New Saudi Policy Bans Almost 3 Million Palestinians From the Hajj

REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa

By Josh Babb

Rabat – The newest rules come after the Saudi’s September announcement that the country will no longer issue visas for Palestinians in Jordan, Lebanon and, East Jerusalem. The combined rule changes will ban nearly 3 million Palestinians from completing the pilgrimage to Mecca, one of the five tenets of Islam.

The change comes after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was recently quoted praising Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman (MBS) and talked about the necessity of maintaining stability in Riyadh, which has faced international criticism in the wake of the murder of dissident Jamal Khashoggi.

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The Hajj falls every year on the Islamic holiday of Eid al-Adha while the umrah can be performed at any time. While Israel and Saudi Arabia have no official diplomatic relations, and Israeli citizens are officially barred from entering Saudi Arabia there had been a previous workaround.

In 1978 Jordan’s King Hussein began to allow Israeli citizens wishing to perform the Hajj to travel to Jordan where they were issued temporary passports that would allow them to enter Saudi Arabia.

The Hajj pilgrimage is traditionally organized by committee’s local to a citizens country, it was last December that the chairman of Israel’s chapter Hajj Salim Salata had learned that Saudi officials would no longer honor the temporary Jordanian passports.

“We have no explanation for what happened, so we appealed to every possible avenue of help, but to our great regret the pilgrimage that was supposed to take place in December, for which thousands of people have registered, will not be held,” Shalata said.

Jordan’s Ministry of Awqaf Islamic Affairs and Holy Places said it was in negotiations with Saudi counterparts regarding the issue but no plans to resolve it had been announced.

A Haaretz article speculated that the new rule change was announced ahead of the possibility that Muslim citizens of Israel could travel directly between the country and Saudi Arabia, perhaps yet another sign of warming relations between the two nations.