RIYADH: Ambassador Deborah Lipstadt, US special envoy to monitor and combat antisemitism, expressed her delight to be in the Kingdom and said that she deliberately chose Saudi Arabia as her first foreign visit to help generate dialogue and normalize the coexistence of Muslims and Jews.
“I'm overwhelmed by the changes the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is undertaking. You have got a long road, but you are certainly working down that road,” she told Arab News.
Lipstadt was talking on the sidelines of a roundtable discussion held at the Arab News headquarters in Riyadh, where the history of antisemitism and her work confronting it was discussed.
She focused on acknowledging her country’s past shortcomings and hoped that this trip would help start repairing the previous hostile viewpoint of Jews in the region.
She believed the newer generations were actively changing and shifting perspectives, which is something she admired.
The roundtable was moderated by Arab News Assistant Editor-in-Chief Noor Nugali and attended by Adel Al-Harbi, a prominent Saudi media adviser, Saudi columnist Noor Abdullah, and communications consultant and founder of SMZ International Group Sarah Elzeini.
Journalists from Arab News who attended included Nada Al-Turki and Arkan Al-Adnani, as well as members of the visiting delegation from the US embassy in Riyadh.
Lipstadt also met Arab News Editor-in-Chief Faisal Abbas and conducted a tour of the newsroom, where she met journalists and editors on staff and was briefed on the newspaper’s own efforts in combating hate speech and promoting religious tolerance.
“I've seen some of the work you've done (at Arab News), the covers, the Minority report: The Jews of Lebanon. You're putting the Hebrew greeting for the new year ‘Shana Tova’ on your front page. That's unimaginable,” she said. “My country is not perfect; your country is not perfect. We have a long way to go, but what I've seen here certainly at Arab News is a great beginning.”
For his part, Abbas welcomed Lipstadt and her accompanying delegation and lauded her remarkable career in standing up against antisemitism.
“We are delighted to receive a guest of the caliber and accomplishments of Ambassador Deborah Lipstadt visit our headquarters in Riyadh, and we are keen to have more such interactions and offer any insight she and her team might need toward this noble cause, which falls in line with the huge reforms we are witnessing in our country,” said Abbas.
Prior to Lipstadt’s visit to the Kingdom, she met the Saudi ambassador to the US Princess Reema Bint Bandar in Washington, where they discussed “Saudi Arabia's meaningful strides in promoting peace, tolerance, and interfaith dialogue.”
This is Lipstadt’s first international trip since assuming her role in April 2022. The 11-day trip will include dialogue with senior government and civil society in Saudi Arabia, Israel, and the UAE.
Her engagements during this tour aim to emphasize the need for interfaith understanding and religious tolerance, as well as to combat distrust and anti-Jewish sentiment.
Arab News will publish an in-depth interview with her tomorrow.