Why an Israeli Journalist Was Wrong to Visit Mecca

Earlier this month, Saudi Arabia allowed the first ever direct flight to the kingdom from Tel Aviv, and invited a delegation of Israeli reporters to cover President Biden’s visit. One of these journalists took the opportunity to travel to Mecca, Islam’s holiest city, and then circulated videos of himself there. Harold Rhode believes this “shameful” act will likely lead “Israel-Saudi relations to cool down” for the time being:

According to Islamic law, only Muslims are allowed to enter Mecca. Non-Muslims who violate this prohibition are seen as religiously contaminating the holy city, and are therefore punished severely. Whatever non-Muslims might think, Muslims do not see the world as non-Muslims do. It is therefore hard to explain in Western terms how serious this transgression is and the extent to which it will set back Israel-Saudi relations.

The Saudis do not have a free press and, like others in the Muslim world, have great difficulty accepting that Western governments cannot rein in their journalists. Even Muslims who know the West well often have difficulty understanding this.

Where does the above-mentioned Israeli-Jewish journalist who went to Mecca fit into this picture? To the best of our knowledge, he is a secular Jew who [perhaps] has little appreciation of the concept of holiness in any religion—including his own.

The Saudi rulers’ claim to fame in the Islamic world is that they protect Islam’s two holiest places—Mecca and Medina. To Muslims, it now looks as though Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman was unable to do so. This shames him and Saudi Arabia, thus undermining their claim to be protecting the holy cities. That’s how Muslims view what happened. Even worse, as the videos he filmed demonstrate, [the Israeli reporter] clearly had fun sneaking into Mecca. From a Muslim perspective, he and by extension all of Israel have undermined the Saudi regime.

Read more at JNS

More about: Islam, Israel-Arab relations, Journalism, Saudi Arabia

Hamas’s Hostage Diplomacy

Ron Ben-Yishai explains Hamas’s current calculations:

Strategically speaking, Hamas is hoping to add more and more days to the pause currently in effect, setting a new reality in stone, one which will convince the United States to get Israel to end the war. At the same time, they still have most of the hostages hidden in every underground crevice they could find, and hope to exchange those with as many Hamas and Islamic Jihad prisoners currently in Israeli prisons, planning on “revitalizing” their terrorist inclinations to even the odds against the seemingly unstoppable Israeli war machine.

Chances are that if pressured to do so by Qatar and Egypt, they will release men over 60 with the same “three-for-one” deal they’ve had in place so far, but when Israeli soldiers are all they have left to exchange, they are unlikely to extend the arrangement, instead insisting that for every IDF soldier released, thousands of their people would be set free.

In one of his last speeches prior to October 7, the Gaza-based Hamas chief Yahya Sinwar said, “remember the number one, one, one, one.” While he did not elaborate, it is believed he meant he wants 1,111 Hamas terrorists held in Israel released for every Israeli soldier, and those words came out of his mouth before he could even believe he would be able to abduct Israelis in the hundreds. This added leverage is likely to get him to aim for the release for all prisoners from Israeli facilities, not just some or even most.

Read more at Ynet

More about: Gaza War 2023, Hamas, Israeli Security