Saudi Journalist: The Palestinians are no longer our primary concern (& Assad welcome, Trump not?)

February 08, 2017

This dispatch concerns changing attitudes by some in the Saudi media towards Israel and Jews.

(At the very end of the dispatch, for those interested, there is also a short TV interview with me from yesterday morning concerning Donald Trump and the UK.)


(See also: How Israel’s tech firms are quietly doing business in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states, Feb. 2, 2017)



1. Saudi columnist Siham Al-Qahtani: Jews should no longer collectively be blamed for all disasters throughout history
2. “No Jewish plot against Arabs, without Arab knowledge”
3. Muhammad Al-Sheikh: Only political ignoramuses advocate armed resistance; the two-state solution is the only feasible option
4. Al-Sheikh criticized by Al-Jazeera presenter
5. Prominent Saudi Journalist: West Jerusalem is part of Israel; moving the U.S. embassy there as part of a peace agreement could herald the end of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict
6. Kuwaiti journalist: I support relocating the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem
7. Saudi Cleric Awadh Al-Qarni: 9/11 was “fabricated”
8. Assad welcome in London, Trump not?


[Notes by Tom Gross]


Last year, after a semi-official delegation of Saudis visited Israel (that Saudi delegation included two people who I know personally) some (but certainly not all) Saudi media columnists wrote that Saudi Arabia should improve its attitude toward Jews and towards Israel.

For example, Siham Al-Qahtani argued that Koranic descriptions of Jews as killers of prophets, infidels, warmongers and usurers, applied to only a particular historic period, and that Jews should no longer collectively be blamed for all disasters throughout history (as some other Arab journalists and religious preachers continue to argue).


In a courageous piece (especially for a woman in Saudi Arabia) she wrote:

“The [collective] memory of Arab culture continues to preserve the stereotypical image of Jews to this day. Some see this stereotype as the product of Koranic texts, [which depict the Jews] as killers of prophets, infidels, warmongers, and usurers.

“[However,] it is improper to blame the Koran for the creation of Jewish stereotypes. When the Koran depicts a certain people, it does so in accordance with [this people’s] behavior and thought during a specific time period.

“This description is valid in the context of [those particular] circumstances and [that particular] behavior, and does not refer to a unique and permanent trait. Proof of this is [the fact] that, among the Jews [mentioned in the Koran], just as there are murderers and warmongers there are also prophets and righteous men.

“[Further proof is] the fact that Islam at the time permitted marriage between a Muslim man and a Jewish woman. If the ‘Jewish race’ possessed some unique and permanent flaw, then Islam would have banned such marriages in order to preserve the integrity and propriety of the Muslim man.”

She added: “I do not reject [out of hand] the notion of “a Jewish plot against the Arabs,” because I believe that such a plot does exist, but such plots could not have been realized without the ignorance of Arabs, their improper attitude, and the division in their ranks. The chief enemy of Arabs is Arabs [themselves].”

(Translations above and below courtesy of the excellent Middle East Media Research Institute.)



Now some Saudi writers are turning their attention to the Palestinian-Israeli dispute.

In a column on January 24, 2017 in the official Saudi daily Al-Jazirah, titled “The Palestinians Have No [Choice] But Peace,” Saudi journalist Muhammad Aal Al-Sheikh criticized Palestinian groups that advocate “armed resistance,” saying it was political suicide.

He called on these groups to realize that a two-state solution is the only option that is feasible. He added that the Arab world is no longer very concerned with the Palestinian cause, and an insistence on armed resistance will only end up hurting the Palestinians themselves.

He wrote:

“Seven out of the ten biggest [donors] supporting the [candidates] in the recent U.S. congressional elections are Jews; moreover, the Jewish organization AIPAC is the most influential and important lobby in the U.S. These two facts together transform the U.S. Congress into a parliament that protects Israel and helps it [even] more than the Israeli Knesset itself does.

“I think that many Arabs, especially the Palestinians in Gaza who purport to be devout Muslims [i.e., Hamas], do not understand this reality and its implications: it means that Israel derives its power and its global status from the U.S., which is practically the most powerful country on earth. Russia – which some Arabs have begun betting on as the [potential solution] to their problems – likewise sees Israel as a red line due to the power and influence of the Jews there. The same goes for the E.U. countries, as well as Britain, Canada and Australia.

“In light of this, it can be said that relying on armed resistance to confront all of these global powers, while making the option of peace, especially the two-state solution, a more remote possibility – as implied by the statements of radical Palestinians nationalists and of those purporting to be devout – constitutes a kind of political suicide that only political ignoramuses [can] condone.

