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Naqba Is As Naqba Does

2:28 PM, Aug 31, 2009 • By RACHEL ABRAMS
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Israel's education minister, Gideon Sa'ar, yesterday announced that when third-graders file into their classrooms for the first day of school tomorrow and open their Arabic-language textbooks, they will no longer find "al-naqba" in their pages. The phrase, which roughly translates as "devastation on a par with the Holocaust," and is invoked by Arabs throughout the Middle East to describe the establishment in 1948 of the "Zionist entity," was inexplicably approved for use in the textbooks a couple of years ago (another Israeli government, another education minister) but has now been un-approved. "The creation of the State of Israel cannot be taught about as a catastrophe inside the country's schools," said a ministry spokeswoman.

Israeli Arabs are "dismayed and outraged." Atef Moaddi, head of the Follow-up Committee on Arab Education in Israel, told the Jerusalem Post: "For Israeli Arabs, who consider themselves a part of the Palestinian people, the Nakba is not up for debate, it is a historical fact." Added Sawsan Zaher, of the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel,

Prohibiting Arab students from studying about the Nakba is illegal and violates international law, which obliges states to enable national minorities to learn and study about their own history, culture and tradition.

Of course, no one -- not even the "naqba"-averse Netanyahu government -- is advocating excising the story of what happened at the founding of the State of Israel, which was disastrous indeed for the Arabs expelled from their homes and forced into exile in the aftermath of a war launched by their leaders against the Jews. On the contrary, "What Israeli Arabs experienced during the [1948 War of Independence] was certainly a tragedy," Sa'ar said. "But the word ‘Nakba,' whose meaning is similar to ‘Holocaust' in this context, will no longer be used."

Even so, perhaps Israeli Arabs would be happier leaving their students to the tender mercies of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), as the Palestinian Authority has done in the Arab territories of Judea and Samaria and Hamas has done in Gaza. UNRWA's history books -- in accord with the 1982 doctoral thesis of PA president Mahmoud Abbas, which asserted that the Holocaust was a Zionist-Nazi plot that eliminated only a few hundred thousand Jews, and the beliefs of a whopping 40.5 percent of Israeli Arabs, who deny the Holocaust ever happened at all -- include no mention whatsoever of the extermination of European Jewry.

True, Hamas has long been in angry contention with UNRWA, most recently charging it with trying to corrupt Arab children by offering folk dancing at summer camps and now accusing it of plotting to insert the "so-called Holocaust" into the curriculum. According to the AP,

Three teachers at U.N. schools said that . . . basic information about the Holocaust was expected to be taught to eighth grade students as part of human rights classes. . . . They requested anonymity because they are not allowed to speak to reporters.

"I do not exaggerate when I say this issue is a war crime, because of how it serves the Zionist colonizers and deals with their hypocrisy and lies," declaimed Hamas "spiritual leader" Younis al-Astal, and spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri concurred: "We think it's more important to teach Palestinians the crimes of the Israeli occupation."

But methinks they needn't worry overmuch: "Such reports are totally untrue," said Adnan Abu Hasna, UNRWA's Gaza spokesman. "The current curricula taught to pupils at UNRWA schools do not contain anything on the subject of the Holocaust."

Update: A friend writes: "Now I see the Arabs are threatening 'civil disobedience' if the Nakba is removed. Hmmm. Might they refuse to take that portion of their salaries that comes via Israel, in the taxes it collects for the PA? Might they refuse the right they now have to not serve in the IDF, and demand to serve?"