Last week, a prominent Saudi Sheikh, Mohammed Al-Issa, visited the Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland to commemorate the 75th anniversary of its liberation, which signalled the end of the Nazi Holocaust. Although dozens of Muslim scholars have visited the site, where about one million Jews were killed during World War Two, according to the Auschwitz Memorial Centre’s press office, Al-Issa is the most senior Muslim religious leader to do so.
Visiting Auschwitz is not a problem for a Muslim; Islam orders Muslims to reject unjustified killing of any human being, no matter what their faith is. Al-Issa is a senior ally of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman (MBS), who apparently cares little for the sanctity of human life, though, and the visit to Auschwitz has very definite political connotations beyond any Islamic context.
By sending Al-Issa to the camp, Bin Salman wanted to show his support for Israel, which exploits the Holocaust for geopolitical colonial purposes. “The Israeli government decided that it alone was permitted to mark the 75th anniversary of the Allied liberation of Auschwitz [in modern day Poland] in 1945,” wrote journalist Richard Silverstein recently when he commented on the gathering of world leaders in Jerusalem for Benjamin Netanyahu’s Holocaust event.
Bin Salman uses Al Issa for such purposes, as if to demonstrate his own Zionist credentials. For example, the head of the Makkah-based Muslim World League is leading rapprochement efforts with Evangelical Christians who are, in the US at least, firm Zionists in their backing for the state of Israel. Al-Issa has called for a Muslim-Christian-Jewish interfaith delegation to travel to Jerusalem in what would, in effect, be a Zionist troika.
Zionism is not a religion, and there are many non-Jewish Zionists who desire or support the establishment of a Jewish state in occupied Palestine. The definition of Zionism does not mention the religion of its supporters, and Israeli writer Sheri Oz, is just one author who insists that non-Jews can be Zionists.
We should not be shocked, therefore, to see a Zionist Muslim leader in these trying times. It is reasonable to say that Bin Salman’s grandfather and father were Zionists, as close friends of Zionist leaders. Logic suggests that Bin Salman comes from a Zionist dynasty.
This has been evident from his close relationship with Zionists and positive approaches to the Israeli occupation and establishment of a Jewish state in Palestine, calling it “[the Jews’] ancestral homeland”. This means that he has no issue with the ethnic cleansing of almost 800,000 Palestinians in 1948, during which thousands were killed and their homes demolished in order to establish the Zionist state of Israel.
“The ‘Jewish state’ claim is how Zionism has tried to mask its intrinsic Apartheid, under the veil of a supposed ‘self-determination of the Jewish people’,” wrote Israeli blogger Jonathan Ofir in Mondoweiss in 2018, “and for the Palestinians it has meant their dispossession.”
As the de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia, Crown Prince Bin Salman has imprisoned dozens of Palestinians, including representatives of Hamas. In doing so he is serving Israel’s interests. Moreover, he has blamed the Palestinians for not making peace with the occupation state. Bin Salman “excoriated the Palestinians for missing key opportunities,” wrote Danial Benjamin in Moment magazine. He pointed out that the prince’s father, King Salman, has played the role of counterweight by saying that Saudi Arabia “permanently stands by Palestine and its people’s right to an independent state with occupied East Jerusalem as its capital.”
Israeli journalist Barak Ravid of Israel’s Channel 13 News reported Bin Salman as saying: “In the last several decades the Palestinian leadership has missed one opportunity after the other and rejected all the peace proposals it was given. It is about time the Palestinians take the proposals and agree to come to the negotiations table or shut up and stop complaining.” This is reminiscent of the words of the late Israeli Foreign Minister Abba Eban, one of the Zionist founders of Israel, that the Palestinians “never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.”
Bin Salman’s Zionism is also very clear in his bold support for US President Donald Trump’s deal of the century, which achieves Zionist goals in Palestine at the expense of Palestinian rights. He participated in the Bahrain conference, the forum where the economic side of the US deal was announced, where he gave “cover to several other Arab countries to attend the event and infuriated the Palestinians.”
While discussing the issue of the current Saudi support for Israeli policies and practices in Palestine with a credible Palestinian official last week, he told me that the Palestinians had contacted the Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro to ask him not to relocate his country’s embassy to Jerusalem. “The Saudis have been putting pressure on us in order to relocate our embassy to Jerusalem,” replied the Brazilian leader. What more evidence of Mohammad Bin Salman’s Zionism do we need?
The founder of Friends of Zion Museum is American Evangelical Christian Mike Evans. He said, after visiting a number of the Gulf States, that, “The leaders [there] are more pro-Israel than a lot of Jews.” This was a specific reference to Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince, and his counterpart in the UAE, Mohammed Bin Zayed.
“All versions of Zionism lead to the same reactionary end of unbridled expansionism and continued settler colonial genocide of [the] Palestinian people,” Israeli-American writer and photographer Yoav Litvin wrote for Al Jazeera. We may well see an Israeli Embassy opened in Riyadh in the near future, and a Saudi Embassy in Tel Aviv or, more likely, Jerusalem. Is Mohammad Bin Salman a Zionist? There’s no doubt about it.