Nazi Propaganda: The Syrian Education System
by Gad Nahshon
Recently, the Syrian government has launched a new anti-Israeli and anti-Jewish propaganda campaign of denying the Holocaust. The country, which gave refuge to Nazi criminals, is arguing that the Zionist idea is a Nazi idea. Many observers of the Middle East affairs were surprised to hear from Syria that the Zionist 'invested' the Holocaust in order to blackmail the gentiles. But the experts such as Dr. Meyrav Wurmser are not surprised. Dr. Wurmser even demonstrated in her new research: "The Schools of Baathism - a study of Syrian schoolbooks (MEMRI - Washginton DC, 2000) that the Syrian denial of the Holocaust stems from the anti-Israeli, anti-Jewish propaganda to be found inside the official Syrian public education system. Her book was published with the help of MEMRI, is an important contribution to our understanding of the Syrian society and politics. The book has an appendix of selections from Syrian text books (fourth to eleventh grades). Her research is well documented and based on primary resources.
Dr. Wurmser, a noted scholar who serves as the executive director of MEMRI (The Middle-East Media Research Institute, Washington DC), also explains the ramifications of this propaganda inside the Syrian classrooms on the future peace between Syria and Israel. She also explains that Syria is not only Assad's state, a terrible state, a police state, and a bloody dictatorship but also a Baath state: a state with a Marxist-Muslim mixture like ideology. One cannot ignore the historical long 'love affair' between Soviet Russia, U.S.S.R. and Syria.
Dr. Wurmser writes in her illuminating research: "Syria's educational system performs the state initial engagement and indoctrination of youth into Baathist ideology. From the ideology emerges the intensity of the hatred of Israel, the West, and the Jews. At the same time, it exposes the fragility of the Baathist system because its ideology has trapped Syria into a war it cannot afford and a peace its regime cannot survive." The following points explain the outcomes of Dr. Wurmser's research:
A. Delegitimizing of Zionisms. For example, by depicting Zionism as a new Nazi ideology. The author quotes Assad (1981) who said: "The Nazis claimed racial superiority and the Zionists claim they are Allah's chosen people, who all other nations must be subjugated to." The 'Zionist imperialism' is being described as a new Hitler's dream of controlling all the lands which, of course, belong only to the Arab nation. This study of 40 schoolbooks not only exposes the depth of the hate to Zionism Jews and Israel but also teaches us that the peace with Syria means also a change in the Syrian regime, at least after the end of 'Assad Era.' This Syrian education of students, age 10 to 17 years, cannot produce a wish for peace or compromise but a state of pathological hate against Israel.
B. Zionism endangers the Arab world: Israel is a lethal cancer inside the Arab world. Israel's existence means the end of Arab unity or Pan-Arabism. Assad thinks that he is the most important Arab leader: Syria holds the idea of one great Arab nation, a Baathist dream. Israel separates the "...East of the Arab homeland from its west...preventing the establishment of Arab unity..." stated the schoolbook: "National Socialist (Pan Arab) Education for the eighth grade, 1998-1999" (From Arabic). There are more books for each grade: "National Socialist...for the tenth grade" and so on. In these books, Israel is being blamed for the backwardness of the Arab world! Why? Because Arab countries must allocate their budgets to the wars with Israel and not for economic developments! This element is a unique one and its existence in the Syrian education is less known to the experts. It is the irony of history: Arab countries from 1948 attacked Israel and now the Syrians blame Israel as the one responsible for their poverty and low standards of living. Indeed, Syria is a poor country and even its army is poor. The Syrian people do suffer but they should blame their dictator and the Baath socialist ideology and dreams.
C. The Palestinian issue: The Palestinians are the victims of the Zionist cruel aggression. Their struggle is the struggle of all the Arabs. In these books, the Palestinians are being depicted as the true Arab martyrs, the pioneers of the struggle against the Zionist enemy but more important to point out is that only Syria, only Assad, can help them to win the war against Israel. Assad is the patron of the Palestinians and not, for example, president Moubarak. This is the most important element of the Syrian education. Syria is guiding the Palestinian struggle. And this struggle is part of the whole Arab-Muslim struggle in destroying Israel. Of course, the P.L.O. thinks differently but the students learn what Assad and the Baath want them to learn. This is a propaganda campaign inside the Syrian schools. And this is also an anti-semitic education in which Israel is the new Satan, the state that must be destroyed in order to fulfill the old Arab dream of Pan-Arabism.
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