“I know the Israelis oppose the proposal of the two-state solution and attempt to evade it. [Moreover,] this position of theirs was recently endorsed by the U.S. Congress, when it denounced the forceful resolution [recently passed] by the Security Council against the construction of Israeli settlements in the West Bank... without so much as mentioning the two-state solution. But I believe that the two-state solution is the only available solution that can be demanded and which enjoys the support of most of the international community.

“The insistence of the [Arab or Iranian] left-wing nationalists and the politically-biased people who purport to be devout, whether Sunni or Shi’ite, on calling for resistance ultimately serves the interests of the Israeli right. [This insistence] provides [the Israeli right] with excuses that strengthen its position, which [seeks to] prove that the Palestinians do not want peace or a solution [to the conflict], but rather war.

“Another thing the Palestinians need to understand is that the Arabs of today are not the Arabs of yesterday, and that the Palestinian cause has lost ground among Arabs. This cause is no longer a top priority for them, because civil wars are literally pulverizing four Arab countries, and because fighting the ‘Islamic’ terrorism is the foremost concern that causes all Arabs, without exception, to lose sleep. It is folly to ask someone to sacrifice [tending to] his own problems and national interests in order to help [you solve] your own problems...

“All I can say to my Palestinian brethren is that stubbornness, contrariness, and betting on the [support of] the Arab masses are a hopeless effort, and that ultimately you are the only ones who will pay the price of this stubbornness and contrariness.”



Al-Sheikh’s column, which he also shared on his Twitter account, was widely criticized.

For example, Al-Jazeera TV presenter Jamal Rayyan shared Al-Sheikh’s column on his Twitter page with the comment: “Given the Arab-Israeli reality he describes, this journalist should have called on the Palestinians not to sign any capitulation agreement until this reality changes.”



In an article in the leading London-based Saudi-controlled daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat on January 25, 2017, the prominent Saudi journalist Abd Al-Rahman Al-Rashed, (a former editor of the paper and a former director of Al-Arabiya TV), wrote that Israeli sovereignty over West Jerusalem is a settled matter and that moving the U.S. embassy there, or any other nation’s embassy, would not lend legitimacy to the occupation. Rather, if U.S. President Donald Trump moved the embassy to Jerusalem as part of an overall peace agreement, this measure could actually mark the end of the occupation and the conflict.

Al-Rashed also noted that in the 2000 Camp David talks, Yasser Arafat missed a golden opportunity to restore East Jerusalem to the Palestinians as part of then-U.S. president Bill Clinton’s peace plan.

He added that today, due to the crises plaguing the Middle East, “the Palestinian cause is no longer central,” although extremists exploit the Palestinian tragedy to further their own interests.


For those who have time to read it, here are longer excerpts from Abd Al-Rahman Al-Rashed’s article in Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (again translation courtesy of Memri):

“The decision of the U.S. government to move its embassy from Tel Aviv to occupied Jerusalem is not a new measure. Congress issued a binding order to that effect over a decade ago, but successive [American] presidents worked to thwart the move by delaying the process. This, because they cannot undo the decision without going back to Congress for a decision that overturns it – and such an attempt might fail. What is new is the insistence of the new American president, Donald Trump, to implement [this decision] as he promised.

“I will discuss three aspects connected to the talk about moving the embassy: the meaning of [the term] ‘occupied Jerusalem,’ the historical aspect, and the current situation.

“Already in 1948, the year the state of Israel was established, the U.S. opened a diplomatic representation in Tel Aviv, the first capital of the Jewish state, and so did the other powers. A year before the outbreak of the 1967 war, the U.S. opened the embassy in a large building in Tel Aviv, which serves as its official residence to this day. Later a consulate [general] and [consular services] were opened in Jerusalem, and their location has changed [over the years]. The current location [of the consular services] is near the Green Line separating [East and West] Jerusalem...

“Arabic political terms are [sometimes] used vaguely in [Arab] statements, and this is the case with the term ‘occupied Jerusalem.’ Usually this [term] refers to ‘occupied Eastern Jerusalem,’ rather than the city as a whole, namely the part Israel conquered in 1967 from the Hashemite kingdom [of Jordan]. As for West Jerusalem, it was already under Israeli control before that, and it has never been included in any discussion or negotiations. Its [status] as part of Israel is a settled matter. Arab politicians use the vague term ‘occupied Jerusalem’ to avoid getting entangled in the issue of recognizing Israel.

