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Saudi Arabia reportedly cracking down on anti-Israel voices

The series of arrests is driven by security concerns connected to Oct. 7, according to Riyadh-based diplomats and human rights groups.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken meets with Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia March 21, 2024. Credit: Chuck Kennedy/U.S. State Department.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken meets with Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia March 21, 2024. Credit: Chuck Kennedy/U.S. State Department.

As the war between Israel and Hamas drags on, Saudi Arabia is intensifying arrests of citizens for social media posts criticizing Israel or expressing pro-Palestinian views, according to Bloomberg.

The wave of detentions signals Riyadh’s eagerness to pursue diplomatic ties with Israel—provided it commits to Palestinian statehood—and its determination to quash any dissent that could derail normalization efforts, per the reports.

However, the crackdown underscores Saudi Arabia’s broader restrictions on free speech and political expression. Riyadh-based diplomats and human rights groups state that the latest series of arrests are driven by security concerns distinctly connected to the deadly Oct. 7 Hamas invasion of Israel and the events that unfolded in its wake, to prevent online rhetoric that could impact national security.

The arrests have targeted individuals whose online comments about the Gaza war were deemed incendiary by authorities, even if the posts were over a decade old.

Those detained, Bloomberg says, include an executive involved in the kingdom’s Vision 2030 economic plan, a media figure who stated Israel should never be forgiven and someone calling for a boycott of American fast-food chains.

Saudi Arabia has strongly condemned Israel’s military actions in Gaza, calling for an immediate ceasefire. However, the kingdom has also signaled a willingness to pursue warmer relations with Israel.

The arrest of Saudi citizens for posts related to Gaza suggests that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s government will crack down on dissenting voices that do not align with the official stance on normalizing ties with Israel.

The latter is an initiative that Saudi Arabia had been pursuing in coordination with the United States prior to the events of Oct. 7, which appear to have thrown a wrench into those plans.

This story first appeared in Israel Hayom.

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