King Abdulaziz archives reveal film about Saudi Army in Palestine

A screenshot of the documentary about Saudi Arabia's participation in 1948 war in Palestine. (Photo source: Twitter)
Updated 27 December 2017

King Abdulaziz archives reveal film about Saudi Army in Palestine

JEDDAH: The King Abdulaziz Foundation for Research and Archives (Darah) has released a documentary, “The Call of Nobility,” about the Saudi Army in Palestine in 1948.
The film was published on the foundation’s official YouTube channel and announced on its official account in Twitter.
It tells the story of Saudi Arabia’s role in the Palestine issue and its participation with the Arab forces to save Palestine from the Zionist occupation in 1948, where the Saudis performed well and a number of them died.
The film includes interviews and meetings with Saudi and Arab historians and writers, and with Saudis who shared their memories about their participation in the 1948 war.
King Abdul Aziz had a keen interest in the Palestinian issue and had been a supporter of it and was aware of its importance from the very beginning, according to Yousef Al-Thaqafi, a Saudi historian and writer.
“King Abdul Aziz played a role in the diplomatic field to support the Palestinian issue,” he said. “He sent messages to Western politicians reminding them of the principles of the Atlantic Charter issued during World War II and agreed upon by Western countries. In order to gain their support he reminded them of its principles which say; no territorial changes should be made against the wishes of the people, and people have the right of self-determination and freedom.”
He added, “King Abdul Aziz also focused in his diplomatic efforts to referring to the stages of the relationship between the Palestinians and the Jews and the clarity of the Palestinians’ right to the land of Palestine.”
The start was in Syria, where soldiers gathered in Qatana near Damascus and received their military training then moved to the land of battle in Palestine. Saudi Arabia’s military contribution was not limited to the national army but included many Saudi volunteers. King Abdul Aziz opened the door to volunteer to save Palestine at the invitation of the Arab League.
Ibrahim Al-Otaibi, one of the first participants in the 1948 war, said: “When the Saudi soldiers decided to participate in the war, they arrived in Palestine on foot. They met with Saudi representatives who directed them to join the Palestinian leader Abdul Qader Husseini. Holding the Saudi flag, we fought and were able to liberate the village of Malikya and then we went to the village of Saasa in Lebanon and then Ramah, and then the village of SHajjra, and we were able to achieve victory.”

Ali Majid Qabban, a retired general, explained that the Saudi forces were composed of two war brigades and were assigned to defend Gaza City along with the Egyptian forces, in a strategic location called Tabab Al-Mentar, east of Gaza City. The forces were stationed there to attack Jewish settlements on the road that links Gaza to the city of Majdal in the north.
Brig. Fayez Al-Asmari, another participant in the war, said, “The Arab soldiers were in control until the war was stopped because of the truce. Were it not for the truce that was imposed on the Arab forces, we would have prevailed. We were not satisfied with the truce because we were in control, and we assure our love for the land of Palestine and its people.”
Ali Kurdi, a retired general said, “I wrote to my father in Ramadan that we will have our Eid in Tel Aviv, we were victorious, the Jews could not defeat us, they did not have an organized army since they were extremist armed gangs, called ‘Haganah’.”
The number of Saudi volunteers was 513, 134 of whom were killed, including 34 who were seriously wounded, and 130 who received medals from the king.
After the truce the Zionist forces were able to get support from different sides, and more Jewish migrants arrived, many were well trained, and the Arab role toward the issue began to decline after negotiations began on the Greek island of Rhodes with the United Nations mediating between Israel and Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan and Syria.
The four Armistice agreements were signed between Feb. 24 and July 20 1949, during which the Green Line was established.
The King Abdulaziz Foundation for Research and Archives explained on its official Twitter account that it would continue to publish videos, photos and documents on the participation of Saudi Arabia in the Palestinian cause.


Saudi pursuit of ‘green Kingdom’ goal gets a boost

Updated 18 November 2019

Saudi pursuit of ‘green Kingdom’ goal gets a boost

  • Agreement between agriculture ministry and Dubai's ICBA aimed at conserving natural resources
  • Kingdom's biosaline agriculture research and systems stands to benefit from ICBA's expertise

DUBAI: Agricultural development and environmental sustainability in Saudi Arabia will receive a boost in the coming years, thanks to a new agreement between the International Center for Biosaline Agriculture (ICBA) in Dubai and the Saudi Ministry of Environment, Water and Agriculture.

The agreement aims to enable Saudi Arabia to achieve its goal of preservation and sustainable management of its natural resources by raising the quality of biosaline agriculture research and systems.

