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How Is Riyadh Instrumentalizing Hajj for Normalization with Tel Aviv?

Sunday 11July 2022
By Alwaght
   Starting to publicize their covert normalization over the past few years, Saudi Arabia and the Israeli regime are closer than ever to this aim. Riyadh this year devised a new way to move closer to Tel Aviv and realize its plans. Despite the fact that the Israelis and world Zionism hold a lasting hostility to the Muslims and Islam’s spiritual legacy, Saudi Arabia this year invited a number of Israelis to Hajj ceremony as a prelude to the future relations.

Amid fast-moving Saudi measures to normalize relations with occupiers of Palestine, a number of Israeli journalists and analysts in Hajj congregation published photos and reports of their tours in Jeddah and Riyadh the capital. In a report they published on this trip, they claimed that they felt a dramatic change in the interaction between Saudi Arabia and Israel. These people have traveled to Saudi Arabia under the pretext of the Hajj but their goal is to get information about the religious places in Saudi Arabia and to get acquainted with the customs of the Wahhabis so that they can make the right decisions for future planning in Saudi Arabia. There have even been reports that the Israeli journalists traveled to Saudi Arabia to cover Biden’s visit of the kingdom, where the normalization of relations between Riyadh and Tel Aviv will probably be officially announced.

Also members of a Jewish organization, United Jewish Appeal (UJA), have made a tourist visit to Saudi Arabia, the first of the organization’s members. The planning and hosting the tour is undertaken by Mohammad Abdul Karim Al-Issa, the head of Muslim World League. A report suggested that with regard to the tremendous changes in the Arab-Israeli relations, these 13 people arrived in Saudi Arabia from the United States last week to get familiar with Islam and introduce Judaism to the Saudis. This is the first visit of the rabbis and Jewish religious leaders to the Arab kingdom. The Jewish-American organization was founded in 1939 on New York and until its merger with United Jewish Association in 1999, it was engaged in fund-raising campaigns for the Jews. This organization is the largest fund-raising organization in the world that supports the Jews in the Israeli regime and Zionism across the world. The number of Arab countries that normalized relations with Israel during the last two years as a result of the Abraham Accords is expected to increase.

The easy movement of Israelis to Saudi Arabia is a part of the project of normalizing relations that the Saudis have been following to win the favorable opinion of Tel Aviv in the last two years.

To show its affection and devotion to Tel Aviv, Saudi Arabia Arabia— under the pretext of not publicizing the Hajj ceremony— has been seeking to silence voices in the Muslim world opposed to giving the Israelis the freedom of movement to the Islam cradle. Saudi attorney general office recently announced that Hajj is a purely religious ceremony and sectarian and ethnic slogans are banned in it and the violators will be prosecuted and punished. It even increased its offices in the holy cities for tighter supervision of the Hajj worshipers. This instruction essentially targets “disengagement from polytheists” slogans that worshipers from various Muslim countries chant every year during Hajj. The chants include “death to Israel” and “death to America.” With majority of Muslims opposed to the normalization with Israel, such a Saudi policy serves to use the non-politicization of Hajj to silence Muslim protests against increasing visits of Israelis to Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia takes strict policies for non-politicized Hajj while in a contradictory move decreased Iran’s Hajj share, increased the costs of the travel for Iranian worshipers, and even obstructed visa issuance to the representative of the Iran’s Leader to Hajj affairs. During political crisis with Qatar, restrictive measures were taken against Qatari worshipers. The moves apparently prove that non-politicized Hajj policy is itself politicized.

Entrusting Hajj ceremony arrangement to Israel idolizers 

In addition to allowing Israelis in for religious acquaintance and normalization, Saudi Arabia this year entrusted arrangements for Hajj to people with closest ties to the Israelis. The authority of Masjid Al-Harram affairs said that it picked Ali-Issa, a member of Council of Senior Scholars, for the Day of Arafat sermon which marks the culmination of the Hajj ceremony. The Israelis were happy to hear the news as Al-Issa is a stooge for the Saudi ruling family and acts in line with normalization and Israeli interests in religious and propagandistic terms. According to media reports, naming Al-Issa for Hajj prayers cannot be regarded separate from Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s pro-normalization policy. At the same time, Al-Issa is striving to make the best conditions for upcoming Biden visit to the kingdom.

All these actions of the Saudis are carried out with the aim of getting closer to the Israeli regime and establishing diplomatic relations with Tel Aviv. The Saudis are upset that the UAE and Bahrain have overtaken them in normalization, and in order not to fall behind, they are resolved to finalize this project.

Saudi Arabia initiated normalization years ago and this is why it is silent to Israeli crimes against the Palestinians. It is, actually, following in footsteps of the UAE and Bahrain that after engaging in normalized relations with Tel Aviv supported its anti-Palestinian crimes and even accepted Al-Quds (Jerusalem) the capital of the so-called Jewish state. Mobilizing its forces to counter Iranian influence in the region, Saudi Arabia feels a need for partnership with the Israelis towards its goals. The alliance with the Israelis is vital for the Saudis especially as chances of revival of Iran nuclear deal are rising.

Preparing for Biden tour 

With the US President Joe Biden planning a visit to Saudi Arabia and then Israeli regime, the Saudis are trying to express their readiness for accepting the strategic goal behind his regional tour which is Arab-Israeli coalition making against Axis of Resistance, an alliance including Iran and its regional allies. An Israeli newspaper revealed recently that Saudi Arabia is mulling invitation of a senior Israeli official during or after Biden’s visit.

Over the past few weeks, Saudi Arabia opened its airspace to Israeli planes, and during a short period of time, several planes from Tel Aviv landed at Riyadh airport several times. These planes transport Israeli businessmen and security officials to Riyadh. Saudi Arabia has also allocated $2 billion for investment in the occupied territories to show its goodwill to the Tel Aviv leaders for normalization. In recent months, a number of Israeli businessmen traveled to the kingdom to invest in the Neom mega-city project. Therefore, the relationship between Riyadh and Tel Aviv, which started from economic aspect, is now politicized with the Hajj religious ceremony. Also, in recent days, Israeli officials announced their readiness to sell air defense batteries to Saudi Arabia to smooth the path for a thaw.

Saudi leaders have put aside considerations concerning their contacts with the Israeli regime and are openly preparing for normalization. There is only one step left to publicize their relations and it is Biden’s visit.


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