Saudi Arabia has launched a media campaign to combat anti-Semitism, paving the way for public opinion to accept the kingdom’s burgeoning ties with Israel.
Ehud Yaari, a senior analyst from Israel’s Channel 2 television station, said that a litany of recent articles by Saudi columnists and reporters demonstrate a shift in attitudes towards the Jewish state and Jews in general.
Saham al-Kahtani, a famous Saudi columnist, wrote that the description of Jews in the Quran as the sons of apes and pigs relates to the period in which Islam’s holiest book was written, and should not be used in reference to Jews today.
Yasser Hijazi, a columnist at the influential paper Al-Riyadh, claimed that Arabs must “abandon Judeophobia” and “leave behind their hostility and hatred of Jews.” In one of his articles, Hijazi noted that he had been raised to believe that Jews were the source of all evil in the world and such attitudes had “robbed” Arabs, making them incapable of seeing Jews as individuals.
Ibrahim el-Matroudi was quoted as saying that Saudis and other Arab nations are too preoccupied with “cursing out the Jews instead of drawing benefits from studying their success.”
Writing in the influential Saudi-owned pan-Arab website Al Arabiya, Ahmed Adnan argued that the Saudis should speak to Israel with their own national interests in mind, and without bringing in mediators.
The thaw in Saudi-Israeli relations is primarily the result of the U.S.-led nuclear agreement signed between Iran and the world powers. Both Israel and Saudi Arabia are apprehensive about the deal.
Last month, Dr. Anwar Eshki, a retired Saudi general, sparked outrage by heading a delegation of academics and businessmen on a visit to Israel. Both Eshki and the Saudi royal family said the visit was not sanctioned by the kingdom.
The delegation is said to have met in Jerusalem with Foreign Ministry Director-General Dore Gold and other ministry officials, such as the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories Maj.-Gen. Yoav Mordechai.
Eshki and his team also reportedly held a meeting north of Jerusalem near Ramallah with several Knesset members from the opposition. One of the goals was to encourage dialogue on the Saudi-led Arab Peace Initiative that would see normalization between Israel and the Arab states if a peace deal is signed with the Palestinians.
In April, Breitbart Jerusalem reported Eshki’s claim that Saudi Arabia will open an embassy in Israel if Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accepts the Arab Peace Initiative.