Saudi Arabia open to interfaith dialogue to combat religious intolerance, says US Special envoy to combat and monitor antisemitism

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Updated 30 June 2022

Saudi Arabia open to interfaith dialogue to combat religious intolerance, says US Special envoy to combat and monitor antisemitism

Saudi Arabia open to interfaith dialogue to combat religious intolerance, says US Special envoy to combat and monitor antisemitism
  • Historian and Holocaust scholar "encouraged" by the Kingdom's openness to interfaith dialogue 
  • Palestine-Israel conflict has led to misunderstanding and animosity between Jews and Muslims 

RIYADH: Ambassador Deborah Lipstadt, US special envoy to monitor and combat antisemitism, said in an interview with Arab News that openness and honesty when addressing important topics such as antisemitism or hate of Muslims is how change can happen.

Repeatedly confronted by real-world antisemitism, she is perhaps best known for the libel suit filed against her, in the UK, by the Holocaust denier David Irving. Lipstadt won the case in 2000, with the judge describing Irving as a “neo-Nazi polemicist” who engaged in “racist and antisemitic” discourse.

Lipstadt’s visit comes ahead of US President Joe Biden’s trip to the Kingdom next month and at a time when US-Saudi relations have been in “one of the downs,” as Prince Turki Al-Faisal said in a previous interview on Arab News’ “Frankly Speaking” when describing the fluctuating but strategic relationship.

On May 24, Vice President Kamala Harris swore in the Emory University historian and professor as special envoy. Only a month later, she made her first international trip to the Kingdom, telling media outlets that “Saudi Arabia is a very important country in the Gulf and it has shown a willingness and openness to hosting me.”




Lipstadt on the sidelines of a roundtable discussion held at Arab News headquarters in Riyadh. (AN Photo/Basheer Saleh)

On the sidelines of a roundtable discussion held at Arab News headquarters in Riyadh, she noted how “depiction of the Jew, that in years past, often decades passed, the Jew was demonized. The Jew was spoken about in very derogatory language and that had its impact outside the Kingdom in the rest of the Muslim world.” She added that she has observed the change in notion and was “exceptionally encouraged” upon meeting people who recognize the need for change.

“That’s the first step: Recognizing your own shortcomings, whether you’re an individual, whether you’re a community, whether you’re a family or whether you’re a nation, and saying ‘we want to change.’ Only an honest person can do that. And I have seen some of that here (in Saudi Arabia) and I find that very encouraging,” said Lipstadt.

For years, interfaith dialogue has been encouraged with various religious groups, scholars and leaders alike. Open dialogue is a means of acknowledging and getting to the root cause, as Lipstadt said in the roundtable, and understanding how “prejudice operates, the way in which Jew hatred or antisemitism operates. And more importantly, the way in which hatred of one group morphs into hatred of another group, that the same operating principles in every prejudice, whether it’s racism, whether it’s antisemitism, whether it’s hatred of Muslims, whatever it might be, that it operates the same way.”

She added: “You can’t take what I call a silo approach — I fight one, but not the other. You have to fight across the board, but you also have to take them seriously. And too often there’s been a failure to certainly take antisemitism seriously in many countries. And what I have found so interesting and encouraging here in Saudi Arabia is the way in which things are changing.”

BIO: Deborah Esther Lipstadt

Occupation: Special envoy to monitor and combat antisemitism with the rank of ambassador

Other posts: Dorot Professor of Modern Jewish History and Holocaust Studies

Published works:

- The Zionist career of Louis Lipsky, 1900-1921 (1982)

- Beyond Belief: The American Press and the Coming of the Holocaust (1986)

- Denying the Holocaust: The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory (1993)

- Betrifft: Leugnen des Holocaust (1994)

- History on Trial: My Day in Court with a Holocaust Denier (2005)

- The Eichmann Trial (2011)

- Holocaust: An American Understanding (2016)

- Antisemitism: Here and Now (2019)

Education:

- B.A. from City College of New York

- M.A. and Ph.D. from Brandeis University

Religious and interfaith scholars believe that such discussions and cross-cultural dialogues build bridges, promote peace and are a means toward ending ancient animosities.

In 2016, the American Jewish Committee and the Islamic Society of North America announced a seemingly unlikely alliance of 31 members that included Imam Mohammed Magid and Lipstadt. The announcement came amid growing xenophobia and anti-Muslim rhetoric in the US and across Europe.

Europe and the US have taken different approaches in the postwar era on hate speech and antisemitism, with some European countries making Holocaust denial illegal.

