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What is this trial in Riyadh all about? 

March 11, 2020 at 4:27 pm

A general view inside a prison building on 1 September 2016 [Dan Kitwood/Getty Images]

Sixty-eight Palestinians and Jordanians, along with their Saudi sponsors, appeared before a court in Riyadh this week charged with belonging to and financing a “terrorist entity”. This was a reference to the Palestinian Islamic Resistance Movement, Hamas. At the top of the list of defendants is 81-year-old Dr Mohammed Al-Khodari, who has been a representative of Hamas in Saudi Arabia for decades. He has also been a member of the General Secretariat of the Popular Conference for Palestinians Abroad since its foundation three years ago.

The trial’s timing, form, content and significance all have many aspects, none of which have anything to do with “terrorism” or a “terrorist entity”. The timing is linked to Donald Trump’s “deal of the century” which is, in fact, the crime of the century. This trial is Saudi Arabia’s contribution to the deal, even though it did not dare to oppose the Arab League’s rejection of the so-called “peace plan”.

How shameful is it for the Saudi government under King Salman Bin Abdul Aziz and his son, Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman, to hold this trial given that Trump’s project began with declaring all of Jerusalem, including Al-Aqsa Mosque, to be the capital of Israel? This was followed by Washington giving legitimacy to the illegal — under international law — Israeli settlements in occupied Jerusalem and the West Bank. The fate of the rest of the occupied Palestinian territories is supposed to rest upon bilateral “negotiations”, between the occupying power and those who live under its military occupation. What sort of “negotiations” can ever be expected under such conditions? The same applies to the Gaza Strip once it has been stripped of weapons. Trump also supports the Jewish Nation State Law passed by the Knesset, which is based on the Zionist narrative regarding the “Jewishness” of occupied Palestine, ignoring the facts of modern and ancient history as well as authentic religious texts which refute such a claim.

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Resistance to military occupation by the people whose land is occupied is entirely legitimate under international laws and conventions. Hence, when Trump’s war against the Palestinians, their cause and the Arab and Muslim rights to Palestine is raging; and when the Saudi authorities hold this trial and accuse 68 Palestinians, Jordanians and Saudis of providing financial support to the Palestinian resistance and claim that this is support for a “terrorist entity”, then the authorities in Riyadh are themselves guilty of a crime. Indeed, they are committing a shameful sin not only against the Palestinians, Arabs, Muslims and free people of the world, but also against Saudi Arabia itself, which has always been keen to avoid such wilful wrongdoing.

When the Arab and Muslim nations, along with the free people and nations of the world — which excludes Trump’s America — stand against the “deal of the century”, where does that leave Mohammad Bin Salman? Where is the Crown Prince taking Saudi Arabia?

The Palestinian cause is both principled and morally correct. This didn’t stop the peace initiative that Saudi Arabia presented to the Beirut Summit in 2002 from lowering Arab expectations and asking Israel to do no more than withdraw from the territories it occupied in 1967 and allow the establishment of a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital (which is in line with UN Resolutions). Israel, of course, refused; it has never made any concessions in terms of territory, or anything else for that matter.

This proved, once again, that there is no point in making concessions to an enemy that takes everything but gives nothing. This enemy wants to uproot all of the Palestinians, Judaise all of Palestine and make it a state for Jews only from the River Jordan to the Mediterranean Sea (and even more, if possible).

Statements by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu about the high level of the relationship between his country and Saudi Arabia have not been denied by Riyadh. Is the show trial in the Saudi capital intended to send an explicit message that the Kingdom under its de facto ruler Mohammad Bin Salman supports the ethnic cleansing and complete Judaisation of Palestine that the Zionists want to achieve?

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Last but not least, there is another aspect of this trial related to its moral implications. It is, in effect, denying the friendship between the Saudis and the Palestinians that has stretched back many decades. Now the Saudi government has turned against the people of Palestine in an unprecedented betrayal, imprisoning, torturing and making wild allegations against once officially-recognised representatives of Hamas.

How can formal political and informal human relationships that have stood the test of time with Dr Mohammed Al-Khodari in Saudi Arabia, with no issues ever being raised by the authorities, suddenly be denied under the Crown Prince? How can Bin Salman betray the people of Palestine, not because of some criminal act, but because of a new policy that turns decades of Saudi policy on its head as well as the promises made in Arab, Muslim and international capitals?

In this case, the least that the Saudi authorities could have done would be to have deported the “Hamas 68” rather than lock them up and hurl false allegations at them. Such behaviour by the Saudi ruler is certainly not based on Arab customary law, Islamic law or international law. It is, in short, a travesty of the law.

This article first appeared in arabic in Arabi21 on 10 March 2020

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.