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May 5, 2014 7:30 am

BBC Trending Invents New Israeli ‘Law’ on the Holocaust

avatar by Hadar Sela

Israel's Holocaust Day of Remembrance ceremony in 2009. Photo: wiki commons.

A sensationalist article that appeared in the Features & Analysis section of the BBC News website’s Middle East page under the title “Too young for the Holocaust?” opens with a blatant inaccuracy.

“Who is too young to learn about the horrors of the Holocaust? A new law in Israel means kindergarten children will be taught about the Nazi genocide for the first time, triggering an acerbic response on social media.” [emphasis added]

However, no such law exists.

BBC Watch approached the Israeli Ministry of Education for clarification and was informed:

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This concerns a new pedagogic programme of the Ministry of Education, not a law.

The Ministry added:

The programme organises the exposure of the children to content on the subject of the Holocaust, from the early ages to high school, and in each age group there is adjustment of the content to the developmental, cognitive and emotional abilities of the children to deal with the material.

The BBC's mistaken report.

This BBC article was written by BBC Trending which describes itself as producing: “A hand-picked selection of stories trending on social media around the world.”

Indeed, the article goes on to describe selected sensationalist and obviously uninformed reactions to the new pedagogic plan on Twitter, none of which contribute to reader understanding of the issue, and which it is highly doubtful can be accurately described as having been “trending on social media around the world.”

Readers may recall that this is not the first time that the BBC has weighed in on this topic. In January it produced another article based on an item featured on ‘From Our Own Correspondent,’ which also misrepresented the issue. As we noted here at the time:

In 2010 the Israeli State Comptroller (Mevaker HaMedina) criticized Holocaust commemoration in the education system saying that the Ministry of Education “did not instruct the kindergarten teachers and teachers who dealt with teaching the Holocaust and did not provide them with pedagogic material in order to enable them to cope with the complex questions involved in the teaching of this sensitive subject.”

The Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum took up the challenge of preparing suitable material for use in classes of differing ages during the hours already devoted to teaching the subject in the run-up to Holocaust Remembrance Day. In October 2013 Education Minister Shai Piron announced the new proposal.

Josh Spear’s claim that “[t]he storm […] broke out when education minister Shay Piron announced that Holocaust education was to become compulsory for all Israeli schoolchildren” is not an accurate one. In contrast perhaps to their European counterparts, Israeli children take part in annual commemorations from a very young age and cannot fail to be aware of the siren marking the occasion, the media coverage of the subject and the fact that for many families in Israel, the Holocaust is part of their personal history. Hence, Holocaust education already exists and this latest initiative is designed to help teachers who have been asking for better pedagogic resources on the subject for years.

Sadly, it seems that despite having a Hebrew-speaking researcher contribute to this article and despite having contacted the Ministry of Education itself, BBC Trending was unable to stick to the corporation’s editorial guidelines on accuracy – and instead elected to run with the misrepresentation of a pedagogic program it does not even bother to adequately represent as a “law.”

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