Palestinians drive Saudi man out of Al-Aqsa Mosque compound

Mohammed Saud was part of an Arab delegation hosted by the Israeli foreign ministry, the first visit of its kind.

A Saudi man visiting the Al-Aqsa Mosque Mosque compound in occupied East Jerusalem as part of an Israeli-sponsored trip has been driven out of the site by Palestinians, who accused him of normalisation.

Wearing his traditional Gulf Arab clothing, Mohammed Saud was recorded on Monday being chased out of the Old City of Jerusalem as Palestinians threw plastic chairs and hurled insults at him, accusing him of being a traitor and a Zionist.

Social media users circulated the videos using the Arabic hashtag “Saudi kicked out of Jerusalem“.

Arab normalisation with Israel is largely regarded as taboo, as it involves the recognition of the Israeli state and occupation at the expense of Palestinians.

Saud, whose Twitter page says he is a law student, was in the city as part of a six-member Arab delegation of journalists officially hosted by the Israeli foreign ministry in the first visit of its kind.

The foreign ministry’s Twitter page in Arabic said that the delegation, which in addition to Saud included journalists from the United Arab Emirates, Iraq, Egypt, and Jordan, “will visit the Holocaust Museum, the Knesset and holy sites in Jerusalem“.

“The delegation will hold meetings with Knesset members and diplomats as well as embark on a tour of the country,” the ministry added.

Egypt and Jordan are the only Arab states to have diplomatic relations with Israel.

In a statement on Monday, the Palestinian Journalists Syndicate strongly condemned the visit, underlining that “the Arab journalists’ federation rejects all types and kinds of normalisation with the Zionist enemy”.

The Iraqi press syndicate also denounced the visit, saying it would take measures against any members visiting Israel.

‘I love Israel’

The foreign ministry said that in an interview with Israeli army radio Galatz, Saud stated that the “Israeli people are similar to mine, they are like my family”.

“I love Israel,” Saud was quoted as saying, “and it was always my dream to visit Jerusalem”.

In his Twitter bio, Saud wrote “Only Bibi” in Hebrew, referring to the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. His posts mostly consist of retweeting Netanyahu and the prime minister’s son, Yair.

Emmanuel Nahshon, the Israeli foreign ministry spokesman, said on Twitter on Sunday that the presence of the Arab delegation is a sign of building “bridges for peace”.

The visit follows a warming of ties from several Gulf Arab states towards Israel. Last week, the foreign ministers of both Israel and Bahrain held a public meeting in the US, marking the first such event to openly take place between a Gulf country and Israel.

A Bahraini delegation visited Jerusalem in December 2017, which came at a time of protests in the occupied Palestinian territories over Trump’s controversial decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

The visit was condemned by world leaders, including Bahrain’s foreign ministry which issued a statement saying the move “threatens the peace process in the Middle East and impedes all initiatives and negotiations” towards a lasting solution.



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