[OPINION] The idiots guide to the silence of Saudi regarding Palestinians
This week, an estimated 60 Palestinian protestors were killed in Gaza by Israeli troops. The inhumane attack on innocent protestors at the Gaza border fence occurred at the same time as the high-profile ceremony of the new US Embassy in Jerusalem (the embassy was transferred from Tel Aviv), a massive move in US foreign policy and an even bigger signifier of US/Israeli relations.
The killings were condemned internationally with several protests occurring in many countries, including South Africa. The UN issued a statement calling the attack an “outrageous human rights violation”. Ireland summoned their ambassador in Israel to protest as well, while South Africa pulled out of the country almost immediately.
The US, under Trump, who continues to cozy up to the Israeli government, refuses to conduct a full investigation. No amount of photographs or blood spilt could tear the president away from his loyalty to the people of Israel. Bodies lay strewn, shot down by snipers on the Gaza border while Trump proclaimed that very day a “great day”.
The US has traditionally played an intermediation type of role between Israeli and Palestinian tensions, but the move of the embassy sees that role shift from mediator in the middle to a very firm “Make Israel Great Again” stance. Posters with these slogans can even be seen in Jerusalem, with several American flags hanging on various buildings.
It seems as though the search party for a peace deal in the historically contentious holy city, under constant scrutiny and negotiation, has come to full halt with blood-soaked hands and lethal violence. Trump went so far as to say, “Jerusalem is off the table”, and hands shook in agreement underneath a table laced with promises made of economic investment, weapon sales and all at the cost of one of the biggest attacks the unarmed Palestinian people have faced yet.
But where is Saudi and why are they silent? Is a question that lines the lips of many a Muslim globally and the answer is complex, but also quite simple.
US relations with Saudi are often touch and go (think 9/11, with due respect) but at the moment, they’re more go.
The US is currently in talks with the new Saudi prince to pour a lot of money into the kingdom, increase job creation, improve technology and education and modernise Saudi as a whole. In exchange? A raised profile for Jerusalem by the Crown Prince himself - Mohammed bin Salman who is also, the kingdom’s defence minister. You do the math. #Justsaying.
How do you raise the profile of Jerusalem without offending any Muslims, thereby maintaining a multi-billion dollar “tourism” industry? Well, you don’t say a word. Almost…
In March, during an extensive tour of the US that included a visit to the White House, the Crown Prince was silent in almost every interview when asked about the state of affairs in Israel, except… when he blurted out a few things in an interview with US magazine The Atlantic.
He publicly declared the Jewish people’s right to a nation-state. A rare, rare stance and public declaration by an Arab Muslim leader from what is probably the most conservative Islamic country in the world - in support for an area so steeped in Jewish history.
But over and above unilateral declarations, the kingdom also expressed an interest in purchasing antimissile systems from Israel to stop attacks by Iran in Yemen. The deeper you dig into the complexities of these relations, the more you realise that closed doors breed conversations of war, weapons and wealth and very, very little on the subject of peace, anti-semitism, anti-islamophobia and while we’re at it, a potential fair and just two-state system. Maybe? So what’s changed and why the sudden stance by the Saudis? It’s kind of obvious, but again, you do the math.
(And of course, credit for diplomacy where it’s due, the Crown Prince finished blurting with, “I believe that each people, anywhere, has a right to live in their peaceful nation. I believe the Palestinians and the Israelis have the right to have their own land.”)
Meanwhile, back in some mosque in South Africa or anywhere else in the world really, the Uluma continues to wax lyrical about the intricate inner workings of a war and a religious right to land that goes as far back as Solomon and then, of course, the actual date, centuries later – 1948. When the termination of the British mandate over Palestine ignited a full-fledged war.
But the doors to a mosque, or a Muslim community as whole for that matter, are no different to the ones at the White House or any “house” of international relations really. They too whisper words of worship when it comes to perhaps not war (directly) but definitely wealth, and year upon year, Saudi Arabia’s economy enjoys billions in profits for all the Muslims who visit on the Hajj and Umrah package.
The cost of a low-income household in a country like Bangladesh to go on the pilgrimage, by the way, can be up to three year’s worth of a salary, according to data released by the World Bank last year.
Every year two million people (and increasing year on year) will see Saudi rake in upwards of $150 billion by 2022, according to experts. Meanwhile, at home, when they’re not feeding the Saudi economy and their “deals”, Muslims hashtag Palestine. Because “what else can we do but pray and… tweet”. Well, for a start, I suggest, you just stop going. It’s simple, but it’s something. Again, you do the math.
Haji Mohamed Dawjee is a South African columnist, disruptor of the peace and the author of 'Sorry, Not Sorry: Experiences of a brown woman in a white South Africa'. Follow her on Twitter.