Israel distances itself from TV report on Makkah

Published July 21, 2022
This screengrab shows journalist Gil Tamary travelling through Makkah. — Photo courtesy Channel 13 News
This screengrab shows journalist Gil Tamary travelling through Makkah. — Photo courtesy Channel 13 News

JERUSALEM: An Israeli minister on Wednesday denounced as ‘stupid and harmful’ to Israel-Gulf ties a TV report by a journalist who entered the holy city of Makkah despite a ban on non-Muslim visits and who apologised for the event after an online backlash.

Israel’s Channel 13 News aired a 10-minute report from Saudi Arabia by its journalist Gil Tamary on Monday, in which he was travelling in a car by holy sites.

Tamary was accompanied by a person who appears to be a local guide.

“I’m sorry (but) it was a stupid thing to do and take pride in,” Israel’s regional cooperation minister Esawi Freij, who is Muslim, told public broadcaster Kan. “It was irresponsible and damaging to air this report just for the sake of ratings.”

Freij said the report hurt US-encouraged efforts to gradually move Israel and Saudi Arabia towards more normal ties, similar to the 2020 diplomatic deals with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.

Riyadh does not recognise Israel, saying this would require addressing Pales­tinian statehood goals first.

Tamary’s visit also trended on Twitter after the report was aired.

One Twitter user wrote, “Shame on you Channel 13, for hurting the religion of Islam like that. You are rude”.

Saudi media did not cover the story and officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Tamary was in Jeddah covering US President Joe Biden’s visit on Friday. It was unclear how Tamary entered the holy city despite a ban. Tamary later apologised for his act, saying he had not intended to offend Muslims.

“If anyone takes offence to this video, I deeply apologise,” he wrote in English on Twitter.

Published in Dawn, July 21st, 2022

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