"My country is not perfect. And my president, the secretary of state to whom I report and other leaders acknowledge our shortcomings. And we don’t go out preaching to the world ‘we’re perfect and you should change.’ But what we’re saying is these are issues that concern us within the boundaries of the US and concern us outside the boundaries of the US,” said Lipstadt.

“We don’t come to preach. We come to talk and to teach, and to explore together how things can be made better.”




Ambassador Deborah Lipstadt’s visit comes ahead of US President Joe Biden’s trip to the Saudi Arabia next month. (AN Photo/Basheer Saleh)

One of Lipstadt’s main fields of expertise is in serving the Holocaust cause. For decades and over several administrations, she was a historical consultant to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Bill Clinton and Barack Obama both offered her presidential appointments to the United States Holocaust Memorial Council and President George W. Bush asked her to represent the White House at the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz.

“As a great believer in interfaith dialogue and interfaith work cooperation, it can’t be just dialogue — if it’s dialogue, it’s just words,” she said.

She noted how striking and emotion-provoking Muslim World League Secretary-General Dr. Mohammed bin Abdulkarim Al-Issa’s visit to the former Nazi extermination camp of Auschwitz was for her. Al-Issa joined a group from the American Jewish Committee and prominent Muslim religious leaders in 2020 in what was called an “unprecedented visit.”

“As a scholar of the Holocaust and as someone who has visited there many times, and as a scholar of antisemitism and my knowledge of the change in attitudes and the change in this country and the portrayal of the Jew… I was tremendously moved,” she said.




Lipstadt with Saleh Al Dowais, Chief Operations Officer at SRMG, the publisher of Arab News, Asharq Al Awsat & several other prominent titles. (AN Photo/Basheer Saleh)

The dialogue surrounding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has, for some time now, driven a wedge between the religions, with a growing sentiment against all parties involved. Lipstadt believes that people have the issues confused, the political issues in particular, which is something she said “my country takes very seriously.”

“Antisemitism transcends the political issue, the issue of Israelis and Palestinians. It’s not to say it isn’t serious, of course it’s serious, but we can’t wait to address antisemitism until that is resolved. They both should be addressed together,” said Lipstadt.

Saudi Arabia's ambassador to the US, Princess Reema bint Bandar Al-Saud, recently met with Lipstadt and shared with her Saudi Arabia’s meaningful strides in promoting peace, tolerance, and interfaith dialogue.

Lipstadt described the conversation as "wonderful."


Saudi Arabia reaffirms full support for the stability of Yemen

The session was chaired by King Salman at Al-Salam Palace in Jeddah. (SPA)
The session was chaired by King Salman at Al-Salam Palace in Jeddah. (SPA)
Updated 09 August 2022

Saudi Arabia reaffirms full support for the stability of Yemen

The session was chaired by King Salman at Al-Salam Palace in Jeddah. (SPA)
  • Cabinet appreciated UN’s efforts for a ceasefire in Yemen

JEDDAH: The Saudi Cabinet on Tuesday reaffirmed the Kingdom’s firm support for all action that can help to guarantee the security and stability of Yemen and its people.

The session was chaired by King Salman at Al-Salam Palace in Jeddah. According to Issam bin Saad bin Saeed, the member for Shoura Council affairs and acting minister of media, the Cabinet members expressed their appreciation for the efforts of the UN to improve the adherence to the ceasefire in Yemen, in line with the Saudi initiative, announced in March last year, to end the crisis in the country and reach a comprehensive political resolution.
The ministers also expressed their hopes that the Riyadh International Humanitarian Forum, which is being organized by the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center in partnership with the UN and will take place in February, will contribute to efforts to find innovative and practical solutions that can help provide humanitarian aid to the highest standards and achieve the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

FASTFACT

The ministers also expressed their hopes that the Riyadh International Humanitarian Forum, which is being organized by the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center in partnership with the UN in February.

Ministers also reiterated the Kingdom’s assertion, made this month during the 10th Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, of support for international efforts to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons and place its nuclear facilities under a comprehensive system of safeguards under the auspices of the International Atomic Energy Agency.
The council said it considers the stability and balance of oil markets as one of the pillars of the Kingdom’s energy strategy.
It described oil as an important element in supporting the growth of the global economy, as reflected in Saudi Arabia’s pivotal role in establishing and maintaining the OPEC+ agreement on production quotas. Members stressed the importance of full compliance with those quotas by all OPEC+ member nations.
The council session concluded with the approval of a number of decisions. The chairman of the board of directors of the Saudi Authority for Data and Artificial Intelligence was tasked with negotiating with the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development a draft administrative agreement between Saudi Arabia and the bank on a multi-donor trust fund for a digital development partnership.
The minister of energy and the minister of tourism were asked to draft and sign a cooperation agreement between their ministries and their counterparts in Thailand in the fields of energy and tourism.
A memorandum of understanding on labor cooperation between the Saudi Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development and Azerbaijan’s Ministry of Labor and Social Protection of the Population was approved, as were two MoUs for cooperation in the transport and logistics sector between the Kingdom’s Ministry of Transport and Logistics Services and the French Ministry of Ecological Transition. Ministers also approved an MoU for cooperation between the Saudi General Authority for Statistics and the British Office for National Statistics.

