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The New Arab Staff

Saudi scholar publishes in Israeli journal for first time

Israel and Saudi Arabia have no formal diplomatic relations [Getty]

Date of publication: 13 July, 2020

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The academic article may stoke controversy among supporters of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which advocates an academic boycott on Israel.
A Saudi academic has published an article in an Israeli journal in an "unprecedented" development that reflects the warming ties between the two countries, formerly sworn enemies.

Professor Mohammed Ibrahim Alghbban's article on the relations between Islam's Prophet Mohammed and the Jewish population of the Arabian Peninsula was published in Kesher, a journal based at Tel Aviv University.

The university described the publication as "unprecedented" in a press release published on Monday.

Alghbban - who is head of Near Eastern Languages and Civilisations and Hebrew Studies at the Department of Modern Languages and Translation at Riyadh's King Saud University - wrote the journal article in Hebrew, a first for the academic.

The Saudi scholar wanted to bust Israeli misconceptions about the Muslim prophet.

"Accusing Islam and the Prophet Mohammed of hate speech and racism against Jewish tribes in Hejaz is erroneous," Alghbban wrote in the introduction to his article. "Mohammed treated equally all social groups in Medina and in other places under his control, regardless of race and religion. The misrepresentations in the research are due to the fact that his [words] were never translated into Hebrew."

The article argues that the Prophet Mohammed did not clash with Jews on religious grounds but only on political matters.

"I hope that this academic cooperation is another step towards economic and political cooperation," said Professor Raanan Rein, head of Tel Aviv University's Shalom Rosenfeld Institute.

The article's publication comes amid increasingly warming ties between Israel and a number of Gulf states, including Saudi Arabia.

Like most Arab nations, Saudi Arabia does not have diplomatic relations with Israel due to its occupation of Palestinian lands.

Clandestine relations between the two have been on the rise, however, with Riyadh and Tel Aviv sharing a mutual enmity with Iran.

Public displays of normalisation have been seen in visits by Israeli officials to Gulf states and interfaith dialogues. 

Hints of normalisation have largely been met with fierce reproach from the Arab public. The Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement advocates an academic boycott on Israel.

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