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Saudi Press: Stop Antisemitic Discourse, Learn From Jews’ Success

MEMRI has translated a number of articles in the Saudi press calling on Muslims to put aside their Anti-Semitism and learn from the Jews’ success. These articles appeared on the backdrop of a heated debate in Saudi Arabia over the issue of normalizing relations with Israel, which erupted after a July 2016 visit to Israel by a Saudi delegation. The publication of Saudi articles attacking antisemitic discourse specifically at this time is no coincidence, and is likely meant to lay the groundwork for normalized relations with Israel.

Among these articles:

Saudi columnist Siham Al-Qahtani rejected antisemitic generalizations regarding the nature of the Jews. She argued that Koranic descriptions of Jews – as killers of prophets, infidels, warmongers, and usurers – apply to a particular group that lived during a specific time period, and that the traditional view that blames disasters throughout history on Jewish plots stems from the helplessness of Arabs, who searched for scapegoats on whom to blame their own failures.“I do not reject [out of hand] the notion of 'a Jewish plot against the Arabs,' because I believe that such a plot does exist, but such plots could not have been realized without the ignorance of Arabs, their improper attitude, and the division in their ranks. The chief enemy of Arabs is Arabs [themselves].”

After explaining that Muslims have been taught in schools, mosques, the media and the Koran as being the devil incarnate and responsible for the sins of all mankind, Saudi columnist Yasser Hijazi goes on to say: 

“We can certainly find Israelis and Jews, as well as Jewish institutions, who stand for Palestinian rights and against Israel… but on the other hand, we cannot find an Arab who absolves the Jews – who are a people… like any other people – of all the inhumanly negative titles that have been applied to them, and no people on earth can be accused of what the Jews are accused of. Who will begin to accept the humane notion of absolving people and their institutions of responsibility for a religious-historic struggle? Who will begin to recognize the errors [that have been made] regarding the rights of the other? We must eradicate the remnants of racism and religious ethnic struggles embedded in our cultural, religious, and institutional discourse. This will be a step on the path towards coexistence with the world.

“Just as we oppose the discourse of [Donald] Trump and Western and European racists like him, when they attribute terrorism to all Arab Muslims due to the actions of a minority of our people, we cannot attribute despicable traits to all members of [other] religions merely due to the existence of hostility and a struggle with some of them…

in his column in the Al-Riyadh daily, Dr. Ibrahim Al-Matroudi called for overcoming the hostility towards the Jews and for benefiting from their experience and successes:

“…Hatred blinds and unbalances the individual. Those who hate harvest bitter fruits, in the form of loss of the ability to learn from their rivals … because anyone who does not benefit from his enemy in this world will ultimately be forced to leave it, to wallow on its margins, and to gaze nostalgically at the ruins of the past.

“Imagine that some of your people, once under your control, have, a few decades later, become world leaders. What would you think about that? Would you say, 'they are demons, they are devils' – or would you look at their way of life and examine their customs in order to learn how they got to where they are and became leaders?

“This is a nation that nearly went extinct but nevertheless [managed to] preserve its heritage, values, and ideals. Don't we need to learn something and look closely at [this nation's] modern history?

“The Jews in the modern era – not to mention in the past – have known harassment by all the countries of the world. This is a nation that was isolated and distanced from life, but that has remained alive and alert, and has continued to build its future, and its sons have reached the top of the pyramid in science, philosophy, and economics… 

“Can we benefit from the roadmap of the Jews, whose beginning was unfortunate but which ultimately turned [the Jews] into a nation that preoccupies us and frightens us all the time? 

The situation of the Jewish nation shames us more than [that of] any other nation. We ignore the fact that it lives well and advances, and that it participates in shaping global culture. How has this nation achieved what we cannot achieve, despite the great difference between us and them in everything – in numbers, in geographic area, and in national resources…[?]”

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