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Karim Traboulsi

Saudi columnist Siham al-Qahtani mocks boycott of Israel

Arab public opinion remains opposed to ties with Israel as long as occupation continues [GETTY]

Date of publication: 28 January, 2019

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A Saudi columnist has mocked supporters of the BDS movement targeting Israeli occupation, saying it is time for Arabs to have 'normal relations' with the Jewish state.
A Saudi columnist has mocked supporters of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement (BDS) and called for Arabs to normalise relations with Israel. 

"Emotional slogans like 'normalisation with Israel is a scandal, disgrace or a crime' are now obsolete," Siham al-Qahtani, a columnist with Saudi daily newspaper Al-Jazirah, tweeted from her account on Sunday, not to be confused with the Doha-based broadcaster.

"Israel is reality, and our (Saudis) failure to recognise it... will not change reality... there are always new beginnings for history," she added.

Saudi Arabia and Israel have no official relations - like much of the Arab world - However, unofficial relations between them are burgeoning behind close doors.

Saudi officials are known to secretly meet with Israeli counterparts, Riyadh-affiliated media have interviewed Israeli leaders, while Saudis have made friendly gestures towards Tel Aviv.

Riyadh is also known to have collaborated indirectly with Israel during the Cold War, when communism and Arab nationalism were seen as a common threat.

Today, both countries see Iran as their biggest outside threat and Donald Trump's administration as a key ally.

In April, during an interview with The Atlantic, Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman said Israel had a "right" to a homeland. The crown prince also reportedly said Palestinians should accept a peace deal with Israel or "shut up".

Saudi Arabia and Israel have no official relations, like much of the Arab world. However, unofficial relations between them are burgeoning behind close doors.

Siham al-Qahtani, who has in the past called for reinterpreting passages in the Quran seen as anti-semitic, triggered immediate backlash with her new remarks.

"Odd... Malaysia refuses to host a Zionist team costing it the hosting rights for a sports championship... but we Arabs are calling for normalising ties with them," Ayman Salah tweeted back, in reference to Kuala Lumpur's boycott of an Israeli athletic team.

Others reminded her of the Israeli occupation's brutal record against the Palestinian people, millions of whom live under direct Israeli military occupation, blockade or were forced into generational exile since the creation of Israel in 1948 and subsequent wars with the Arab states.

Although a number of Arab regimes have sought to normalise ties with Israel in recent years, most of the Arab street see any such moves as taboo, as long as Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories continues.

"No one is denying Israel is a reality... but the reality is that it is a criminal entity," wrote Dr. Mohammed Yasser.

"Only wicked souls would want to have ties with such an entity." 

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