During the present round of fighting between Israel and Hamas, there was a shift in the Saudi media's coverage of the conflict. While at first the Saudi media focused on the issue of Jerusalem and the Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah, while largely ignoring the events in Gaza and refraining from criticism of Hamas, in the recent days it began publishing articles harshly critical of Hamas and of the other armed organizations in Gaza.
The articles claim that Hamas used the issues of Jerusalem and Sheikh Jarrah to spark the present confrontation with Israel, and that the destruction in Gaza and the hundreds of Palestinians killed and wounded are the result of Hamas's loyalty to the Iranian agenda. Hamas, they say, is exploiting the Palestinian cause to further the interests of Iran, Turkey and the political Islam organizations; it thereby not only causes bloodshed among Palestinians but also undermines the Arab solidarity with the Palestinian cause. Some of the Saudi writers draw a direct connection between the events in Gaza and Iran's present negotiations with Europe and the U.S. over the nuclear issue, claiming that Iran is using the escalation in Gaza as a bargaining chip to improve its position in the talks, at the expense of Palestinian lives. Criticism of Hamas was also expressed in tweets by Saudi journalists. One tweet, by Sa'ud Al-Fawzan, called to stop the bloodshed between the sides and promote coexistence between Arabs and Jews.
The Saudi criticism is not confined to Hamas, but also extends to the Palestinian Authority (PA), headed by President Mahmoud 'Abbas. The writers accuse the PA and 'Abbas of mishandling the Palestinian cause and pursuing personal interests at the expense of the Palestinians. Some argue that 'Abbas's postponement of the Palestinian elections, to Hamas' chagrin, was one of the reasons for the outbreak of the conflict, and that the blame for the bloodshed rests with the Palestinian leadership in both Gaza and the West Bank. Others even call to replace the current Palestinian leadership with a new, more worthy leadership.
Source: Palinfo.com, May 14, 2021
This report reviews this Saudi criticism, as expressed in media articles and tweets.
Saudi Journalists Slam Hamas On Twitter: It Is Serving Iran, Is Responsible For The Death Of Children In Gaza
Saudi journalist Muhammad Aal Al-Sheikh, a columnist for the Al-Jazirah daily, tweeted on May 12, 2021: "I suspect that the move of those Palestinian factions that are agents of the Persians was carried out on orders from Iran, so as to exert pressure in [Iran's] favor in the Vienna [nuclear] talks. The implications [of the escalation] will likely be devastating for the helpless citizens of Gaza."
Muhammad Aal Al-Sheikh's tweet
Journalist Sa'ud Al-Fawzan, a columnist for the daily Al-Sharq, tweeted on the same day: "I will never show tolerance for the killing of children in [either] Tel Aviv or Gaza. Those responsible for their death are both [Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin] Netanyahu and [Hamas leader in Gaza Isma'il] Haniya. Were it not for Netanyahu and Haniya, the Palestinians and the Israelis would have lived together just as our forefathers coexisted peacefully with the Jews for many centuries." In another tweet he wrote: "I am not an advocate for Israel, but I have a question: Didn't we Arabs live alongside the Jews in Medina, Khaybar and Tayma [in the Arabian Peninsula] for centuries and see nothing from them but appreciation and respect[?] The Jewish [sixth century poet] Samawal is a model of loyalty for us, so much so that Arabs still use the phrase 'more loyal than Samawal' to express appreciation and respect."
One of Fawzan's May 12 tweets
Saudi liberal intellectual Turki Al-Hamad tweeted about Hamas on May 14: "When courage is not accompanied by wisdom, it becomes stupidity. [The late Egyptian president Gamal] 'Abd Al-Nasser, and [the late Iraqi president] Saddam Hussein, for example, did not lack courage, but since they acted unwisely, this 'courage' became a disaster. [Egypt] lost Sinai and Saddam's regime collapsed. Today Hamas is bombarding Israel with rockets that will never destroy it, and as a result there are hundreds of orphans and grieving mothers in Gaza. Is this courage or is it stupidity?"
