Challenged last weekend on Al Quds TV over whether he was planning to include the Holocaust in the human rights curriculum for teenagers, John Ging referred with characteristic bluntness to Richard Goldstone, the eminent Jewish South African whose report savaging the military's conduct of its winter war in Gaza has enraged much of Israel. "Are you going to look Goldstone in the eye and say there was no Holocaust?" he asked.
For Mr Ging, like Judge Goldstone, sees no contradiction between learning the lessons of the Holocaust – out of the ashes of which most modern international law governing war emerged – and severely criticising Israel's conduct of Operation Cast Lead (and Hamas's firing of rockets at Israeli civilians).
But this is Gaza, and no issue is without political ramifications. Indeed Mr Ging's plan – apart from infuriating Holocaust-denying extremists – has become the latest point of friction between elements in Hamas and UNRWA. Mr Ging is undeterred, believing that teaching the Holocaust is a part of instilling the rule of law over that of the gun, with all the complexities that means in a territory which has just been through a war which left 1,300 Palestinians dead.
Notoriously, neither side in this conflict learns much about the other's history. And even some civil society figures nervous about the timing of Mr Ging's plan point out that Israel has recently announced moves against mainly Arab schools in the country seeking to teach the Nakba. But Mr Ging, whose courage has never been in doubt, is determined to show that Gaza's basic civilian values are the universal human ones and to make human rights teaching in the besieged Strip "a role model for the rest of the world".Reuse content