Winds of change in the Saudi media towards Israel and Jews?

Amos Yadlin, former head of Israeli military intelligence, discusses Israeli-Saudi cooperation (Photo: screenshot YouTube)

Several reports which have come out of Arab nations lately have expressed some out-of-the-box thinking on long held opinions regarding Israel, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and Jews in general.

The controversial reports contend that Jews should no longer collectively be blamed for all disasters throughout history, the U.S. embassy should be relocated to Jerusalem and that the Palestinian cause is no longer a primary concern in the Arab world.

After a non-official delegation from Saudi Arabia visited Israel last year, media columnists wrote that their country needs to change its long-held attitude toward Israel and Jews. One Saudi journalist wrote that the Koran’s description of Jews as murderers only applied to a certain period of history and Jews, therefore, should no longer be blamed collectively for disasters previously attributed to them as propagated by the Arab press and religious leaders.

The female journalist bravely wrote that the collective memory of Arab culture continues to portray stereotypical images of Jews because of what is depicted in the Koran. On the other hand, however, she says it is not proper to blame the Koran for the creation of the Jewish stereotypes as those were valid points at the time the Koran was written. She contends that the traits mentioned in the Koran are not unique or permanent defining traits of Jews because the Koran also mentions good Jews. She asserts that even at that time, Islam allowed marriage between a Muslim man and a Jewish woman so if the Jews possessed flaws inherent to them alone, then Islam would have banned such marriages in order to preserve the integrity of Muslim men.

Regarding the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, last month in Al-Jazirah, the official Saudi publication, a Saudi journalist, spoke out against Palestinian groups that call for “armed resistance.” He criticized their stance and called on them to accept that a two-state solution is the only viable option. He added that the Arab world is no longer very concerned with the Palestinian cause, and insisting on armed resistance only hurts the Palestinian people themselves.

His stance is neither pro-Israel nor pro-Jew, but he took the opportunity to opine that the U.S. congress protects and helps Israel even more than the Israeli Knesset itself does. He said that devout Muslim parties like Hamas do not understand that this means that Israel derives its power and its global status from the U.S., which is practically the most powerful country on earth along with Russia some E.U. countries, as well as Britain, Canada and Australia.

He says that while Israel is to blame for the failure to implement the two-state solution, the armed resistance of the Palestinian groups reflects badly on the Palestinians, constitutes a kind of political suicide that only political ignoramuses are able to condone and doesn’t get support from the international community. He says that the Palestinian insistence on armed resistance reinforces the Israeli narrative that Palestinians do not want peace or a solution to the conflict, but rather war.

The journalist explained that the Arabs of today are not the Arabs of yesterday, and that the Palestinian cause has lost ground among Arabs. It stopped being a top priority for them because of their own civil wars – referring to fighting “Islamic” terrorism, namely ISIS. He told his Palestinian brethren that their stubbornness, contrariness and hedging their bets on mass Arab support is a hopeless effort and they are the only ones who will pay the price for their behavior.

Another contentious issue was raised in a different Saudi-controlled news site based in London. In January in the Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, a prominent Saudi journalist wrote that Israeli sovereignty over West Jerusalem is not in question and U.S. President Donald Trump should move the embassy to Jerusalem as part of an overall peace agreement. He said that this could actually lead to the end of the conflict. He noted that in 2000 at Camp David, Yasser Arafat missed the perfect opportunity with the Bill Clinton peace plan to restore East Jerusalem to the Palestinians. He added that Palestinian extremists exploit tragedy to further their own interests, but this issue is no longer a priority in the Arab world.

Kuwaiti journalist Abdallah Al-Hadlaq also penned support for relocating the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem. In the Al-Watan daily with a title addressing President Donald Trump and the proposed embassy move he said, “Be Brave – Move to Jerusalem and Trust in God.”

While Arab journalists in general continue to stand against Israel in a war of words, there seems to be a slight but noticeable change in approach and attitude towards Israel and the Jewish people in the media.