 


National Cybersecurity Authority launches CyberIC to develop sector in Saudi Arabia

National Cybersecurity Authority launches CyberIC to develop sector in Saudi Arabia
Updated 09 August 2022

National Cybersecurity Authority launches CyberIC to develop sector in Saudi Arabia

National Cybersecurity Authority launches CyberIC to develop sector in Saudi Arabia
  • The CyberIC program is designed to develop the skills of more than 10,000 Saudis and stimulate the wider domestic cybersecurity sector
  • The program offers courses that include virtual exercises so as to ensure that participants are ready to confront the most significant cybersecurity challenges

JEDDAH: The National Cybersecurity Authority on Monday announced the launch of a new program, CyberIC, to develop the cybersecurity sector in Saudi Arabia.

The program is aimed at developing the capabilities of cybersecurity specialists working with national authorities and stimulating the domestic cybersecurity ecosystem by increasing the development and localization of cybersecurity products, services and solutions.

The CyberIC program is designed to develop the skills of more than 10,000 Saudis and stimulate the wider domestic cybersecurity sector in line with international best practices.

The first phase of the program includes a number of initiatives, such as providing training for employees of national authorities working in cybersecurity and related fields and accelerating cybersecurity activities to stimulate the sector.

It will also include the launch of the second version of the cybersecurity challenge and offer programs for chief information security officers in cooperation with prestigious international universities in the field.

To ensure participants are ready to confront the most significant cybersecurity challenges, the program offers courses that include virtual exercises that simulate real cyberattacks and incidents.

The program is based on six main tracks: innovation and entrepreneurship, cybersecurity officers, cybersecurity trainers, fresh graduates, cybersecurity specialists and law enforcement agencies.

It will support the growth of the cybersecurity industry in the Kingdom by helping more than 60 national cybersecurity startups. Forty have already been launched, while the other 20 will be established through the cybersecurity challenge.


Saudi Arabia demands halt to Israeli attacks as three more Palestinians die in raid

Saudi Arabia demands halt to Israeli attacks as three more Palestinians die in raid
Updated 10 August 2022

Saudi Arabia demands halt to Israeli attacks as three more Palestinians die in raid

Saudi Arabia demands halt to Israeli attacks as three more Palestinians die in raid
  • At a Cabinet meeting in Jeddah chaired by King Salman, ministers urged the international community to assume its responsibilities and exert all efforts to end the conflict

RAMALLAH: Saudi Arabia on Tuesday demanded international action to halt deadly attacks by Israeli armed forces on the Palestinian people.

At a Cabinet meeting in Jeddah chaired by King Salman, ministers urged the international community to assume its responsibilities and exert all efforts to end the conflict.

The Saudi call came as three Palestinians were killed and 40 injured in an Israeli raid in Nablus in the northern West Bank, and 17-year-old Moamen Jaber died from his wounds in hospital in Hebron after being shot by Israeli soldiers in earlier clashes in Bab Al-Zawiya.

The four deaths brought the number of people killed this year by Israeli forces in the West Bank and Gaza Strip to 130.

"From Nablus to Hebron, after Gaza and Jenin, the occupation continues to commit its open crimes against our people in all the occupied territories,” Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh said.

Tuesday’s deaths came after elite Israeli forces surrounded a house in the old city of Nablus in the early morning, closing in on Ibrahim Al-Nabulsi of Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, the military wing of Fatah, and at least one other member of the group, named as Islam Sabbouh.

After Nabulsi refused requests to surrender, Israeli forces opened fire and struck the house with Matador anti-armor missiles, killing the men inside. Another Palestinian, 16-year-old Hussein Jamal Taha, was also killed.

Thousands of Palestinians took part in the three funerals, the largest in Nablus for 20 years.

Violent clashes between Palestinians and Israeli forces broke out across the West Bank, wounding at least 20 civilians, most young men. A general strike was called in a show of mourning.

Nabulsi had survived several previous attempts to arrest or assassinate him over the past five months.

The new attack came less than 48 hours after Israel suspended its military operations in the Gaza Strip, which claimed the lives of 46 Palestinians, and injured more than 300 civilians, including women, children and the elderly.