Saudi Columnist: "Some Terrorist Movements Inside Palestine Are Allied With [Iran]… [And] Hold Palestine And Its People Hostage To Its Ambitions"; Iran Is More Dangerous Than Israel
Columnist 'Abdullah Bin Bijad Al-Otaibi castigated Hamas in the London-based Saudi daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, in a column headed " Palestinian Cause Auctioned Off to the Highest Bidder." The following are excerpts from an English translation of his article published on Alarabiya.net: "Who stoked the flames of the political fire in Palestine? Who launched rockets at Israel? Why did they choose this timing at the end of the holy month of Ramadan? In whose interest is this warfare waged? Will it serve the Palestinian people and state or another party? These are not absurd questions but rather crucial ones to come up with a realistic and rational response to the absurdity of these recurring events. Whoever stoked the flames is well aware that their actions would leave dozens of dead and wounded, cause towers to be demolished and properties destroyed, in service of Iranian regime’s agenda and its steady approach since the 'Khomeini revolution': exploiting Palestine to achieve the goals of that fundamentalist theocratic regime. Today, the Iranian regime needs to stoke the flames in Palestine and shout the slogan of 'Jerusalem' and to revive the concept of 'resistance' that was revealed to the Arab people and whose goals and objectives were known and clearly manifested in multiple crises in the recent past.
"The Iranian orders were clear. They consisted of launching a large number of locally manufactured missiles at Israel in order to improve the negotiations conditions for Iran in Vienna and to use Palestine as a bargaining chip for any future negotiations in the region. Indeed, the orders were executed, but at the expense of the Palestinian people, their security and their lives.
"Targeting Israel with rockets was part of the Iranian regime’s strategy in the region not to fight Israel, but to fight Arab countries and to kill and destroy Arab people in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen. This is a tried and true strategy for some servants and soldiers of the Iranian project in the region, where the orders of another country having its own agenda are executed on the Palestinian territory. This country is only concerned with the Palestinian people or the Palestinian cause to the extent that it serves its interests and imperial ambitions to project power and impose hegemony, and to display pictures of some leaders kissing the hands of the “turbaned emperor” everywhere.
"In such a fraught atmosphere, blind ideologies flourish, empty slogans spread and hollow bids increase, which is precisely what Iran and the political Islam groups want. But when Palestinian interests are put first, those actors shall cease to exist, and be related to the sidelines of history. That said, they are keen to maintain this political ideology mixed with religion at the expense of the life of the last Palestinian child and family. On the ideological altar, people are cheaply sacrificed for the interests of the movement, the party, and 'political Islam'…
"The 'Iranian regime' is more hostile to Arab countries than to Israel, and it is an occupying and colonial regime larger and more dangerous than Israel. Some terrorist movements inside Palestine are allied with this regime, serve it and work for it, holding Palestine and its people hostage to its ambitions and extended strategies in the region. This is a fact that should be always present in the mind of every person dealing with this recurring scene in Palestine, which will be repeated over the coming years, unless these movements are forced to yield to the will of the Palestinian people, the interests of the Palestinian state and of other Arab states…
"Finally, Arab countries are breaking out of the shell of the past, its slogans and falsehood that caused Arabs to lose wars, deepen wounds and entrench tragedies. They have big plans to develop Arab countries and their people and are firmly challenging any hostile project in the region. They shall not in any way be victims of terrorist groups, regardless how much they claim to have pure and humanitarian intentions."
Saudi Columnist: Hamas Acts In The Service Of Turkey And Iran; The Palestinians Need A New Leadership
Saudi columnist Hamoud Abu Talib wrote in the daily 'Okaz under the headline "Save the Palestinians and Their Cause from Their Leadership": "Since the Hamas movement emerged in the Palestinian political arena the situation has grown worse for many reasons, including the introduction of ideological issues into the Palestinian cause… and its transformation from a purely Arab national cause into a demagogic trump card in the hands of elements associated with Hamas, Iran, Turkey and the global Muslim Brotherhood organization… The result is that this cause gradually lost its importance in the Arab consciousness…
"The reason for the new conflict currently raging between Israel and Hamas is purely political. The matter of the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood was exploited by both sides. Netanyahu used it to spark an escalation, after the Israeli President appointed the representative of the [Israeli] opposition, [Yair Lapid], to depose him [i.e., to form a new government]… Hamas, [for its part, also] hastened to exploit the issue of Sheikh Jarrah and Jerusalem, making it the center of its discourse this time around, after [PA] President Mahmoud 'Abbas decided to postpone the [Palestinian] elections against its will. [Hamas] dragged the Jerusalem issue into Gaza and ignited the conflict, so that the result, as usual, would be destruction and blood spilled in vain.
"The truth which must not be ignored is that, just as the Palestinian people is a victim of the disastrous, racist and usurping Zionist Israeli occupation, it is also the victim of its present representatives. The official Palestinian Authority is feeble and weak and cannot meet [the Palestinians'] most basic needs. Hamas, which seized power in Gaza, in addition to its foolish actions that have exacerbated the suffering of the Gazans and the Palestinians in general – is following non-Arab [forces] and jumping on the ideological bandwagon of the foreign agendas [of those who] wish to take over the Arab causes, chief of them the Palestinian cause.