“Historically, the Palestinians had only one opportunity to regain control of occupied East Jerusalem, but the negotiating team, headed by the late [Palestinian] president Yasser Arafat, missed this opportunity. This was at the Camp David [talks] in 2000... U.S. president Bill Clinton decided to resolve the [Palestinian-Israeli] issue [once and for all] and put all his weight behind the negotiations. He reached a ‘reasonable’ solution with Arafat and with then Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak, which no president had proposed before or has proposed since. The Clinton proposal involved returning to the Palestinians over 90 percent of the West Bank and 100 percent of the Gaza Strip, with a safe passage between them, [to form] a de-militarized independent Palestinian state. [The proposal also specified that] East Jerusalem, including the [Al-Aqsa] mosque and the Dome of the Rock, would return to the Palestinians, excluding the Jewish Quarter and the Western Wall, which would be placed under international supervision.

“[But] for some unknown reason, Arafat did not attend the final meeting and [instead] sent a delegation to Washington on his behalf to inform Clinton that they were rejecting the proposal – and the proposal collapsed. During that period, extremist Palestinian groups close to Iran and the Assad regime [in Syria], such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad, carried out armed operations against Israel. The extremist camp in Israel used this to undermine a subsequent attempt to negotiate [an agreement] in Taba, and then Barak resigned. Arafat tried to revive the [negotiation] attempts, but it was too late – and to this very day East Jerusalem and the [rest of] the occupied territories are subject to [acts of] usurping land and altering the character of sites in the area and Judaizing them...

“Due to the destruction and displacement that [now] plague the Middle East, [especially] Iraq, Syria and Lebanon, the Palestinian cause is no longer central. We will not forget how extremists exploited the Palestinian tragedy to serve opportunistic regimes. Iran reached a nuclear agreement [with the superpowers] on the condition that it stop harming the U.S., and Hizbullah effectively took control of Lebanon in the name of the purported resistance [against Israel]. As for Assad and Qaddafi, they were defeated because of their inciting positions.

“Finally, will moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem kill the hope of establishing a Palestinian state? I think that [even] if the U.S. moves its embassy – and [even] if all the governments of the world do the same – this will not grant legitimacy to the occupation. [But we] hope that Trump takes this controversial move of transferring the embassy as part of a peaceful solution [to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict] that he has promised [to achieve]. Trump said he would assign this task to his son-in-law, which reflects his commitment [to this issue]. Who knows? Perhaps the embassy will be the last of the political campaigns.”


[Note 1] The Clinton proposal was to establish an independent Palestinian state that would include the Gaza Strip and the vast majority of the West Bank, while settlement blocks would be incorporated into Israel with the goal of maximizing the number of settlers in Israel while minimizing the land annex; in Jerusalem Arab areas would be under Palestinian sovereignty and Jewish ones under Israeli sovereignty; Palestinian refugees would be allowed to return to the Palestinian State (, January 7, 2001).



Kuwaiti journalist Abdallah Al-Hadlaq also expressed support for relocating the American embassy to Jerusalem.

In an article on January 28, 2017 in the Al-Watan daily titled “Be Brave [Trump] – Move [The Embassy] to Jerusalem and Trust in God,” he quoted from an article by Robert Satloff (also a subscriber to this list), the director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, which presents arguments in favor of moving the embassy.

Al-Hadlaq argued the move could involve extensive benefits and not only dangers and drawbacks. He wrote: “Wise and intelligent diplomats, politicians and pundits are telling Trump, who is reluctant to move the embassy to Jerusalem: ‘Be brave, move it to Jerusalem and trust in God.’”



Lest one thinks Saudi Arabia is now full only of rational commentators, it is not.

For example, in a TV sermon last month on the Saudi Al-Majd TV channel, Saudi Cleric Awadh Al-Qarni said that the 9/11 attacks had been “premeditated, fabricated, and calculated,” and that the towers had been toppled in an organized explosion by the U.S. government.


For those interested, here is a short TV interview with me from yesterday morning concerning the calls by the speaker of the British House of Commons to disinvite U.S. President Donald Trump from addressing the British parliament later this year.

Among other things, I point out that Queen Elizabeth and the British foreign office welcomed Syrian President Assad to London at a time when he was already torturing to death thousands of political prisoners in Syria, but now many in the UK want to disinvite Trump.


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All notes and summaries copyright © Tom Gross. All rights reserved.