Saudi Textbooks Move Further Away from Prejudice and Bigotry

June 7, 2024 | IMPACT-se
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Bad as the news is from Lebanon, there is at least some good news from Saudi Arabia. Less then a decade ago, Islamic State was using the kingdom’s textbooks in its schools in Iraq. Saudi Arabia has since then taken gradual steps to purge radical content from its curricula, including anti-Semitism and bigotry toward Israel. In the long term, such changes may do more to foster peace between Jerusalem and Riyadh than any of the latest White House efforts to broker a normalization agreement. IMPACT-se, an organization devoted to analyzing educational materials around the world, reports:

Importantly, an entire high-school social-studies textbook, once a breeding ground for anti-Israel hatred, has been removed for the 2023-24 academic year. Students no longer learn content which defined Zionism as a “racist” European movement that aims to expel Palestinians, or that Zionism’s “fundamental goal” is to expand its borders and take over Arab lands, oil wells, and Islamic and Christian holy sites in Jerusalem. A different version of the textbook is now taught, in which references to Israel as “the Israeli enemy” and “the Zionist enemy” have been replaced.

Examples falsely accusing Israel of the 1969 arson at al-Aqsa Mosque and the “occupation forces” of “destroy[ing] the region” were also removed from social-studies textbooks, alongside a lesson teaching that “the occupying Zionist enemy” builds “settlements” in the Negev to sever the connection between Egypt and the Arabian Peninsula. . . . Notable passages omitted from the 2023-24 textbooks include teachings that labeled Jews and Christians as liars, arrogant, and accused them of falsifying their scriptures.

Nonetheless, . . . the Holocaust is absent from a chapter about World War II, and Israel is still referred to as “the Israeli occupation” and “Israeli occupiers” in the context of the 1948 war.

And while the entire territory from the Jordan to the Mediterranean is no longer labeled Palestine on maps, the textbook authors still can’t bring themselves to call it Israel.

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