Saudis Allegedly Blocked Website for Reporting Improved Relations With Israel

YERUSHALAYIM -

While Israel has been trumpeting its improved relations with Saudi Arabia and other Sunni states, Riyadh has not reciprocated, regardless of whatever has been happening behind closed doors.

On Monday, it emerged that the Saudis are still so concerned about prematurely befriending Israel — with which it still has no formal diplomatic relations — that it has blocked access to a website apparently due to its carrying reports of a budding Saudi–Israel friendship, according to The Jerusalem Post.

The Arab48 website was blocked in Saudi Arabia after it ran a story article headlined “Israel is betting on Saudi Arabia for normalization with the Arab world.”

“It seems we have been blocked because of articles about the relations between Saudi Arabia and Israel and about Mohammed Bin Salman,” said editor-in-chief Rami Mansour. He published a report saying that the Israelis welcomed King Salman’s designation of his son Mohammed Bin Salman, as crown prince.

“The Saudis are simply isolating their citizens from the outside world.” He said it was the first time anyone had blocked the site, which is regularly critical of Israeli policies, since it was established in 1999.

The Saudi embassy in Amman did not respond to a query on the matter.

Blocking websites is nothing new in Saudi Arabia, according to Freedom House, an American watchdog group that rated the kingdom as “not free” in its 2016 report on freedom on the Internet.

“Officially, sites that are judged to contain ‘harmful,’ ‘Illegal,’ ‘anti-Islamic’ or ‘offensive’ material are routinely blocked… Criticism of the royal family or that of other Gulf Arab states is not tolerated, and neither are sites that organize political opposition or question the ruling family’s strict interpretation of Islam,” Freedom House said.