The ministry says that the agreement will make use of the ICBA’s expertise in capacity development besides agricultural and environmental research, especially in the fields of vegetation development, combating desertification and climate change adaptation.

“It also includes training programs for Saudi technicians and farmers,” the ministry said. “In addition, it will localize, implement and develop biosaline agriculture research and production systems for both crops and forestation, which contributes to environmental and agricultural integration.”

Dr. Ismahane Elouafi, the ICBA’s director general, told Arab News: “The agreement had been in the making for about two years. That was when we were approached by the Saudi government.”

Dr. Ismahane Elouafi, ICBA Director General, at the center's Quinoa fields in Dubai. (Supplied photo)

She said: “We put forward a proposal to demonstrate how the ICBA can help the Saudi government to implement its Green Kingdom Initiative, through which the ministry is trying to restore green coverage in the country and revive old conservation practices.”

Geographical features and climatic conditions very greatly from one part of the country to the other.

In the past, experimentation with such crops as potatoes, wheat and alfalfa proved detrimental to the Kingdom’s environment and natural resources due to faster rates of groundwater withdrawal.

“The ministry wanted to put a halt to over-abstraction of water, so they went through different policies,” Elouafi said.

“They made sure, for example, that farmers stopped producing wheat because about 2,400 liters of water is consumed to produce 1 kg of wheat. It was a huge amount,” she added.

“The new strategy is to find more appropriate crops for the farming community, which is quite large in the Kingdom.”

Saudi Arabia has been trying to grow its own food on a large scale since the 1980s. 

The objective of the Green Kingdom Initiative is to reduce the agricultural sector’s water demand by finding alternatives to thirsty crops.

The agreement will require the ICBA, over the next five years, to build for Saudi Arabia a new biosaline agriculture sector. 

As part of this shift, cultivation of a number of crops, notably quinoa, pearl millet and sorghum, will be piloted in high-salinity regions and then scaled up.

“The crops did very well in the UAE,” Elouafi said. “We’re looking at Sabkha regions, which have very high salinity and wetlands, and are on the ministry’s environmental agenda.”

Another objective is “smart” agriculture, which will involve raising water productivity, controlling irrigation water consumption and changing farming behavior.

Elouafi said that getting farmers in the Kingdom to stop cultivating wheat took some time as they had become accustomed to heavy government subsidies. In 2015, wheat production was phased out, followed by potatoes a year later and then alfalfa. 

“Farmers were provided everything to the point where they got used to a very good income and a very easy system,” she said.

“Now farmers are being asked to start producing something else, but the income won’t be the same, so it’s very important at this stage that the ministry has a plan and it’s fully understood.”

The agreement envisages preparation of proposals for ministry projects that involve plant production, drought monitoring, development of promising local crop and forestation varieties, and conservation of plant genetic resources.

“We’re also discussing capacity building because the ministry is big and has many entities. Because Saudi Arabia is a large country and has the capacity to meet some of its food requirements internally, what’s required is a better understanding of the country’s natural capabilities in terms of production of the crops it needs, like certain cereals,” Elouafi said.

“The way the authorities are going about it right now is more organized and more holistic. They’re trying to plan it properly.”

Elouafi said that having a better understanding of Saudi Arabia’s water constraints and managing the precious resource is essential.

 

Although almost the entire country is arid, there is rainfall in the north and along the mountain range to the west, especially in the far southwest, which receives monsoon rains in summer.

 

Sporadic rain may also occur elsewhere. Sometimes it is very heavy, causing serious flooding, including in Riyadh.

“They (the government) are very interested in drought management systems. The Kingdom has a long history of agriculture,” Elouafi said.

“It has large quantities of water in terms of rainfall, and certain regions have mountainous conditions, which are conducive to agriculture.”

Clearly, preservation of water resources is a priority for the Saudi government. But no less urgent is the task of conversion of green waste to improve soil quality, increase soil productivity and water retention, and reduce demand for irrigation.

The Kingdom is one of at least three Gulf Cooperation Council countries that are taking steps to develop a regulatory framework for the recycling of waste into compost.

Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Oman are respectively aiming to recycle 85 percent, 75 percent and 60 percent of their municipal solid waste over the next decade, according to a report by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) entitled “Global Food Trends to 2030.”

Saudi Arabia and the UAE rank in the bottom quartile of the 34 countries covered by the EIU’s Food Sustainability Index, with low scores for nutrition and food loss and waste. 

The answer, according to many farmers, policymakers and food-industry experts, is a shift toward more sustainable management of each country’s natural resources.