JERUSALEM, Sept. 1 — The prospect of United Nations-run schools in the Gaza Strip teaching children about the Holocaust has sparked fierce resistance this week from leaders of the Palestinian Hamas movement and forced international officials to confront a situation fraught with political risk.
U.N. officials, who say they are only discussing changes to a school program on human rights, have not commented directly on whether any new curriculum will reference the Holocaust. But Hamas leaders, saying any such reference would “contradict” their culture, are moving quickly to head off the possibility.
“Talk about the holocaust and the execution of the Jews contradicts and is against our culture, our principles, our traditions, values, heritage and religion,” Jamila al-Shanti, a Hamas legislative official, said in a statement distributed Tuesday after a meeting among elected leaders of the radical Islamist group and the head of the Hamas-run Education Ministry in Gaza.
Hamas Education Minister Muhammad Askol used similar language in criticizing the U.N. Relief and Works Agency, or UNRWA, saying it was not respecting Hamas’s “sovereignty” over Gaza. He said he planned to ask for a meeting with agency officials to “assure the necessary coordination.”
His remarks came a day after Hamas spiritual leader Yunis al-Astal said teaching children about the murder of 6 million Jews during World War II would be …