Saudi Arabia’s Shift: Positive Changes in Israel Portrayal in School Curriculum

In a notable departure from the past, Saudi Arabia has made significant revisions to its school textbooks regarding Israel and Zionism. The 2023-2024 curriculum no longer labels Zionism as “racist” and acknowledges the historical Jewish presence in the region. This shift reflects a more tolerant and open narrative, signaling progress toward a “warm peace” akin to diplomatic ties established with the UAE and Bahrain through the Abraham Accords.

Key Changes in Saudi Textbooks

1. Removal of Antisemitic Tropes

Saudi textbooks have largely removed antisemitic content, marking a positive step forward. References to Israel as an “enemy state” have been expunged, although the curriculum still emphasizes Saudi Arabia’s commitment to the Palestinian cause.

2. Adjusted Map References

While the name “Israel” still does not appear on maps, the term “Palestine,” which previously covered the entirety of Israeli territory, has now been removed. This subtle alteration reflects a more nuanced approach.

3. Gradual Opening and Normalization

Saudi Arabia’s gradual opening to Israel began about a decade ago. The process mirrors the slow, gradual moves made by the UAE and Bahrain before the Abraham Accords. This normalization aims to make engagement routine and foster public acceptance.

The Road Ahead

Saudi Arabia’s evolving narrative toward Israel suggests a willingness to engage in cultural cooperation and people-to-people contacts. As the kingdom continues to revise its educational materials, it inches closer to a warmer form of peace, setting a positive precedent for the region.

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