Over the past month, the Saudi press has featured a number of highly unusual articles harshly critical of the antisemitic discourse in Arab and Muslim society, and calling to avoid its generalizations regarding the Jews. The articles argued that Koranic passages against the Jews only applied to specific groups during specific time periods, and should not be applied to Jews in general. They added that blind hatred of Jews everywhere has prevented Arabs and Muslims from learning the lessons of Jewish experience and advancement.The article goes on to include lengthy quotes from the Saudi articles attacking antisemitism.
It should be mentioned that these articles came against the backdrop of a heated debate in Saudi Arabia over the issue of normalizing relations with Israel, which erupted after a July 2016 visit to Israel by a Saudi delegation headed by Maj.-Gen. (ret.) Anwar Eshki, chairman of the Middle East Center for Strategic and Legal Studies in Jeddah, and the publication of photos of the delegation with Israeli politicians. While Eshki claimed that he represented only himself and that "official Saudi elements did not know of the meeting in advance, as it was of a personal nature" and was the result of an invitation by the Palestinian Authority, he stressed that "the kingdom does not prevent anyone from holding such visits." He also did not rule out indirect Israeli-Saudi intelligence cooperation as part of efforts to combat terrorism.
The visit, which was seen as a Saudi step towards normalizing relations with Israel, sparked harsh criticism inside and outside the kingdom. Several hashtags attacking the visit were launched on social networks, including "Saudis Against Normalization." Likely as a response to the criticism, the Saudi Foreign Ministry distanced itself from Eshki, arguing that "people like Anwar Eshki do not represent us, have no ties to any governmental elements, and do not reflect the positions of the Saudi government."
However, despite this statement, and despite the Saudi regime's denial that the visit heralded normalization with Israel, the publication of Saudi articles attacking antisemitic discourse specifically at this time is no coincidence, and is likely meant to lay the groundwork for public acceptance in the country of normalized relations with Israel.
Perhaps more fascinating is that Iran's state run Al Aram news agency decided to quote the MEMRI article nearly in full - in order to try to discredit the Saudi regime for being too pro-Jewish and too pro-Israel.
Accusing other Muslims of being pro-Israel is a standard weapon in the Islamic arsenal when trying to discredit a political opponent. Funny thing though: it no longer works.
You'll still see it here and there - Fatah and Hamas accuse each other of "collaborating" with Israel, Hezbollah will still use that rhetoric, and some Egyptian or Moroccan papers might show pictures of their rivals with Israelis, and Malaysian politicians still embrace that theme with gusto.
But the Sunni hate and fear of Shiites, and Iran in particular, is far more potent than their antipathy towards Jews and Israel nowadays. I
In a very real way, when Iran trots out its "you are pro-Israel" card, they are in fact pushing their Muslim enemies into wanting to be more pro-Israel! At this time, Israel represents security when the Arab world has little, it represents a consistent political position when the US has become flaky, and it represents an anti-Iran bulwark when the Sunni world is scared silly of Iran.
Although they have no love for the Jewish state, the Gulf states are no longer frightened of being labeled pro-Israel by Iran. And that is a really major change that occurred in only the past couple of years.
We have lots of ideas, but we need more resources to be even more effective. Please donate today to help get the message out and to help defend Israel.