"In light of these facts, the Palestinian people will not be able to avoid the repeated conflagrations unless it [develops] a strong will to replace its leaders. It definitely needs a new national leadership, united and free of all the illnesses of its predecessor [i.e., the present leadership], which talks endlessly about the [Palestinian] cause but actually acts against it, against its Arab depth and against its status in the Arab consciousness and in human conscience."
Saudi Columnist: Iran And The Movements Of Political Islam Trade In Palestinian Cause For Their Own Benefit
'Abd Al-Rahman Al-Tariri, also an columnist for 'Okaz, wrote under the heading "Sheikh Jarrah and Hajj [Qassem] Soleimani": "It is appropriate to ask whether the current confrontation is between Israel and Palestine, or is a campaign sparked by the Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated Hamas movement, which owes its allegiance to Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps [IRGC], and whose [leaders, Khaled] Mash'al and [Ismail] Haniya, call [the late IRGC Qods Force commander] Qassem Soleimani, who is responsible for the murder and destruction in Syria, Iraq, and Lebanon, 'a martyr for Jerusalem.' It is also appropriate to ask whether it is a trick by Netanyahu, who did not benefit from the fact that 70 percent of the votes [in the latest Israeli election] supported the right-wing bloc, and didn't manage to easily form a government… Perhaps [he thought] that a short campaign and the bombing of several high-rise buildings in Gaza would restore his glory.
"Amid all these speculations, the lie of Iran and its proxies becomes clear – especially Hizbullah, which did not hesitate to assist the tyrant [Syrian President] Bashar Al-Assad but which has [never] managed to reach Palestine, while the IRGC Qods Force is working to liberate Jerusalem from Marib [in Yemen] and from Baghdad…
"Over the years, Palestine remains a just cause and the Palestinian people have rights which were stolen, but it also remains good merchandise for the trader, and therefore the movements of political Islam, and their sponsor Tehran, always turn to it whenever their popularity drops so as to gain temporary legitimacy."
Saudi Columnist: The Palestinian Leaders In The West Bank And Gaza Are Responsible For Palestinian Bloodshed And Failure Of Palestinian Cause
In her column in the London-based Saudi daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, Amal 'Abd Al-'Aziz Al-Hazani wrote: "The Syrian blood [shed in the Syria war] is an unforgivable sin committed by Bashar Al-Assad, the Iraqi blood [that is being shed today] is a sin of the Iraqis who opened their doors to Iran, and [the bloodshed] in Palestine is a sin committed by the failing leaders in both areas: [both] the Gaza Strip and the West Bank…
"The Palestinian cause is an Arab cause which has deprived [Arabs] of sleep for dozens of years, and like all the Arab causes, it has a place in the [Arab] conscience and heart. At the same time, as Arabs and Muslims we are shocked at the Palestinian failure to handle this crisis. If the [Palestinian] owners of the land and the cause have failed, all the external efforts to reach an arrangement and keep the situation in check, great as they may be, will certainly not succeed and will be nothing but pain relief. At the very least, the Palestinian elections should have been held, instead of postponing them with unconvincing excuses, which do not help the Palestinian situation one whit. This shows us that the cause is not being handled by intelligent [people].
"In Gaza, [now steeped] in fear, the stench of death and the sounds of weeping, the Hamas movement, which rules the Strip in tyranny, has decided to adopt the frightening approach of storing weapons and launching missiles [from populated areas], when it knows that Israel responds to the missiles and targets the launch-sites. And thus, within a few hours we see the civilians [of Gaza] falling like flies under the Israeli fire! Who can conceive of such a thing? This is a wretched spectacle whose price is the blood of the children and the innocent people [of Gaza], whom Hamas did not consult or ask whether they agree to pay with their lives for living near the stores of ammunition.
"The Palestinian cause is suffering because the Palestinian leaders have a priority list that is different from that of the Palestinian citizen, and because they [share] the political considerations of external elements, and have aspirations for the crisis to continue because it lays golden eggs for them.
