Significant Curriculum Changes: How Saudi Arabia is Paving the Way for Normalization with ‘Israel’

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The Saudi regime has not only ceased supporting the Palestinian cause by preventing any popular solidarity during the ongoing aggression on Gaza but is now treating it as if it were just "Israel."

This was revealed in a detailed report by Yedioth Ahronoth, one of Israeli leading newspapers, on May 28, 2024, which confirmed that Saudi Arabia has removed the name Palestine from student textbooks and deleted the term "Zionism," replacing it with words that praise “Israel.”

Saudi dissidents have shared examples of these curriculum changes in recent years, showing how maps with the name "Palestine" have been erased.

They believe that altering the curricula, erasing Palestine, and improving the image of Jews are attempts by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to enhance the image of Israelis and prepare society to accept them, thereby changing the perception of future generations.

Conversely, supporters of the Saudi authorities deny these claims, stating that the sources are an Israeli organization. They accuse opponents of celebrating these changes without reviewing the actual existing curricula, asserting that "Palestine" still appears in them.

This coincided with Republican Senator Lindsey Graham's confirmation in a press conference in “Israel” on May 29, 2024, that there is a real change in Saudi Arabia.

He affirmed that “Saudis no longer teach (in educational curricula) that all Jews must be killed, unlike the Palestinian Authority,” which promises Palestinians a job and salary “if they kill a Jew,” as he claimed.

The Story of Removal

Yedioth Ahronoth alleged in its shocking report, which summarized a new study, that Saudi Arabia removes the word “enemy” from describing “Israel” in school textbooks, while erasing the word “Palestine” from maps.

The report stated that research shows Saudi textbooks are changing their perspective on “Israel,” not denying the Jewish presence in the region and softening “anti-Israel content."

The newspaper reviewed a new study on Saudi curricula published by the Institute for Monitoring Peace and Cultural Tolerance in School Education, known as IMPACT-se.

IMPACT-se is an Israeli–American organization tasked with monitoring the educational curricula of Arab and Islamic countries, examining Arab and Islamic sciences, and providing regular reports on its mission for Arab governments to implement under U.S. pressure.

The study was a follow-up on Arab educational curricula and their hostility towards the Israeli Occupation, issued in May 2024, focusing on the Saudi academic year 2023/2024.

The study includes a review of 371 Saudi textbooks, identifying changes made during the 2023/2024 academic year, and confirms that the findings show ongoing steps towards moderation regarding “Israel.”

It explained that the Saudi Ministry of Education made significant changes to the current curricula by removing anti-”Israel” and extremist content from textbooks.

In recent years, the IMPACT-se institute has published numerous studies claiming “significant improvements in Saudi textbooks, particularly in removing violent and anti-semitic content, though not entirely.”

However, the May 2024 study confirmed that during the current academic year (2023/2024), an entire social science book for high school students, which contained anti-"Israel” content, was removed.

The twelfth-grade social studies book, which was discontinued in 2023, mentioned that "Zionists" deliberately tried to burn down al-Aqsa Mosque in 1969, according to the pro-"Israel” British institute.

Normalizing the Curriculum

According to IMPACT-se, depictions of “Israel” and Zionism have advanced significantly in Saudi curricula, with students no longer learning that Zionism is a "racist" European movement aimed at expelling Palestinians.

Students are also no longer taught that the primary goal of Zionism is to expand its borders and seize Arab lands, oil wells, and Islamic and Christian holy sites in Jerusalem.

Nevertheless, “Israel” is still not recognized on Saudi maps. However, in some maps, "Palestine," which previously appeared as encompassing “all of Israel's territory," has been systematically removed, according to IMPACT-se.

Additionally, “Israel” is still referred to as the "Israeli Occupation" or "Israeli occupiers" in the context of the 1948 War within the curricula.

Yedioth Ahronoth reported that Marcus Sheff, the head of IMPACT-se, expressed satisfaction that the designers of Saudi curricula have made changes that present “Israel” in a more positive light.

He stated that “the Saudi textbooks for the 2023/2024 academic year represent another step towards transforming the curriculum into an educational framework that promotes tolerance, peace, and greater equality, and indeed removes anti-Semitism from textbooks.”

These curriculum adjustments come at a time when Americans are trying to secure a normalization deal between Saudi Arabia and “Israel,” with the U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and members of Congress visiting the kingdom to promote the deal in exchange for halting aggression on Gaza and implementing a two-state solution.

Saudi Arabia has softened its conditions for normalization with “Israel,” omitting Palestine from the proposed deals, and focusing on purely Saudi demands for a U.S. protection agreement, arms deals, and a peaceful nuclear program.

