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U.S. State Dept. to study Saudi texts

by Ron Kampeas, JTA

July 7, 2011 | 4:21 pm

The headquarters of the United States Department of State.<br />
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The headquarters of the United States Department of State.

The U.S. State Department is launching a study of Saudi textbooks to determine their reach and whether they promote intolerance.

The department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights will commission experts to examine textbooks for bigoted depictions of non-Muslims, including anti-Semitic tropes, Hannah Rosenthal, the State Department’s envoy to combat anti-Semitism, told JTA.

During a tour last month of Lebanon, Jordan and Saudi Arabia, Rosenthal met with groups promoting interfaith dialogue and, in Jordan and Saudi Arabia, with government education ministry officials.

She confronted Saudi officials with examples of anti-Semitic statements in the kingdom’s texts used as far afield in Saudi-funded schools in Pakistan and Argentina.

In one instance she cited, Jews are described as the spawn of “monkeys and pigs.” Saudi officials told Rosenthal that such texts are no longer in use, but that if her department could uncover instances of intolerance in books being used, they would be altered.

Rosenthal said such a study was in its planning stages and would assess which countries have schools using the textbooks, as well as whether the texts promote intolerance. She said the grantees that would carry out the study had yet to be selected.

A similar study examining Palestinian and Israeli textbooks already is under way by the bureau.

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