Palestinians in the Muslim Quarter of Jerusalem's Old City attack Saudi blogger Mohammed Saud, who is in Israel on a rare visit by Arab media personalities. (Courtesy)

Saudi Journalists Back Blogger Attacked in Jerusalem amid Controversy

While many have condemned Mohammed Saud for visiting the Jewish state, others throughout the region have come to his defense

[New York] When Saudi blogger Mohammed Saud made a short visit to the al-Aqsa Mosque earlier this week, he likely had no inclination that the ensuing ordeal would quickly make headlines across the entire Arab world.

Video showed worshippers atop the Temple Mount, known to Muslims as the Harim al-Sharif, spitting at Saud and shouting obscenities at him. Thereafter, while walking through the narrow alleyways of the Muslim Quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City, the 29-year-old was suddenly surrounded by a mob of Palestinians who assaulted him and accused him of treason for his decision to visit the Jewish state at the behest of the Israeli government.

“May all of the children of Palestine spit on you!” members of the mob yelled, as they hurled plastic chairs, shoes and other objects at Saud. “Go back to where you came from, you and Bin Salman the traitor,” they screamed while referencing Mohammad Bin Salman, the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, who has made supportive remarks about Israel including that Jews have a right “to their own homeland” in the Middle East.

Touring Israel as a part of a small delegation of six reporters from the Arab world, Saud, a law student at the King Saud University in Riyadh, was instantaneously transformed into a much-talked-about – and divisive – social media figure.

“His decision to visit Israel is a declaration of love and support for the Zionist entity,” claimed Ibtisam al-Saad, a Qatari journalist writing for the pro-government daily newspaper Al-Sharq.

“Thank you from the bottom of my heart to every Palestinian child who attacked and insulted the dog Mohammed Saud,” Kuwaiti blogger Ahmed al-Maimoni posted to social media.

Egyptian Mahmoud Refaat described the trip as a “reflect[ion of] the widening gap between the Arab leadership, which aligns itself with Israel and America, and the Arab people, who oppose this relationship.”

Youssef Skafi, the Palestinian youth who instigated the attack, was declared a hero by commentators across the region. Photos depicting the 6-year-old East Jerusalem resident appeared on multiple social media accounts, together with a caption celebrating the younger generation of Palestinians who are committed to continuing “the battle for the liberation of the Palestinian homeland.”

The widespread rage over Saud’s actions began a day earlier, when in an interview with Israeli military radio he publicly affirmed that “the Israeli people resemble his own people,” adding that “Israelis are like his family.” The blogger also expressed pride in having learned Hebrew on his own accord by listening to Israeli music and sermons of Israel-based, ultra-Orthodox Rabbi Amnon Yitzhak.

Amid the heated rhetoric related to Saud’s visit, there were, by contrast, those who stood by the blogger. “Despite my rejection of Saud’s actions, I am surprised by the rude Palestinian behavior,” said Ibrahim Suleiman, another journalist working in Saudi Arabia. “Even when we disagree with others, we must not forget our compassion and our morals,” he tweeted.

Muhammad al-Sheikh, another well-known Saudi reporter, placed the blame on the Palestinian Authority. Shortly after the attack, Al-Sheikh ran an online poll to gauge how his followers would feel about Riyadh cutting aid to the PA until such time that Saud’s attackers were arrested.

Over 70 percent of respondents called on the kingdom’s rulers to punish the Palestinian leadership.

Similarly, Abdulhameed Al-Ghubain, a prominent Saudi journalist, expressed outraged over Saud’s physical harassment. “I have defended Palestine and the Palestinian people for many years and lost many professional and financial opportunities by doing so,” he wrote online.

“I believed their struggle was just, but I was blind to the fact that the Palestinians are the real problem of the Arab nation: we must get rid of them in any way possible,” al-Ghubain continued. “Only then will 500 million Arabs move beyond their internal divisions. We must encourage Israel to expel them back to their real homeland, Jordan. That’s their rightful place.”

While Saud has not publicly responded to the controversy, his most recent social media post, dated July 22, included a forward-looking message in support of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu ahead of Israel’s September 17 national elections.

A deeper dig into Saud’s online presence reveals that he has frequently tweeted about Israeli politics, describing Netanyahu as a “courageous leader” and “brilliant statesman.”

These posts were retweeted by none other than the Israeli premier’s son, Yair Netanyahu, who may have helped pave the way for Saud’s visit to the Holy Land.

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