By: Prof. Dr. Mohsen Mohammad Saleh.
What does it mean when Saudi officials insist on keeping a well-known Palestinian freedom fighter in prison for the past two years, without an actual charge. He is 83 years old and suffers from chronic disease. He had underwent cancer surgery, and recently, his condition has worsened for not receiving adequate care. For 20 years, Dr. Muhammad al-Khudari had openly been Hamas’s representative to the Saudi authorities. Afterwards, and for decades he continued advocating for Palestine while abiding by Saudi laws and rules.
Is such treatment appropriate for someone who has devoted his life to Palestine? After his graduation from medical school, he participated with the Kuwaiti army in the 1967 and 1973 wars, on the Egyptian and Syrian fronts. Then, he became one of the founders of the Hamas movement, whose resistance operations are solely executed against Israel inside Palestine. Afterwards, he became one of the symbols of the Palestinian popular action abroad.
Furthermore, is such treatment appropriate for the journalist, political analyst and philanthropist ‘Abdul Rahman Farahaneh, who has been suffering the bitterness of imprisonment in Saudi prisons for more than two years, in addition to suffering from chronic diseases?!
These two figures and dozens of other Palestinians detained in Saudi Arabia, due to their relations with Hamas or as fundraisers for Palestine, are suffering the bitterness of imprisonment for more than two years, detention without trial or without specific charges, and the unjustified “stalling” of court sessions. Reports have said that they were tortured in order to extract specific confessions from them, and that investigations, trial procedures and the detention environment were marred by circumstances that undermine any credibility of the judicial process.
These people and figures are neither drug dealers nor terrorists. Not once did they act against Saudi Arabia and its stability. In the eyes of the Arabs and Muslims, they are an honor to the Ummah (Muslim nation). For decades, they supported, quietly, peacefully and actively, the steadfastness of the people of Palestine and worked on preserving the Arab and Islamic identity of Palestine, under the Saudi law and the authorities’ sight. Therefore, if the Saudi authorities can no longer simply tolerate philanthropy for Palestine, it can, at least, release them or allow them to leave the country.
Politically speaking, one can explain this arrest campaign. At that time, Donald Trump was the US president, adopting the “Deal of the Century,” putting immense pressure on the Arab countries to normalize their relations with Israel, drying up the financial resources of the Palestinian people, and fighting against the “political Islam” movements. However, with the advent of Biden, the chances of the “Deal of the Century” to be implemented have been reduced and the pressure on the Arab regimes for normalization with Israel has relatively eased.
It seems that in the Saudi political kitchen, there are two trends towards the Palestine issue:
The first is still rushing towards normalization, hostile to “political Islam” and obsessed with getting US and Israeli consent. It is based on the notion that this would help achieve the internal stability of the regime and confront external challenges, especially regional ones, in a way that would facilitate a smooth transition of power to the current Crown Prince.
The second, which has weakened in recent years but remained within the decision-making circles, have increased its strength recently, especially since Biden took office, and after the failure of the first trend in managing its regional crises, economic files, and even internal issues. This trend considers any possible relationship with Israel must slow down and be linked to the Arab Peace Initiative. It considers straining Saudi regional relations and paying the prices of these changes unnecessary. It doesn’t believe that the relationship with Israel would protect Saudi Arabia from its regional opponents, rather it would add insult to injury, hence weaken the image and position of the regime among the Saudi people, and among the Arab and Islamic peoples. In addition, suppressing “political Islam” has failed, and the attempt to cancel Hamas and the resistance movements has also failed.
Consequently, it’s not logical anymore for the “Hamas detainees” to remain in prison, as their stay would only harm the image of the Saudi regime.
As long as there is a Saudi tendency to resolve the crisis with Qatar, find political solutions in Yemen, review the regional political positioning and even review the relations with Iran, releasing these detainees becomes the easiest among these issues.
It is a message to the Arab regimes, including Saudi Arabia, that Hamas and the resistance forces, and even “political Islam,” are actually present (whether they liked them or not) in the Palestinian decision-making circles; and that Saudi Arabia and the other regimes, will sooner or later see Hamas and the resistance forces partners, if not leaders, in the leadership of the Palestinian people. Therefore, the best choice, is to deal with them normally and positively without the issues that would strain the relations.
Therefore, they must know that these kind of arrests have become obsolete and have lost their value. As for the question of Palestine and its defense, they are present and deep in the hearts of the Saudi people and the Arab and Muslim peoples. As a result, the political regime that supports Palestine is only serving itself (albeit in terms of interest and benefit), while the regime that pursues and imprisons the freedom fighters, or pursues the illusions of normalization and US-Israeli consent, will only harm itself.