Government pledges to act over teaching material that compares Gaza to the Holocaust

Exclusive: Minister intervenes after JC reveals pro-Iranian campaign group's 'Genocide Memorial Day' programme was sent to schools


The Government has pledged to investigate how a pro-Iranian campaign group was allowed to circulate teaching material which openly compares the actions of the Israeli government to that of the Nazis, timed to coincide with this month’s Holocaust Memorial Day.

The course is devised by the Islamic Human Rights Commission – a charity responsible for the notorious Al Quds Day march in central London in which a member of the charity once chanted that “Zionists” were behind the Grenfell Tower fire tragedy.

It was sent last week to hundreds of head teachers at schools across the UK via the respected TES digital educational service, formerly known as the Times Educational Supplement.

On Thursday it emerged that the IHRC had themselves uploaded a link onto the Tes site, which is an open-resource platform.

The Tes spokesperson said it was the IHRC, not Tes, that had promoted their resources and included the link to the Tes site in their email to schools.

The programme, aimed at primary and secondary school children, features repeated attempts to encourage pupils to view Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians in the same light as the Nazi Holocaust.

After being alerted to the JC’s revelations, Robert Halfon, the Conservative MP for Harlow and chair of the Education Select Committee in the last parliament, called for the “Charity Commission, Ofsted and the Schools Minister” to take “urgent action to find out what exactly is going on and why this material is allegedly being allowed and circulated in these schools.”

Mr Halfon then raised the issue in the House of Commons. Immigration Minister Brandon Lewis responded by saying the JC’s report was “stark and concerning”.

He promised to “follow up directly” on the matter with Mr Halfon to make sure it “gets the proper attention.”

A series of poems by schoolchildren posted on the IHRC website for its annual genocide memorial day verse competition - which offers a trip to the Srebrenica memorial in Bosnia as the top prize - suggests that youngsters are engaging with the charity’s teaching material.

In a list of genocides for children 12 and over to discuss, the Holocaust is described as involving "11-17 million deaths including 6 million Jews" while the "Israeli assault on Gaza" in 2009 is listed as a genocide costing 1,404 lives and 5,000 injuries.

A one-minute long promotional video promoting the charity’s self-instigated ‘genocide memorial day’ begins by listing the name of Anne Frank, before naming victims of massacres in Guatemala, Kurdistan and Hungary.

Featuring the IHRC’s logo throughout, the film then lists what it describes as genocides in Gaza and in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps in Lebanon, alongside the “11 million victims of the Nazi Holocaust”, the 17 million victims of the “trans-Atlantic slave trade” and the 1.2 million victims of the Irish potato famine.

The JC has learned that one headteacher at a north west London private school sought advice on what to teach her children in the run-up to Monday’s official HMD events after admitting she was “confused” after receiving both material from the IHRC and from official Holocaust organisations.

Karen Pollock, chief executive of the Holocaust Educational Trust, accused the IHRC of "deliberately conflating, downgrading and revising the Holocaust."

Board of Deputies Vice President Edwin Shuker said: “The fact that these malicious and offensive materials were distributed to schools is rightly concerning.

"So-called ‘Genocide Memorial Day’ is inherently offensive - it is a brazen attempt to undermine Holocaust Memorial Day and minimise Jewish suffering in the Holocaust.

“Both the cynical timing of the event on the third Sunday in January, and the antisemitic comparisons between Nazi crimes and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, demonstrate the ulterior motives of ‘Genocide Memorial Day’.”

The IHRC’s teaching resource pack incudes recommendations for children aged just nine to read a book detailing an account of a Palestinian family who claim to have been forced from their ancestral home in Jerusalem, alongside Judith Kerr's acclaimed When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit story.

Children aged 13 are encouraged to read the IHRC's own account of the aftermath of Israel's war in Gaza in 2009 - which includes photographs of Hamas flags continuing to fly.

The report, titled 'Aftermath; Gaza in the days after the 22 Day War' adds: "We were introduced to a field commander, Dr al-Batta, of the al-Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of Hamas, who advised us not to believe the propaganda of the Western media."

