Report: Majority of virulent antisemitic material removed from Saudi schoolbooks

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Report: Majority of virulent antisemitic material removed from Saudi schoolbooks

On the eve of a visit to Saudi Arabia by Deborah Lipstadt, America’s special envoy for combating antisemitism, a new report on the country’s schools records a marked improvement.

Jenni Frazer is a freelance journalist

Deborah Lipstadt
Deborah Lipstadt

On the eve of a visit to Saudi Arabia by Deborah Lipstadt, America’s new special envoy for monitoring and combating antisemitism, a new report on the country’s school textbooks has recorded a marked improvement.

Since 2020, according to the Israel-based research group IMPACT-se, “the great majority of virulent antisemitic material” has been removed from Saudi educational material, together with “violent Jihadi, anti-Christian and homophobic content”.

There is further work to be done, the IMPACT-se report concludes. “A few examples of antisemitism remain. Jews and Christians in pre-Islamic times are presented as wrongdoers. Israel remains omitted from maps; and Zionism still described as racist”.

Nevertheless, there is “a continuing overall trend of improvement” in the presentation of what Saudi children learn about present-day Jews. References to Jews being “disobedient” have been removed from textbooks, as have Qur’anic verses describing Jews being turned into monkeys, and the antisemitic myth that one of the goals of Zionism is a “global Jewish government”.

Lessons instructing students to write down attempts by “the Jews” to destroy or Judaise the Al-Aqsa Mosque and Jerusalem, as well as that Jewish connections to the Temple Mount were fabricated by rabbis, were removed as well.

The IMPACT-se report was shared with the Saudi Ministry of Education.

Professor Lipstadt has said that she sees her visit as “an opportunity to reach out to a nation that has a large influence on Muslim education worldwide”, due to Saudi Arabia’s holy status in Islam, and widespread distribution of its textbooks to the greater Muslim community.

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