Israeli and American sites have observed what can be described as a history of curriculum normalization between Saudi Arabia and “Israel,” with changes aimed at reshaping how future generations in the kingdom perceive the Jewish state and Zionists.

On May 24, 2023, the Jewish News site confirmed that the Saudi government removed all materials that distort the Israeli image from school textbooks.

It noted that Saudi Arabia deleted Quranic verses and Hadiths accusing Jews of conspiring against Islam, similar to prior actions by Egypt.

Impact on Generations

In its latest comprehensive report issued in April 2023, IMPACT-se monitored what it described as how Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Arab countries accelerated the process of changing school curricula in favor of “Israel” and Jews.

Another report from IMPACT-se, published in May 2023, claimed it successfully changed curricula in Arab and Islamic countries "quietly," leading to acceptance of “Israel” and peace with it.

The report asserted that school textbooks in Arab and Gulf countries have gradually moderated topics ranging from gender roles to promoting peace and tolerance with Jews, according to a CNN report on June 19, 2023.

In a September 2021 report detailed by The Times of Israel, IMPACT-se emphasized that Saudi curricula began changing their perspective on non-Muslims, especially Jews, in ways contrary to the Quran.

The report, titled "Review of Changes and Remaining Problematic Content in Saudi Textbooks 2021–2022," highlighted the removal of explicitly “anti-semitic content” from Saudi schools.

The Zionist aim since the occupation of Palestine has been to change the image of the occupier in the minds of Arab students to facilitate normalization with governments. Thus, the focus has been on shaping young identities to avoid hatred toward “Israel.”

A study by a Jewish organization in collaboration with the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change in September 2021 highlighted their success in changing educational curricula in several Arab countries by removing criticism of Jews and “Israel” from textbooks.

The Jewish organization, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), stated that the goal is to raise a generation that does not know hostility or hatred towards the West or “Israel” by changing educational curricula to shape young identities and attitudes towards others.

Its study, Peace and Tolerance Education in the Arab World Two Decades After 9/11, emphasized how Jewish–American lobbying groups pressured Arab officials visiting Washington and influenced Congress members to address these issues in their meetings with Arab leaders.

They also impacted international organizations like the UN and World Bank to participate in curriculum changes under the guise of "innovation" and "reform," and used media campaigns to achieve their goals.

They even monitored mosque sermons in Arab countries to demand the suspension of imams who portray “Israel” and Jews negatively, setting an "agenda for change" without interference from these religious figures.

Reality Check

Despite these reports, there has been a heated debate between Saudi opponents and supporters regarding the authenticity of claims about Saudi curriculum changes favoring “Israel.”

The Mujtahidd account, believed to be close to the ruling family and expressing opposition to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, identified 10 examples, with evidence, illustrating how Saudi curricula have changed concerning the Palestinian issue.

Maps previously labeled "Palestine" were entirely removed from Saudi curricula, and a "brief history" of Palestine was omitted in the 2023 edition.

The term "Zionist enemy" was changed to "Israeli Occupation" in various instances in the 2022 and 2023 editions. The phrase "the attempt to establish the Zionist entity" was altered to "the British mandate over Palestine" in the 2022 edition.

References to British support for Jews, such as "appointed a large number of Jews to key positions" and "facilitated their organization and weapon training," were deleted.

An image titled "Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, Palestine" was removed from Saudi textbooks.

Another image of the White Mosque in Ramlah had its caption altered to remove "Palestine" as its location in the 2023 edition.

The title of a lesson was changed from "The Arab Position on the Zionist Entity" to "The Arab Position on Supporting the Palestinian Cause" in the 2022 edition.

An image titled "Establishment of Settlements by Occupying Jews in Palestine" was completely removed in 2023, and the chapter on the Palestinian issue containing this image was entirely deleted from the parallel education curriculum in 2022.

The location of the "Jordan Valley" was removed in the 2023 edition, where the previous edition indicated its position "between Jordan and Palestine."

In response, supporters of the authority criticized relying on an Israeli study and denied the validity of its findings despite the evidence presented by the opponents and the images relied upon by IMPACT-se from Saudi textbooks.

Twitter users stated that Saudi Arabia is conducting a global campaign to support the Palestinian cause and stop the aggression on Gaza, which should be met with support and praise instead of lies and forgery by some of the kingdom's detractors.

This sparked mockery due to the kingdom's weak stance regarding the genocidal operations carried out by “Israel” in Gaza since October 2023.