Antisemitism largely eliminated from textbooks in Saudi Arabia - report

Saudi Arabia has seen a trend of improvement in removing antisemitism from its curriculum in recent years.

 A Saudi teacher wearing a face mask teaches a class at a school in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia August 30, 2021 (photo credit: REUTERS/MOHAMMED BENMANSOUR)
A Saudi teacher wearing a face mask teaches a class at a school in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia August 30, 2021
(photo credit: REUTERS/MOHAMMED BENMANSOUR)

Antisemitism has been largely eliminated from Saudi textbooks, The Institute for Monitoring Peace and Cultural Tolerance in School Education (IMPACT-se) revealed in its annual report on education in Saudi Arabia.

The report, released on Monday, found that content portraying Jews as disobedient and teachings of antisemitic tropes such as Jewish wealth were removed from the Saudi curriculum.

Antisemitic Qu'ran verses removed

Saudi Arabia has seen a trend of improvement in removing antisemitism from its curriculum in recent years, IMPACT-se said.

According to the institute, Qur’an verses describing Jews being turned into monkeys were removed, as was the antisemitic myth that one of the goals of Zionism is a “global Jewish government.”

In addition, Qur'an verses prohibiting friendships with Jews and Christians and condemning homosexuality have all been removed in the past three years.

 Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman speaks during the Gulf Summit in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia (credit: VIA REUTERS) Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman speaks during the Gulf Summit in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia (credit: VIA REUTERS)

In 2021, several lessons demonizing Jewish people, Christians, and other "non-believers" were removed from the curriculum. An entire textbook unit on jihad was taken out of the curriculum. 

A year prior, a chapter called “the Zionist danger," which dealt with various topics regarding the delegitimization of Israel's right to exist was removed. The chapter called “the Zionist danger," which dealt with various topics regarding the delegitimization of Israel's right to exist has also been removed.

Antisemitism still a problem in Saudi Arabia

However, some problematic content remains, IMPACT-se says.

According to the report, Israeli is still omitted from maps shown in textbooks and Zionism is still described as "racist."

Saudi students are falsely taught that  “Zionists” deliberately tried to burn down Al-Aqsa Mosque in 1969, a lie that was removed from Qatar's curriculum. A Qur'an verse comparing Jews to "book-carrying donkeys" also remains, while students are taught that women are to blame for male sexual harassment.

A "clear trajectory of improvement"

Overall, IMPACT-se has seen a "continuation of the clear trajectory of improvement" in the Saudi school curriculum, IMPACT-se CEO Marcus Sheff said.

"reaching for international standards of tolerance in school education will prepare Saudi children and those in other countries that use Saudi textbooks with the skills to positively interact with the different cultures and worldviews," Sheff said. "Particularly Jews, who were greatly demonized before the reforms."

IMPACT-se's report was shared with Saudi authorities.