Saudi Arabia removes ‘practically all antisemitism’ from textbooks, report reveals

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Saudi Arabia removes ‘practically all antisemitism’ from textbooks, report reveals

Anti-Israel material were also removed from textbooks, such as false accusations that Israel set fire to the Al-Aqsa Mosque in 1969 and calling Israel a 'falsified democracy.'

A child writing in an exercise book in a classroom, Saudi Arabia.
A child writing in an exercise book in a classroom, Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia has removed “practically all antisemitism” and material that presents conspiracies demonising Israel from its textbooks, according to a new report by a research and policy institute that analyses curricula around the world through UNESCO-defined standards. 

The Institute for Monitoring Peace and Cultural Tolerance in School Education (IMPACT-se), released a report on Saudi curriculum for the 2022-23 school year, showing improvements on both matters relating to anti-Israel material as well as antisemitism.

The report analysed “entire humanities corpus” over the last five years, totalling 301 textbooks, and including 80 textbooks for the current 2022-23 school year.

Material implying that Jews are the enemies of Islam, as well as interpretations of Qur’anic verses and oral traditions, accusing Jews and Christians of plotting against Islam, have been removed, according to the report.

On Israel related material, the report noted a “positive trend-line of improvement.”

Anti-Israel material were removed from this year’s textbooks, such as false accusations that Israel set fire to the Al-Aqsa Mosque in 1969, that Israel embarked on the 1967 war to expand its borders, and calling Israel a “falsified democracy.”

In 2020, for example, textbooks described Zionist “use of women, drugs, and media to achieve its goals” and labelling the effect of Zionism on the Islamic World as “wars and struggles […] as well as slaughter and expulsion of Palestinians.”

Claims that the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem is a “politically motivated fabrication” have also been removed.

The textbooks do, however, still refer to Israel as “the Zionist entity,” a term also used by Iran and Hezbollah. It also describes Zionism as a “European colonial and racist movement aimed at expelling Palestinians from their homes.”

“Practically all the previously identified antisemitic material in Saudi Islamic Studies textbooks has now been removed. This follows the previous removal of significant amounts of antisemitism in other subjects over the last four years,” IMPACT-se CEO, Marcus Sheff said.

“The clear trend of moderation in relation to Israel, while still not recognising the Jewish state, is highly noteworthy. 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,” Sheff added.

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