Nabil Aburudina, spokesperson for the Palestinian Authority, condemned the killings in Nablus and said the Israeli occupation was approaching a comprehensive confrontation with the entire Palestinian people through its aggression.

Aburudina said the Israeli government was not interested in achieving peace and stability, and was working to shed Palestinian blood to achieve gains in Israeli internal politics.

He said the US delegate to the UN, by emphasising Israel’s right to defend itself, supported the Israeli narrative, which was unacceptable because Israel was the aggressor. If this aggression continued against the Palestinian people, it would ignite violence across the region, he said.

Taysir Nasrallah, a member of the Fatah Revolutionary Council and a prominent leader in Nablus who attended the funerals on Tuesday, told Arab News that mourners chanted slogans calling for revenge against Israel.

Nasrallah said: “It seems that Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid started his electoral campaign early by killing the largest number of Palestinians, which would enable him to obtain the largest number of votes.”

The Palestinians believe that the recent Israeli military escalations in Jenin, Gaza and Nablus are linked to the Israeli election campaign, with votes scheduled to take place on Nov. 1, and that Lapid, who lacks the military experience of his strongest rival, Benjamin Netanyahu, wishes to appear to voters as capable of dealing militarily with the Palestinians.

“We believe that there are electoral goals for this unprecedented military escalation against the Palestinians, and this confirms that Israel’s leaders have no project towards the Palestinians other than killing,” Nasrallah said.

He called on the PA to take a decisive decision to end its relationship with Israel.

“The new Palestinian generation does not believe in the approach of negotiations, which has not brought any result to the Palestinians for 27 years except by increasing settlements, killings and destruction against the Palestinians. Therefore, the Palestinian Authority must take a decisive decision to completely end the relationship with Israel, regardless of the results of this decision,” he said.

Palestinian politician Mustafa Barghouti told Arab News that the Israel crimes would lead to a comprehensive Palestinian popular uprising.


Saudi Arabia’s Real Estate authority reports 2,291 violations

This file photo, shows a general view of Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. (AP)
This file photo, shows a general view of Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. (AP)
Updated 09 August 2022

Saudi Arabia’s Real Estate authority reports 2,291 violations

This file photo, shows a general view of Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. (AP)
  • Saudi Center for Real Estate Arbitration recorded a total of 97 real estate disputes

RIYADH: The Real Estate General Authority reported 2,291 violations of real estate advertisements from June 23 until Aug. 9 of which 1,385 of which have been processed.

The authority confirmed that it had received 160 real estate reports and 5,600 applications to serve as real estate advertisers, of which 498 are for establishments and 5,100 for individuals.

The authority pointed out that the number of registered users in the real estate service “Iqari” exceeded 8,100 beneficiaries.

Meanwhile, the Saudi Center for Real Estate Arbitration also recorded a total of 97 real estate disputes.

The authority called on the real estate dealers to submit reports of any violations through their website: https://eservices.rega.gov.sa or through the toll-free number 8003030099.

These efforts come within the authority’s attempts to follow up on the implementation of the real estate advertisement protocols and the e-platforms licensing standards to develop the non-governmental real estate sector.

 

 

 

 

 


Trade picks up in Makkah as pilgrims shop

Pilgrims are visiting the marketplace to buy souvenirs for their loved ones. (SPA)
Pilgrims are visiting the marketplace to buy souvenirs for their loved ones. (SPA)
Updated 10 August 2022

Trade picks up in Makkah as pilgrims shop

Pilgrims are visiting the marketplace to buy souvenirs for their loved ones. (SPA)
  • Ajwa dates, which cost between SR20 ($5.3) and SR30 per kilo, are a favorite among pilgrims

MAKKAH: Umrah season is in full swing, and visitors from all over the world are converging on Makkah and Madinah to visit the Two Holy Mosques.
Trade in Makkah is witnessing significant activity and recovery in the second season of the pilgrimage following the pandemic.
In addition to performing their rituals, pilgrims are visiting the marketplace to buy souvenirs for their loved ones.  Ajwa dates, which cost between SR20 ($5.3) and SR30 per kilo, are a favorite among pilgrims.
Makkah has large farms in Qaba, Al-Awali and Al-Ouyoun that cater to the production of the finest Ajwa dates to meet the significant demand.
Other popular purchases include prayer beads and rugs, electronic devices, gold and audio recordings of Qur’an recitations by the imams of the Grand Mosque and the Prophet’s Mosque.
The market also has many bookshops filled with literature on Shariah, jurisprudence, Islamic stories, and the Prophet and his companions’ biographies.