Saudi Arabia targets Palestinians in Israel with latest Mecca ban
Saudi Arabia has banned Palestinians and Israeli Muslims from entering the country with temporary passports, ending their chance to make the pilgrimage to Islam’s holiest site, Mecca.
Practicing Muslims are supposed to try to get to Mecca once in their lives, if possible, for the Hajj or Umrah pilgrimages. Given that Israel and Saudi Arabia don’t officially have diplomatic relations, Palestinians in Israel have to apply for temporary Jordanian passports to go to Mecca.
However, in the latest of a series of moves limiting Palestinians’ access to the Kingdom, these temporary passports will no longer be accepted.
Palestinian refugees in Jordan and Lebanon, as well as those living in Israel-occupied East Jerusalem, were recently banned from getting visas. The increased travel restrictions now affect almost 3 million Palestinians.
“The decision is affecting every Arab and Muslim who has the right to worship.” Jordanian MP Said Abu Mahfouz told Middle East Eye.
About 6,600 people from East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza went on the Hajj in 2017, and up to 70,000 make Umrah throughout each year.
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Haaretz reports that Jordanian officials and members of the Israeli Hajj committee have said the move could be a way for Saudi Arabia to begin allowing Muslim Israeli citizens to travel to Saudi Arabia, as part of a warming alliance between the two countries.
Meanwhile, a Jordanian diplomatic source confirmed to Middle East Eye that the move is part of an agreement with Israel to end the “Palestinian identity and the right of return for refugees.”
Palestinians in East Jerusalem have been told they could apply for a temporary passport from the Palestinian Authority, which runs the West Bank, to get a Saudi visa. However, this could affect their legal status.
After Israel annexed East Jerusalem in the 1967 war, residents were recognized as East Jerusalem residents – but should they obtain passports from the PA, this could be used to revoke their East Jerusalem residency and strengthen the Israeli hope of claiming all of the disputed city as its capital.
Saudi Arabia’s official line on diplomatic relations with Israel is that the latter must first withdraw from the territories it seized during the 1967 Six Day War: the West Bank, East Jerusalem, Gaza, the Sinai Peninsula, and Golan Heights.
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