
The magazine, Zayzafouna, published an article in February written by a teenage girl who presented four role models: a medieval Persian mathematician, a modern Egyptian novelist, the Muslim warrior Saladin, and the Nazi leader.
UNESCO said in a statement it 'strongly deplores and condemns' the 'unacceptable' material and would cease funding the magazine. UNESCO also said it funded three different issues later in 2011, and not the one in question.
The magazine also receives funding from the Palestinian Authority, the Western-backed Palestinian government in the West Bank.
In the article, the author has Hitler telling her in a dream that he killed Jews "so you would all know that they are a nation which spreads destruction all over the world." He advises her to be 'resilient and patient concerning the suffering that Palestine is experiencing at their hands.'
'Thanks for the advice,' the narrator replies.
A translation was made public by Palestinian Media Watch, an Israeli organization that tracks incitement in Palestinian media.
The magazine's director, Shareef Samhan, did not dispute the translation, though he said the girl was 'accusing' Hitler and not praising him. He said he had not been aware of the text and noted that Unesco was not a central backer of the magazine. He defended the publication. 'We depend in the content of our magazine on the participation of school students, and it's not our job to prohibit the freedom of speech,' he said. A UNESCO statement said: 'UNESCO strongly deplores and condemns the reproduction of such inflammatory statements in a magazine associated with UNESCO's name and mission and will not provide any further support to the publication in question.' The statement also said UNESCO 'is deeply committed to the development and promotion of education about the Holocaust.'
A spokesman for the Palestinian Authority, Ghassan Khatib, said the article was 'not acceptable.' 'We educate young people in our textbooks about the Holocaust and the massacres of Hitler against Jews and against others, and we refer to these massacres as crimes against humanity,' Mr Khatib said. 'This instance is exceptional, and the editor will try to be more careful in the future.'"
[Associated Press, Dec. 23, 2011]

The following are articles and statements by Palestinians opposing the proposed teaching of the Holocaust in Palestinian UNRWA-run schools:

Official PA daily published statements on the proposed teaching of the Holocaust in Palestinian UNRWA-run schools, citing sources calling it "disgraceful":
"In an interview with Al-Quds, [Deputy Head of the PLO Department for Refugees, Muhammad] Abu Bakr responded to reports that UNRWA has introduced studies on the Holocaust, or what is known by that name, in its schools. He noted that there is no exact information as to the truth of these reports, but if this happens, it would be a deviation by UNRWA from its commitments and the understandings between itself and the host countries, and this would be a precedent which cannot be ignored...He added: 'We support any measure which will lead to enrichment of the study curriculum with information and innovations in the spheres of science, culture, human rights and history, on the basis of conformity with the prevailing reality in the learning environment of the circles within which the Palestinian refugees study - which is obviously their natural environment. It is unthinkable that we would lead our refugee children in opposing directions, whether by means of study curricula or by other means...'. Nabila Al-Saleh, a member of the Committee for Defense of the Right of Return of Palestinian Refugees in Jordan, said that teaching the Holocaust in UNRWA schools is disgraceful, and opposed to UNRWA's educational goals. She noted that teaching the Holocaust serves the Zionist narrative at the expense of the refugee issue and the issue of the Palestinian people."
[Al-Quds, March 1, 2011]

Columnist in official PA daily: The Holocaust "for more than 60 years has aroused... controversy and fabrication":
"In recent days, several reports have been leaked indicating that UNRWA is planning to introduce material on the Jewish Holocaust into the mandatory curriculum for its schools in Palestine and in all the countries hosting Palestinian refugees under UNRWA supervision...I sincerely hope that this plan will not succeed, for several reasons:
First, UNRWA at present, by virtue of its function and its authority, always says that it is absolutely prohibited from dealing with political issues, and that it zealously protects its neutrality and professionalism...Second, everyone knows that the story of the Jewish Holocaust is a story about which there is great controversy, and in the heart of Europe - even in the heart of the Jewish communities themselves- there are people who do not accept the Israeli narrative concerning the Holocaust. Why should UNRWA push itself into a subject which, for more than 60 years, has aroused a great deal of controversy and fabrication, especially since hundreds of millions of people in the world suffered the tragedies of the Second World War...The Palestinian people does not want UNRWA to succumb to any kind of pressure, nor for it to be the tool for carrying out a mistaken policy, such as this plan."
[Columnist Yahya Rabah, Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, March 4, 2011]

PLO official opposed Holocaust education in Palestinian UNRWA-run schools:
"Head of the [PLO] Department for Refugee Issues, Zakaria al-Agha... emphasized his objection to teaching the subject of the Holocaust in UNRWA's schools."
[Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, March 21, 2011]

UNRWA workers expressed "adamant opposition to teaching the Holocaust":
"The [UNRWA] Workers' Union emphasized its adamant opposition to teaching the Holocaust of the Jews within the educational curriculum of UNRWA schools, as part of the topic of human rights. The union said, 'We emphasize our adamant opposition to confusing the thinking of our students through Holocaust studies in the human rights study curriculum... [Union Chairman, Suheil] Al-Hindi, explained to [Agence] France-Presse, that UNRWA 'approved teaching the Holocaust...' but [the teaching] has not yet started."
[Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, April 14, 2011]

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