In what Tel Aviv University is calling an “unprecedented” development, the latest issue of one of its academic journals includes an article in Hebrew by a senior Saudi academic.

The paper, titled “Contribution to Prophet Muhammad’s Image Improvement in the Eyes of the Israeli Public: Muhammad’s Alliances and Mail Exchanges with Jews from the Arabian Peninsula,” was written by Professor Mohammed Ibrahim Alghbban and appears in the latest issue of Kesher.

In the paper, Alghbban, head of Near Eastern Languages and Civilization and Hebrew Studies at King Saud University in Riyadh, seeks to improve the image of the Prophet Muhammad in the eyes of the Israeli public.

“Erroneous assumptions about the origins of Islam, proposed by Oriental Studies researchers in the previous century—some of which were written in Hebrew—led to a distorted understanding of manuscripts, wrong methodology, and negative influences on Hebrew speaking Middle Eastern Studies researchers,” he writes in the introduction to the paper.

“Accusing Islam and the Prophet Muhammad of hate speech and racism against Jewish tribes in Hejaz is erroneous. Muhammad treated equally all social groups in Al Madinah and in other places under his control, regardless of race and religion. The misrepresentations in the research are due to the fact that his letters were never translated into Hebrew,” he continues, adding that to right this wrong he has provided translations in his article.

However, according to Professor Raanan Rein, head of TAU’s Shalom Rosenfeld Institute for Research of Jewish Media and Communication, which publishes Kesher, the article’s primary importance isn’t its content, but rather the fact that a senior Saudi researcher choosing to publish an article in an Israeli academic journal as a means to bring the two nations closer.

“I hope that this academic cooperation is another step towards economic and political cooperation,” said Rein.

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