Anti-Semitism in the guise of Holocaust education?

Belgian authorities under fire for school lesson plan comparing Israelis to Nazis.

By
September 18, 2013 20:01
4 minute read.
Caricature drawn by Carlos Latuff for Belgian educational website.

Cartoon from Belgian education website 370. (photo credit: Courtesy)

 
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Jewish groups criticized Belgian educational authorities this week after a government-funded website was discovered hosting lesson plans comparing Israelis to Nazis.

A lesson plan on the klascement.be database included a cartoon comparing contemporary Gazans with Jews incarcerated in concentration camps as well as a roleplaying exercise in which students were asked to imagine the world through the eyes of a Hamas sympathizer, Joods Actueel, a monthly Jewish newspaper, reported.

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Teachers looking for lesson plans on the Holocaust and other atrocities are referred to the site by a link on the homepage of the Special Committee for Remembrance Education (BCH), which is funded in part by the Education Ministry.

The BCH represents both “the school advisory boards of the various educational networks” as well as the Flemish Education Ministry, according to its website.

The Gatestone Institute, a conservative think tank based in New York, translated the lesson.

“You have sympathy for the radical group Hamas. You live in Gaza and go to work every day in Israel. It takes you four hours to go to work as you need to pass the border control between Gaza and Israel. You are already on your way at 4 a.m. You have two children in primary school. As a consequence, the death of a Palestinian girl shot by Israeli soldiers in the school playground has shocked you deeply. Israel denies having shot the child, but according to representatives of the United Nations in Gaza everything indicates that she was killed by the Israelis. Hamas has fired six rockets toward Israel. Israel has to stop with its attacks.”

The Simon Wiesenthal Center condemned the lessons, calling them “a classic example of Holocaust inversion, in which the descendants of the victims of the Shoah are portrayed as the new Nazis.”

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“This is a total perversion of the of the lessons of the Shoah and a phenomenon which is cause for grave concern.

It also underscores the potential dangers of the misuse and exploitation of the recent expansion of Holocaust education in many countries in the world, and especially in Europe,” the center’s Efraim Zuroff told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday.

While “the extreme anti- Israel and anti-Semitic material was not part of the official curriculum on Holocaust education,” it was “in the database available to teachers,” Michael Salberg, the Anti-Defamation League director of international affairs, said.

While the lessons have been taken offline subsequent to the Joods Actueel story, Salberg said it was still “shocking that material so offensive and dangerous found its way into any classroom anywhere.”

The system for providing teaching materials, “while based on good intentions, has produced consequences that call for reviewing and improving the process.”

A spokesman for the Brussels- based European Jewish Association told the Post the group planned on “filing a suit for slander against the group that is circulating the inflammatory materials.”

Rabbi Menachem Margolin, director of the EJA, called for “an immediate cessation of funding” to klascement.be and said the Jewish community was “battling an anti-Israel sentiment that has degenerated into a new form of anti-Semitism in all arenas – legal, political and the media.”

Anti-racism volunteers registered 80 anti-Semitic incidents throughout Belgium in 2012, according to a report released by the Antisemitsm.Be watchdog group. This represents a 23 percent increase over 2011.

In response to an inquiry on the lesson issue from the Post, a representative of the education minister said that an “answer is coming soon.”

In a statement on its website on Thursday, the BCH denied any connection to the materials.

“To reach a wide range of teachers we started last year a collaboration with KlasCement, an organization that holds a database with educational materials. This organization is also part of the Flemish government. The database of Remembrance Education is in therefore only a part of the bigger website.

BCH emphasizes that the two cases, discussed in the article, were not published in the database of Remembrance Education.”

“We will not support any Israel-hatred or Jews-hatred lesson practices,” BCH asserted.

“We are not accepting the accusations made in this article and we already have asked a right to reply,” the BCH’s Klaartje De Boeck said.

Guido Joris, the reporter who initially wrote about the lesson plans, disagrees.

“BHC is a government institute and KlasCement is also a government institute,” Joris told the Post. “Both are under the authority of the Flemish minister of education.”

“An official from the Education Ministry has to give approval for everything on KlasCement,” he said.

While he believes that BCH was unaware of the alleged anti-Semitic content, he believes it had a responsibility to know what was on the website to which it was referring teachers.

“You cant say ‘I’m not responsible,’” Joris said.

JTA contributed to this report.

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