Amongst those who have consciously shared collective silence for a long time, is the first one to speak any better than the rest? Leaders of Middle Eastern countries including the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia have been under immense pressure from the largely pro-Palestine populations and even the media, in some cases, to take a strong stance against the ongoing Israeli offensive in Gaza. The public is naturally outraged to find that the spirit of Muslim unity and brotherhood isn’t truly reflected in the their respective countries’ foreign policy. After more than three weeks since the beginning of the operation, Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah has finally come out with a strong-worded statement accusing Israel of war crimes and taking terrorists to task for maligning Islam simultaneously. The Saudi King also lamented the silence of both the Muslim world and the international community describing it to be “inexcusable.”
The fact is that Saudi Arabia doesn’t view Hamas favourably. Hamas, although a Sunni organisation, is supported by the Kingdom’s Shia rivals Iran and Hezbollah in Lebanon. In Syria, the KSA is funding groups which are fighting to overthrow the Iran-backed Assad regime. In the context of Middle Eastern sectarian politics, Saudi Arabia doesn’t mind Israel degrading a notable entity backed by Iran such as Hamas, which explains why the King has taken quite some time before sharing his thoughts. The Kingdom’s relationship with Israel in any case has been far more pragmatic than it would have its people believe. Political posturing, on the other hand, is simply unavoidable. It remains to be seen whether the statement will have any significant impact on the current situation. Moreover, King Abdullah called on Muslim scholars to preach the message of peace and love, and restore the distorted image of Islam. Judging from the content of the statement, the KSA appears wary of terrorist groups such as al-Qaeda and Islamic State (IS) – both oppose the al-Saud monarchy in favour of the establishment of a caliphate. So, it is really not so much a matter of love for humanity as it must be clear from KSA’s record of human rights and foreign policies, but of self-preservation and power.