A spokesperson for TES confirmed on Wednesday that they had launched an “immediate investigation” into how the IHRC’s teaching material was shared on their network and added they were taking the matter “very seriously.”

The IHRC claim to have launched their initiative in 2010 as a means of “Remembering Man’s Inhumanity To Man”. But the group’s website also suggests that the event, which takes places in the third week of January, was set up to mark the first anniversary of Israel’s Operation Cast Lead in Gaza.

The JC has discovered that the IHRC's GMD Resources For Assemblies and Lessons pack was emailed to schools across the UK as recently as January 15.

By repeatedly attempting to compare Israeli actions with Nazi Germany the teaching resource pack would appear to contravene the internationally recognised IHRA definition of antisemitism which includes “drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis” amongst its list of examples of contemporary anti-Jewish racism.

Karen Pollock, chief executive of the Holocaust Educational Trust accused the IHRC of using HMD "as an opportunity to create a new genocide memorial day using false equivocations of the Holocaust and deliberately conflating, downgrading and revising the Holocaust."

She added: “There are already days set aside to remember specific genocides as well as an international genocide memorial day established by the United Nations which falls annually on December 9."

Ellie Olmer, a Jewish teacher at a school in Borehamwood told the JC that she had been contacted by a headteacher from another private school in Mill Hill who admitted being "confused" at receiving information for both HMD and GMD commemorations.

When discovering that the IHRC's GMD programme had been sent to schools across the UK, Ms Olmer emailed the self-described "human rights charity" herself to protest.

In correspondence seen by the JC, Ms Olmer wrote that GMD was "deeply offensive to the Jewish people".

She added: "I would also add you further inflame the situation by making it ‘the third week in January’, diminishing the place and significance of The Holocaust Memorial Day, which takes place on 27th January (marking the liberation of Auschwitz Birkenau)."

Responding to Ms Olmer an email from “the GMD Team” said: “We must disagree with your interpretation. We are sure if you look at the videos of the GMD events, you too will find that your interpretation is in fact incorrect.

“Whilst you are free to disagree with us, please note that it is deeply offensive to all of us, but in particular, the many Jewish participants and supporters of Genocide Memorial Day to suggest that there is any form of Holocaust denial particularly to those who have survived the Holocaust or are children of survivors.

"Indeed it is defamatory to suggest this event has any element of Holocaust denial or is antisemitic."

The JC attempted to contact the IHRC for comment ahead of publication of this article but they failed to respond to our allegations.

Last October The Times revealed how the IHRC had received more than £1 million in charity cash despite being run by self-declared Islamist revolutionaries closely aligned to Iran who say that the West is “the enemy” and Britain a “Stasi state”.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn once praised the charity as representing “all that’s best in Islam”, despite claims by IHRC leaders  that anti-terrorism laws  were a “war on Muslims” and condemnation of English as a “colonial language that will always subjugate you”.

The London-based group, given £1.2 million since 2013 by a charity that received £250,000 from the taxpayer via Gift Aid, claims to fight for the oppressed “whosoever they are and whomsoever oppresses them”.

In 2017, police launched an investigation into IHRC director Nazim Ali after the JC recorded him leading chanting on the Al Quds Day march in which he blamed Grenfell Tower on “Zionists”.

The CPS decided the remarks did not constitute a hate crime.

Flags of the banned Iranian-backed terror group Hezbollah were also regularly flown at the Al Quds demos until the government introduced legislation proscribing the organisation in full.

Mr Shuker said: “Given the history of the Islamic Human Rights Commission, which organises the annual hate fest called Al Quds Day, their atrocious behaviour is unsurprising, but we would hope that other organisations would be conscious of the pernicious nature of this organisation.

“When we discovered this, the Board of Deputies complained to the Times Educational Supplement website which had carried the resource.

"We are grateful that they have now removed them. We sincerely hope that no schools will use the malicious IHRC resources.

“Ahead of Holocaust Memorial Day this year, we would instead direct them to the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust to provide educational materials.”

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