The embassy of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to the United States on Sunday announced that Holocaust history will be added to the UAE school curriculum — making it the first Arab country to offer such an education.
Israel’s Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial, which will be involved with designing the curriculum at the invitation of the UAE Ministry of Culture, applauded the announcement as a “welcome step,” while Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen called it a “historic decision.”
Ynet News noted on Sunday that the UAE opened the Arab world’s first Holocaust museum in 2021 to “address widespread Nazi genocide denial in the Arab world,” and seven Holocaust survivors have been invited to speak to Emirati students.
The UAE embassy in Washington credited these developments to the Abraham Accords, the landmark agreement negotiated by the Trump administration and signed by Bahrain, Morocco, and the UAE in September 2020. Bilateral trade between the UAE and Israel increased tremendously after the Abraham Accords, building strong economic ties on top of normalized diplomatic relations.
UAE to teach about Holocaust in schoolshttps://t.co/Erwc6jn4wF
(Photo: AP) pic.twitter.com/yviKOVgEjk
— Ynetnews (@ynetnews) January 8, 2023
Alex Peterfreund, a Jewish community leader in the UAE who lost relatives to the Holocaust, told the National on Monday that the Abraham Accords were the “turning point” that led first to the Emirati Holocaust museum, and now to the historic educational program. He said the opening of the Holocaust museum in 2021 moved him to tears.
In the wake of the historic #AbrahamAccords, will now include the Holocaust in the curriculum for primary and secondary schools.
“Memorializing the victims of the Holocaust is crucial,” said Ali Al Nuaimi, one of the Emirati brokers of the Accords. https://t.co/itP6WlX8j5
— UAE Embassy US (@UAEEmbassyUS) January 5, 2023
“I feel like this region is understanding the importance of telling this story, not because we want people to feel bad for us but because tolerance is also part of the DNA of the UAE. People from all cultures, religions and backgrounds are living here together. Now people can learn about the Holocaust I will no longer have to tell my story to teenagers or those who are a little bit older who think I am talking fiction,” said Peterfreund.
The Holocaust education announcement was made on the same day as a meeting of the Negev Forum Working Groups, another outgrowth of the Abraham Accords, convened in Abu Dhabi, the Associated Press (AP) noted.
The Negev Forum, including the UAE, Bahrain, Egypt, Morocco, Israel, and the United States, addresses issues such as “food security, water technology, clean energy, tourism, healthcare, education, coexistence, and regional security.” The forum also discusses issues related to the Palestinians.
UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al Nahyan visited the Yad Vashem World Holocaust Remembrance Center in Jerusalem in September with three other Emirati ministers. Yad Vashem Chairman Dani Dayan called it a “momentous occasion.”
“Visiting Yad Vashem sends the message that regardless of background, religion or race, we all have the duty to learn about the Holocaust and combat antisemitism in all its forms, wherever it rears its ugly head around the world, immediately and vigorously,” Dayan said.
“My presence here today reminds us of the lessons that history teaches us and the great responsibility we have to practice tolerance for the sake of building our communities and societies. We must take brave steps to build a bridge of real peace for future generations,” bin Zayed wrote in the Yad Vashem guest book.
The Times of Israel (TOI) reported in November that work on a Holocaust curriculum for Emirati primary and secondary schools was underway after bin Zayed’s visit to Yad Vashem, completing a remarkable evolution for a country that once “blacked out Israel from world maps and globes.”
“Memorializing the victims of the Holocaust is crucial. In the Arab world, the older generation operated in an environment where speaking about the Holocaust was tantamount to betraying Arabs and Palestinians,” said leading Emirati educator Ali al-Nuaimi, who helped to broker the Abraham Accords, as quoted by TOI in November.