"Officially, the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood in East Jerusalem was the spark which ignited the current war… This real estate conflict should have been handled through legal measures, not in the Israeli courts but at the International Court of Justice, which should examine the validity of the claims of each side and decide [the issue] publicly, before the international community. The Palestinian presidency should have undertaken the handling of this matter and brought it before the international court, and before the influential countries in the Arab and international arena, so as to explain the principles that underpin the [Palestinian] residents' ownership [of the land] and thus receive the support of these countries. But that didn't happen. The Palestinian citizen was left alone in the fray, when confronting the Israeli settler and when seeking justice from the Israeli courts.
The tragedy of the Palestinian cause is first of all the Palestinian leaders, who for dozens of years have clearly failed to manage the crisis and have sealed their ears to the opinions of the large Arab countries, which have placed the Palestinian cause at the top of their foreign policy… The Palestinians deserve better leaders than those they have today, in [both] the West Bank and Gaza. [They deserve] new blood which will bring with it a different way of thinking, consider the interests of the Palestinians and improve relations with the Arab countries, governments, and peoples."
Egyptian Columnist In Saudi Daily: Criticizing Hamas Is In The Interest Of The Palestinians
Egyptian Al-Sharq Al-Awsat columnist Khalid Al-Bari addressed the present round of fighting as well, under the heading " Should We Criticize Hamas in the Midst of Crisis?" The following are excerpts from an English translation of his article published May 17 on the daily's English website:
"The [legal] crisis [in Sheikh Jarrah] is totally different from the conflict led by Hamas, which is pummeling rockets at Israeli residential areas and dragging the Palestinians in Gaza to a tragic cycle made worse by their transformation, the victims, into oppressors being punished for their aggression. The foundational injustice is disregarded by the global media and replaced by a new narrative that undermines the struggle against it: A terrorist group that is capable of launching thousands of missiles in a short period of time at civilian targets on one side and a state defending itself on the other. As a result, world leaders are racing to express their support of the state defending itself, and as we have seen, they have forgotten about Sheikh Jarrah.
"The question remains: should we criticize Hamas amid the crisis?... [The fact is that] criticism is only of value when it is expressed at times of crisis. Refraining from expressing it is not a noble act but one of political shortsightedness that disregards peoples. Abstaining from criticism indicates an absence of the courage required to stand in the face of thunderous masses and pre-packaged smear campaigns of accusations of treachery, led and by prominent figures from the world art, football and literature. It is often accompanied by blackmail and claims of honor and purity, and sometimes personal insults are even hurled at detractors.
"I do not know why reasonable people sympathize with a movement that we have already seen - not through analysis or speculation but through its actions - do what it has done in the area it controls. We have already seen - neither through analysis nor speculation - how it deals with its Palestinian political rivals. We have already seen - neither through analysis nor by speculation - its plans for Egypt. We have seen its regional sympathies, the puppet master moving it from above. We have seen how it invests its share of the popularity it seized from the Palestinians’ initial path… Your criticism of Hamas during times of peace is worthless… like its Lebanese counterpart [Hizbullah], it grows and thrives, garners its strength from what goes on during times of crisis. Only then does your criticism have significance.
"If you conflate support for Hamas with support for Palestinians, then you should reexamine your politics and your ability to form a grounded opinion. Because criticizing Hamas is in the interest of the Palestinians, today and tomorrow. Leaving Hamas out of the discourse supportive of Palestinians and their attainment of their rights strengthens this discourse and frees Palestinians from the burdens brought on by the group.
"Solidifying Hamas’ ability to shape public opinion through the Palestinian cause strengthens extremist elements, adds to their prestige, and turns them into a player that cannot be bypassed in the world’s eyes. It is also a disgrace to the pro-Palestinian movement, as it amplifies the voice of Islamic extremism over that of typical Muslims, not only their image but their real consciousness, behavior and worldview.
"When you spend years fighting extremists and extremist rhetoric and stand with them, rushing to their side at the first sign of crisis, you undo all that you had done in an instant. During crises, the soundness of minds is revealed, and under pressure, the solidity of reason is tested…"
 Twitter.com/alshaikhmhmd, May 12, 2021.
 Samawal ibn 'Adiya was a sixth-century Jewish poet in the Hijaz (present-day Saudi Arabia). The collection of poems attributed to him is considered to be an important work of pre-Islamic Arabic poetry and of Jewish culture in the Hijaz. He is esteemed in Arab tradition as an emblem of loyalty and honesty.
 Twitter.com/TurkiHAlhamad1, May 14, 2021.
 English.alarabiya.net, May 16, 2021.
 'Okaz (Saudi Arabia), May 17, 2021.
 'Okaz (Saudi Arabia), May 17, 2021.
 Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), May 18, 2021.
 English.aawsat.com. May 17, 2021.