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30 May, 2018 17:16

‘Ministry of Truth?’ Israel & Myanmar to ‘correct’ each other’s history textbooks

‘Ministry of Truth?’ Israel & Myanmar to ‘correct’ each other’s history textbooks

Israel and Myanmar have entered an Orwellian-like pact to teach the children of Myanmar about the Holocaust, anti-Semitism and xenophobia. The extraordinary deal also allows each state to correct details in the other’s textbooks.

The agreement, signed on Monday, outlines how the unexpected partners in education will work together to “develop programs for the teaching of the Holocaust and its lessons of the negative consequences of intolerance, racism, Anti-Semitism and xenophobia as a part of the school curriculum in the Republic of the Union of Myanmar.”

But the deal doesn’t stop there – Israel and Myanmar’s authorities will also embark on a bizarre exercise to “mutually verify school textbooks,” especially parts concerning the history of the other state and – “where needed” – make corrections.

The Ministry of Truth-like plan could be straight from the pages of 1984, and comes as Israel faces international condemnation for its recent gunning down of more than 100 protesters inside the “open air prison” of Gaza, and as Myanmar denies allegations of  ethnic cleansing against the Rohingya. It also appears to be the latest effort by Israel to equate criticism of the state with anti-Semitism.

The curious school project also promotes the development of an Israeli and Jewish studies program in Myanmar, and a Myanmar studies program in Israel. Both states will work on joint education initiatives, and encourage cooperation between academic institutions, ranging from pre-school kids to postgraduate level.

Perhaps the education project can’t come soon enough: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu could benefit from a lesson in tolerance and xenophobia, given his referral of African migrants as “infiltrators,” while calling Palestinians “terrorists.” His government passed the first stage of the ‘Jewish nation-state’ bill this month, which recognizes Israel as the “nation state of the Jewish people” and will change the constitution to relegate Arabic from an official language to one with “special status.” It has already adopted scores of laws accused of discriminating against non-Jews.

Myanmar and Israel are no strangers to showing one another support. The former was among the minority of states who welcomed the opening of the US embassy in Jerusalem in May, while the latter continued to sell weapons to Myanmar despite the UN accusing it of “ethnic cleansing” against the Rohingya Muslim community.

The US Holocaust Memorial Museum revoked a prize given previously to Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi over her failure to condemn the killing of the Rohingya.

In December Israeli diplomat Amir Sage defended his country’s arms sales to Myanmar by claiming “the two sides in the [Myanmar] conflict are conducting war crimes." His remark echoes Israeli politicians and defense forces’ repeated comments that Gaza protesters are in fact Hamas terrorists and so the state is justified in using deadly force against them.

News of the textbook editing deal was treated with skepticism online, with social media users remarking that it’s convenient way of changing history.

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