Hannah Rosenthal, the US State Department’s Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat anti-Semitism, has just completed a visit to Lebanon, Jordan and Saudi Arabia in a bid to reduce the antisemitic content of their education syllabuses. As she told JTA, the State Department has found the textbooks produced in these countries to be replete with extremely offensive material regarding Jews, as well as Christians and women. The antisemitic subject matter included references to Jews as the “spawn of monkeys and pigs”, as well as material from The Protocols of The Elders of Zion – the Russian fantasy work from the 19th century that places Jews at the centre of a global conspiracy to harm the world and is widely regarded as the Nazis’ “warrant for Genocide”.
There were even more hurdles to the teaching of tolerance in these areas. Local populations were actively preventing the children from being educated about the Holocaust.
More disappointing, Rosenthal said, were her encounters in Jordan, particularly with a high-level Education Ministry official who resisted any suggestion that Holocaust studies be introduced into the curriculum…
Rosenthal also confronted officials of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, the body that cares for millions of Palestinian refugees and their descendants, about their failure to teach U.N.-created Holocaust materials. A high-ranking official with UNRWA told JTA that the agency is bound by agreements with host countries to use local textbooks. Additionally, in some areas – notably the Gaza Strip – UNRWA officials have faced threats from Islamist groups for reports of plans to introduce Holocaust and tolerance teaching into the curriculum. [Emphasis added]
Rosenthal’s initiative is extremely important; promoting mutual understanding and dialogue is the only way to end the hatred that has led to decades of conflict and it is hard to see how this will be possible while children are going to schools with texbooks calling Jews monkey spawn.