DECEMBER 9, 2022
Saudi Arabia News

Saudi Arabia clamps down on criticism of Israel: Report

Saudi Arabia clamps down on criticism of Israel: Report

Arrests of Saudi citizens over social media posts related to the Israeli genocide in Gaza have markedly increased in recent months, as Riyadh is reportedly concerned that “Iran and Islamist groups could exploit the conflict to incite a wave of uprisings,” according to people familiar with the matter who spoke with Bloomberg.

Recent arrests include “an executive with a company involved in the kingdom’s Vision 2030 economic transformation plan,” who reportedly expressed views on Gaza deemed “incendiary,” an unnamed media figure who said “Israel should never be forgiven,” and a citizen who called for the boycott of US fast food chains in the kingdom.

According to one of Bloomberg's sources, over the past six months, there has been a “significant increase” in the number of prisoners entering a maximum-security prison south of Riyadh. The New York-based publication says this account was corroborated by diplomats in the Saudi capital and human rights organizations who have tracked a “spike in social media-related arrests” since 7 October.

“The Saudi arrests for Gaza-related posts indicate Prince [Mohammed bin Salman's] regime will take a hard line against citizens not toeing the line when it comes to normalizing ties with Israel,” Bloomberg reports.

In a visit to the Gulf kingdom on Monday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that intensive work has recently been done toward a Saudi–Israel normalization deal, which he said is “potentially very close to completion.”

Nevertheless, on Wednesday, the Guardian reported that Riyadh has devised a “more modest” defense pact with Washington as authorities prepare to move past Israeli normalization over Tel Aviv's intransigence regarding the formation of an independent Palestinian state and their determination to assault Gaza's southernmost city of Rafah.

The British daily described this “Plan B” as a joint US–Saudi effort to “contain Iranian expansionism and [as part of] Washington’s ‘great-power competition,’ particularly with China.”

Moreover, Israeli media on Thursday cited a source in the Saudi royal family as saying that the kingdom sent a message to Tel Aviv stating that any military operation in Rafah “would be a big mistake and would push normalization between the two parties away.”

“Riyadh will appear as a traitorous country in that case,” the Israeli report adds, as Saudi leaders reportedly believe “Saudi Arabia will not be able to normalize relations with Israel if there is no Palestinian state.”

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