Two years after the signing of the Abraham Accords, the Emirati embassy in Washington, DC announced on Jan. 5 that the UAE will begin teaching Holocaust history in primary and secondary schools.
The decision marks the latest step in the normalization of relations between Israel and the UAE.
What we know
The UAE embassy in the United States announced last Thursday via Twitter that the country will include the Holocaust in its school curriculum. Previously overlooked in the school curriculum, the genocide of European Jews during World War II will now be taught in Emirati primary and secondary schools.
The curriculum will be developed in partnership with Yad Vashem, the Jerusalem-based International Holocaust Remembrance Institute, established in 1953.
The announcement has not yet been confirmed by the UAE Ministry of Education.
The UAE —as well as Bahrain — signed the Abraham Accords with Israel in September 2020 under the auspices of the United States, spearheading Arab normalization with the Jewish state. Morocco and Sudan also signed the accords in the following months.
This strategic partnership recognizes Israel’s existence by establishing diplomatic relations between the two countries and promoting tourism and trade. A free trade agreement was signed in May with the goal of achieving $10 billion in trade in five years.
Although it seems to be moving more slowly, security cooperation is nevertheless an important aspect of bilateral relations. The Abraham Accords were signed with the idea of forming an anti-Iranian front in the region.
Bringing together for the first time the foreign ministers of the UAE, Bahrain, Morocco, Egypt, the United States and Israel, the Negev Summit held in March 2022 set up six working groups, including one on education and tolerance. Abu Dhabi is hosting these groups this week to prepare for the next summit, which is expected to be held in Morocco in the spring.
In 2021, a memorial exhibition dedicated to the Holocaust was held at the Crossroads of Civilizations Museum in Dubai. Since then, at least seven Holocaust survivors visited the UAE to tell their stories.
“In the Arab world, the older generation grew up in an environment where talking about the Holocaust was a betrayal of Arabs and Palestinians,” said Ali Rashid al-Nuaimi, president of Hedayah, an Abu Dhabi-based Center of Excellence for Countering Violent Extremism, during a conference at the Washington Institute in November. “Yet it is crucial to commemorate the victims of the Holocaust.”
The UAE’s announcement comes after the formation of the most right-wing Israeli government in history, led by Benjamin Netanyahu and composed of far-right and ultra-Orthodox parties.
Tensions between Israelis and Palestinians have been rising for months, and Arab countries that have normalized their relations with the Jewish state now find themselves in a difficult position.
The move signals the UAE continued interest in normalization with Israel despite Abu Dhabi’s stated support for Palestinians to convene the UN Security Council after Israel’s new National Security Minister Itamar, Ben Gvir, entered the Al-Aqsa mosque compound last week.
Deborah E. Lipstadt, the US special envoy for monitoring and combating anti-Semitism, welcomed the UAE’s decision via her Twitter account on Friday. She commended the UAE for its initiative and expressed hope that it would set an example for other countries in the region.
The diplomat visited Jeddah, Jerusalem and Dubai in June, shortly before the regional tour of US President Joe Biden, who had tried to facilitate a rapprochement between the Jewish state and the Wahhabi kingdom, as desired by the Israeli government.
This article was originally published in French in L'Orient-Le Jour. Translation by Joelle El Khoury.