Nearly all antisemitism removed from Saudi textbooks

But Israel still does not appear on their maps.

Map of Saudi Arabia. Credit: Marcio Jose Bastos Silva/Shutterstock.
Map of Saudi Arabia. Credit: Marcio Jose Bastos Silva/Shutterstock.

A review of Saudi schoolbooks shows that practically all antisemitism has been removed, even if Israel does not appear on the maps.

The findings by the London office of the Institute for Monitoring Peace and Cultural Tolerance in School Education (IMPACT-se) released on Tuesday are based on a review of more than 300 textbooks, including 80 for the current 2022-23 school year.

The report builds on a positive trend of changes since 2020, the year the Abraham Accords saw four Arab countries make peace with Israel. Previously, there were dozens of examples of Jew-hatred in Saudi textbooks, with entire chapters containing negative material about Israel now removed, IMPACT-se said.

An area of significant change concerns criticism of Jews in the early Islamic period, with almost all previously identified problematic examples in Islamic Studies textbooks removed from 2022-23 editions, the report found. Examples of material no longer appearing include God turning infidels into apes and pigs because they worshipped the devil, and implying that Jews are the enemies of Islam.

Changes since last year include the removal of a lesson referring to Israel as a “falsified democracy,” and a blood libel falsely accusing Israel of setting fire to the Al-Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount in 1969, the report states.

Previously, lessons asserting the “Judaization” of the Al-Aqsa mosque—a mendacious claim still oft repeated by Palestinians—and teaching that the historical existence of a Jewish Temple in Jerusalem is a politically motivated fabrication—a canard promoted by the late PLO leader Yasser Arafat—were also removed.

At the same time, the textbooks censure the harmful ideologies of the Hezbollah and Houthi terrorist groups. The Muslim Brotherhood is a particular target of criticism.

Peace and tolerance are promoted, while almost all examples of violent jihad have been removed, continuing a trend from last year, the institute reports.

However, there remains a failure in the textbooks to acknowledge Israel’s existence, with the Jewish state omitted from the maps. And Israel is still referred to as the “Zionist entity.”

“Practically all the previously identified antisemitic material in Saudi Islamic Studies textbooks has now been removed, said IMPACT-se CEO, Marcus Sheff.

“While all textbook reform is important, Saudi Arabian textbooks are particularly consequential. Kudos is due to the Saudi government for this multi-year and systematic removal of Jew-hate and moderation of content on Israel in the textbooks of over six million Saudi children, and of many more who study the textbooks outside of Saudi Arabia.”

The continuing improvement in the Saudis’ depiction of Israel and the Jews in their textbooks comes as talks to normalize bilateral ties intensify, with Israeli and American diplomats hoping to reach an agreement by the end of the year.

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