The normalisation that Saudi Arabia is witnessing is unprecedented. The two countries that established official and public relations with Israel, Egypt and Jordan, and the other countries that have established normalised relations, have stuck to the Palestinian narrative of the conflict. They did not adopt the enemy’s narrative regarding the history and sanctities. They did not demonise the Palestinians. Relations remained limited to an official level and secret, mostly justified by economic benefits beyond the public level.
We did not see the Grand Sheikh of Al-Azhar doing what the Secretary General of the Muslim World League, Muhammad Issa, has done, which is to invite the US Director of the Holocaust Memorial Museum to visit the kingdom (due to his ignorance and joy with the Zionists, he thought the director was a man). No one in Jordan dared to insult and disregard the status of Al-Aqsa Mosque like the Saudi blogger, Kassab Al-Otaibi, known for his close links to Saudi security agency. As for the actions of blogger Mohammad Saud, they were like a suicide mission for the sake of normalisation. He received more curses, insults and humiliation than anyone before him.
The thread linking the three is an official body that is implementing a clear strategy domestically and abroad. According to the Wall Street Journal, Saud Al-Qahtani, who was described as “Prince Mohammed’s right-hand man”, is charged with relations with Israel in terms of technical and espionage cooperation, promoting relations with Israel and defaming the Palestinians through the electronic army he directs.
There are 3,000 full-time employees, and this number multiplies if part-timers are taken into account, at the Global Centre for Combatting Extremist Ideology (Etidal), based in Riyadh, whose main job is to promote unprecedented normalisation. In the past, normalisation meant creating peace between the Palestinians and Israelis, but today, it means making the Palestinians the enemy, stealing the money of the Saudis, and distracting them from developing their country. They are now seizing the future of the Saudis by conspiring with Iran.
According to informed Saudi sources, an opinion poll conducted by a research centre in Riyadh for the crown prince, indicated the failure of his strategy. The overwhelming majority of participants still view Israel as an enemy. However, this did not affect his determination, as what is important is for the Zionists to get the message that he is making sacrifices and making major efforts to confront a public opinion that was formed through decades of daily mobilisation and incitement.
These sacrifices are not free. He realises that Netanyahu is the only one who publicly stood by him on the day when the earth shook beneath his feet after the brutal assassination of Jamal Khashoggi. The crown prince also knows that he has a strong ally in Washington in the form of the Zionist Kushner. This, at least psychologically, is enough to explain this eagerness. Moreover, this disgraceful normalisation, which seems like dangerous trapeze tricks, is accompanied by a safety net, as it is easy to deny all of this and consider it individual endeavours, and state that the official Saudi position is what the king has said in several official speeches, in which he reiterates his commitment to the Arab rights in Palestine.
In truth, there is no safety net, especially in light of the open war in Saudi Arabia against the Palestinians who support the resistance. Hamas has been unable to remove its former representative in Saudi Arabia, Dr Muhammad Al-Khodari, who is a consultant that worked in Saudi Arabia for decades. He is suffering from cancer and acted as an ambassador who met with top-level officials and received official and popular financial aid. It is no secret that Hamas was founded in Jeddah, and its first head of the political bureau, the late Khairy Al-Agha was a Palestinian from Gaza who carried Saudi citizenship. This was with the knowledge of the Saudi authorities and it supported the group secretly and publically. It did not turn a blind eye to the collection of donations, but the Hamas representative had received a monthly donation of about $1.3 million from King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz.
Neither the Palestinians nor the Saudis can write a tweet against the crimes committed by the occupation. Now the nation’s lowest can attack Palestine. There has also been a decline in the kingdom’s support for the Palestinian cause, even at the level of school donations, which prompted a Saudi researcher, Sultan Al-Amer, to launch a satirical campaign to reimburse those who regret supporting the Palestinians with their school allowances.
I will end by saying the appalling normalisation witnessed in Saudi Arabia nowadays and the oppression and defamation of the Palestinians will only contribute to deepening the commitment of the Saudi youth to the Palestinian cause and their rejection of Zionism. The dangerous circus tricks may attract the applause of the Zionist public, but will only harm the adventurous performer who may not find a safety net underneath them.
This article first appeared in Arabic in Al-Araby Al-Jadeed on 1 August 2019
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.