lf this is true, what does it mean?
I bring you this article to show what I go through when I want to check something out before even trying to decide if it is worth sharing or not.
When writing, I try not to just take someone’s word for something.. I sometimes neglect to do so and have been guilty of sharing a social media post that someone later shows me was not true. I acknowledge my error and delete the post. When I am being careful, I do not take hearsay as evidence. So when someone tells me that something happened because someone else talked about it, I ask for direct evidence before accepting or rejecting it. When I see a post about something remarkable, I look around to see if it is being reported on other sources. I try not to let wishful thinking guide me.
This happened the day before yesterday:
With the rain pattering on my windows, telling me it was not a gardening day, I settled into perusal of “X” with my morning coffee. I came across the post below and only had time to check it out yesterday: And by yesterday, I mean almost the whole day. I wrote to people to ask for their help and had to wait for answers that may or may not come. I decided to stop waiting in the evening and complete this article. And then waited until this morning — now — to reread it and check for style and spelling.
So here is the post that first aroused my interest:
BIG BREAKING NEWS ???? Saudi Arabia detains individuals at the holy sites in Mecca and Medina for showing support for Gaza and praying for Palestine.
British actor and presenter Islah Abdur-Rahman also detained by soldiers for wearing a Palestinian keffiyeh. He was on a religious… pic.twitter.com/clWYqImm1w
— Narendra Maurya (@narendra483) November 18, 2023
Basically, Abdur-Rahman shared his experience on Instagram, saying:
At first, I was really scared, because I was in a country that’s not mine, I have no rights and they could do anything to me and I would not have a say, so I was afraid. Then, my fear turned into heartbreak… the heartbreak got worse when I realised that this is just an ounce of what Palestinians must go through.
It made me realise how Palestinians in Gaza and in their country must feel being treated by the Israeli government, and the abuse they get just for being Palestinian. If anything it broadened my empathy even further than it already is.
I cannot say I felt sorry for Abdur-Rahman, and with all the pro-Hamas and anti-Israel materials circulating since the outbreak of war, I was happy to see this act on the part of an Arab country with which we were developing an agreement when Hamas broke through our defences, torturing, slaughtering, and abducting our people, thereby triggering a war.
If not true, I would not share it, of course.
If true, I thought it would be worthwhile reporting on the surprising (for me) behaviour of one of our allies-in-development, a country that, until relatively recently, we Israelis would not have believed would sign any kind of deal with us out in the open.
But is it true?
The account that drew my attention to this item is that of, Narendra Maurya, an Indian pro-Israeli with 4875 followers. Not a huge amount, but not negligible. He is not a journalist by profession, but a stock analyst. He claims to be a political observer providing news updates. In other words, someone I may find interesting, but certainly not an expert.
Should the item he reported on not be a big thing? His post only garnered 150 views, 3 reposts, and 4 likes. There must be more out there on this, I thought.
Searching “X” produced many copies of this exact same post. Almost all of the accounts are owned by people from India. Some had many more shares and likes than Maurya’s.
Similarly, searching Google for news items produced a number of relevant articles, almost all of them from Indian sources, such as the one from Truncle. Among the very few from non-Indian sources, there is this one from an Iranian news site.
The Google search also brought me to a LinkedIn post almost identical to the Maurya’s:
My curiousity was aroused. Why are the search results almost exclusively Indian? And why do they seem to be only on websites that do not strike me as being mainstream?
I wrote to an Indian journalist who had spent time in Israel. He told me he was unfamiliar with the website Truncle, something I took as confirmation that it is not a reliable source. He did not respond to my questions regarding why this topic only seemed to be of interest to Indians, but he did give me the link to an article on this topic that appeared in the mainstream Times of India (TOI) website. That confers a bit more legitimacy to my pursuit of the topic. (I did not read the TOI article at that point since it seemed to be repeating what I already knew — that turned out to have been a mistake )
I searched on the TOI “X” feed to see how many readers, likes and shares it had, only to find that this particular article was not posted on their feed. An advanced search on “X” did bring up shares of the article directly from the article itself, most of which were from accounts held by people with Indian names.
If I could read Arabic, I would have searched the Arabic “X” feeds and the news websites to see if they reported on this remarkable (to me) afront to pro-Palestinians. Then, perhaps, I would have had a bit more meat for a significant article on this topic.
As it is, I was left with the question, why did only Indians (and one Iranian English-language news website) consider this item worth reporting on?
At this point, I turned to an Indian friend. Dr.Souptik Mukherjee is a Data Scientist and Geopolitical enthusiast. He has, along with Devdutta Maji, organized pro-Israel rallies in Kolkata, under very hostile conditions:.20,000 people participated in 2014 when Gazan rockets were raining down on Israel, 70,000 demonstrators in 2018, and 1400 people, 6 days after the Oct 7th atrocities. He has also published on Israeli news sites, such as this article in Jerusalem Post. .
