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Oman blogger criticised over visit to Israel 

Oman blogger Asma Al-Shehhii [Instagram]
Oman blogger Asma Al-Shehhii [Instagram]

An Omani blogger has caused outrage by visiting Israel in a move many have seen as normalisation with the occupation state.

Asma Al-Shehhii who resides in the UAE, a country which has already normalised relations with the occupation state, posted videos on her Instagram account documenting her visit, soon after touching down at Ben Gurion Airport on Friday.

The blogger filmed the entrance gate at the airport and mentioned that "the employees of the place were shocked when they first saw a passport from the Sultanate of Oman."

Her weekend trip included a visit to Jerusalem's Old City and its notable sites such as Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Damascus Gate, which she described in a caption as "a dream come true". Asma also visited the northern port city of Haifa which has a significant Arab population.

However, her videos were met with criticism from many users from the sultanate, including the NGO Omanis Against Normalisation who responded on Twitter by stating: "Visiting Al-Aqsa Mosque as an Arab Muslim serves one of the most important narratives promoted by the Israeli entity to whitewash its crimes against the Palestinian people."

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"It is impossible to enter #Jerusalem without Israeli approval, and this is a recognition and confirmation of the occupation's sovereignty over Jerusalem, in addition to the economic returns generated by tourism and normalization visits to the occupation," the organisation added.

Other Omani social media users shared their disapproval of the blogger's visit. One user, Issa Al-Balushi said: "We [Omanis] will visit Jerusalem as liberators, not [ones who condone normalization]. Rest assured, she [Al-Shehhi] is not Omani, she just claims to be]. A true Omani's main concern would be the liberation of Palestine and Jerusalem."

Another user remarked: "This is a step in promoting normalization with the Israeli enemy and serves the agenda of the parties that strive to integrate the Israeli entity in the Arab region. The Arab people curse this step."

Despite initial speculation that Muscat would join the UAE, Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan who signed the US-brokered Abraham Accords in 2020 to normalise ties with Israel, Oman's parliament voted to criminalise ties with "the Zionist entity". The legislation is an amendment to a previous royal decree which banned "interaction with the Zionist entity for private and public figures". Last year, Iraq became the first Arab state to formally criminalise normalisation with Israel.

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