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A drama series telecast on the Saudi-controlled MBC during the holy month of Ramadan is being seen as a clear signal from Saudi Arabia about its growing ties with Israel, the Brussels Times said Tuesday.

The TV series, ‘Umm Haroun’ (mother of Aaron), begins with a long monologue in Hebrew, in which a Jewish character says “we are the Gulf Jews who were born in the Gulf lands.”

Although Saudi-Israeli, behind-the-scene parleys, have been an open secret for long, since Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, popularly known as MbS, took over as the de facto ruler the warming of ties between two bitter enemies of Iran has become quite obvious, according to the paper.

The first clear sign of rapprochement came when in 2018 in an interview to the US magazine The Atlantic, MbS said that Israelis are entitled to live peacefully on their own land, a complete U-turn from the stated Saudi policy that normalisation of relations hinges on an Israeli withdrawal from lands captured in the 1967 Middle East war – territory Palestinians seek for a future state, the Brussels Times said.

Haaretz commentator Zvi Bar’el

Haaretz, commentator Zvi Bar’el was quoted by the Brussels Times as saying, Saudi Arabia has emerged as Israel’s ‘dream state’. He says Israel has no better ally than Saudi Arabia. It fights Hezbollah and overthrew the Lebanese prime minister who had lived in peace with that organization for a year.

Bar’el further says it seems as if Saudi Arabia would be happy to have Israel join the “Sunni axis”. He says to be part of this new alliance, Israel may have to make some concession and does not see any harm in reviving the Saudi peace initiative, which calls for Arab normalization with Israel in return for withdrawing from the occupied Palestinian territories.

A quiet revolution is changing the Middle East

A revolution is taking place in the Arab world that is quietly moving the Middle East’s tectonic plates in ways no one ever thought possible, Ronald S. Lauder, is president of the World Jewish Congress, said in an article published by the Saudi newspaper, Arab News in May last.

The old broadside attacks against Israelis by almost all Arab countries have quietly dissipated and the evidence is as clear as the nightly television entertainment shows that people are watching, Lauder said adding:

“The Saudi satellite network MBC has challenged old taboos with a surprisingly positive depiction of Jews. “Um Haroun” is a fictionalized recounting of a Bahraini-Jewish woman who played a significant role in developing Bahraini midwifery. The series is set in an unnamed Arabian Gulf town in the 1940s, and it shows how Jews, Christians and Muslims lived together as one community in relative harmony.

“The show appears on Saudi television, and production involves Emiratis and Bahrainis. One of the consultants is a politician as well as the representative of the Bahraini Jewish community at the World Jewish Congress. This reality embodies huge progress and change on an international scale.

“One of the most popular references we heard were the times described in “Um Haroun,” when Muslims and Jews lived together as neighbors and friends. It’s amazing that a TV show has led to a constructive dialogue and bridge building.”

In February, King Salman stated that it was a religious duty for Islam’s adherents and Jewish people to know one another and cooperate for the good of society. This Ramadan, through “Um Haroun,” we see that the region is looking back to a neighborly era, a time when Jews were friends, not foes. This reality embodies amazing progress and change, the World Jewish Congress president concluded.

Historic perspective of Jewish-Muslim relations

In May last, the Saudi newspaper Arab News published a long interview of Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdul Karim Al-Issa, secretary-general of the Muslim World League, explaining Jewish-Muslim relations during Prophet Mohammad’s life time.

Quoting the Quran and hadith (sayings of Prophet Muhammad), Sheikh Al-Issa said: “It is permissible to engage in normal business and friendly relations with members of other faiths, including Jews, as was the case in the Prophet Muhammad’s time.”

Further endorsing relations with Jews, he said: “With our Jewish brothers, we concluded agreements and mutual cooperation, and we love them and respect them greatly, far from the problems of politics, as our principle is not to interfere in politics.”

Speaking on the alliance with the Jewish state, Sheikh Al-Issa quoted the famous Madinah Charter. Calling it as Prophet Muhammad’s signature achievement, he told the paper that the Madinah Charter was an example of Islam’s position on religious existence put into practice.

“The Prophet has signed the most important Islamic constitutional document, which is the Madinah Charter, which preserved religious and civil rights, as well as provided for Jews and others to live within Madinah in dignity as part of the ummah (community),” he said.

Sheikh Al-Issa said: “The neighbour of the prophet was a Jew, whom he visited and accepted his hospitality, and considered all the food of the Jews permissible for Muslims, permitted marriage to them, and built a family from a Jewish mother, and the Jewish community lived with Muslims in Madinah in peace.”

“In terms of winning and losing, Israel will be the biggest winner in any normalised relation with a country of Saudi Arabia’s size and status. I do not believe Saudi Arabia’s agendas will include taking advantage of this rapprochement to convince Israel of the need to resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict. Instead, Riyadh will comply with Tel Aviv’s position on the Palestinian issue, which the Israelis and Saudi leaders are well aware of,” according to Hassan Al-Brari of the Middle East Monitor.

Abdus Sattar Ghazali is the Chief Editor of the Journal of America (www.journalofamerica.net) email: asghazali2011 (@) gmail.com



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