Souptik suggested that it may be connected with the internal conflicts between left and right in India. He told me:
I knew from day 1 that the great game here is IMEC [India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor]. It will go from India to UAE to Saudi Arabia to Israel. The Saudis want this desperately. China desperately wants this not to happen..Iran is a proxy of China here, and Hezbolla, Hamas, Yemen are proxies of Iran. There is a general belief here that there is, on the one hand, the camp of India, Israel and US, with China, Iran, Russia , North Korea and Pakistan being in the other camp. India is trying hard to decouple or neutralize Russia’s pro China tilt. The Saudis are being wooed by both sides . The Saudi leadership is visionary but the Mullahs have major influence on the masses.
The left is with China, supporting the BRI [the Belt and Road Initiative] – Iran wants to force India to use the North-South corridor via the Chabahar port in Iran and then to Russia.
If this is the case, then perhaps the Indians sharing the article support the IMEC and are applauding the Saudis for clamping down on expressions of support for the Palestinians/Gazans/Hamas.
But why was this not reported in Israel?
If I was surprised and pleased to see this item when I first came across it, surely it would be of interest to other Israelis. After all, as we look out the windows of our state and see all the pro-Hamas demonstrations around the world and the suffocatingly intense Jew-hatred, it was a breath of fresh air to read that Saudi Arabia detained a British Moslem for just wearing a Palestinian kaffiyeh and others for praying for the Gazans.
Not willing to give up, I spoke with two Israeli friends to see if it was worth pursuing. Then, I did specific searches of individual English-language Israeli news sites and found that perhaps this is not so unique after all. In 2019, the Jerusalem Post published an article about how the Saudi authorities are tracking down and arresting Palestinians suspected of having links with the Moslem Brotherhood. It may be that they are happy that we Israelis are now tracking down and either taking Hamas terrorists in for the intel we can get from them or killing them, thus clearing a smoother path for the implementation of IMEC. If these things are connected, then perhaps, their two-state-rhetoric is just empty rhetoric and they will be happy for us to rid Judea-Samaria of the PLO as well. This leads me to utopian visions but I won’t go there at the moment.
Back to the topic at hand. The fact that JPost published an article tangentially related to the item with which I am currently obsessively preoccupied does not preclude them from publishing what just happened three days ago. After all, is that not what newspapers do?
Still not giving up on finding reports of this item in other countries, I reread the Times of India article which resonated with my discussion with Souptik about IMEC. The article suggests that Saudi Arabia’s clamping down on people showing support for Gaza may be related to the “challenging situation” in which Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) finds himself due to Israel’s war against Hamas.
Additionally, the article names its source as Middle East Eye, an anti-Israel-but-not-as-viciously-so-as-some-others website. They then posted it four times on their “X” feed, each post with a different descriptive text. This is the first of the series:
“I was stopped by four soldiers for wearing a white keffiyeh around my head,”
UK citizen arrested, interrogated and detained by Saudi authorities for wearing a Palestinian keffiyeh while on religious pilgrimage in Meccahttps://t.co/eUzPsj53Nf
— Middle East Eye (@MiddleEastEye) November 16, 2023
These posts and, one by Lowkey, an anti-Israel podcast host with 300K followers, were liked and reposted by a few thousand people.
BBC presenter Islah Abdur-Rahman was detained and interrogated in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, for wearing a Palestinian keffiyah.
— Lowkey (@Lowkey0nline) November 17, 2023
And here it seems to end.
Those who support Israel seemed to regard the Saudi response to pro-Palestinian/Gazan prayers as a sign of moving forward toward a new constellation in the Middle East. Those who support Hamas regard the exact same behaviour as despicable, with some suggesting that Saudi Arabia should lose its status as protector of Islam. One commenter called MBS an Arab Zionist. Funny, I don’t see that as an insult.
In any case, a few commeters on the thread under the first Middle East Eye “X” post made me think that I just wasted a whole day of research and writing. There is no news here. These “X” account holders wrote comments such as these:
- It’s always been their policy not to display flags or to make any sort of political statements at the Haramayn.
- But you can’t wear any headdress while on pilgrimage. It would invalidate the pilgrimage.
Now I wonder about the big deal made by the anti-Israeli Middle East Eye when they should have known that there was no story here for them either. One thing that made me laugh was understanding why, since posting his experiences on Instagram, he has been receiving hate mail from Saudis who support their government in detaining him.
I hope that what I chance upon today or tomorrow will lead to a story that really is a story. It is so much easier to just share things without looking into them, but it is so much fun doing the research and learning new things. So I guess the day wasn’t totally wasted after all.