RIYADH: Saudi Arabia said Thursday it was launching a fundraising campaign for war-torn Gaza, creating a rare opening for residents to show solidarity with Palestinians.

The move comes as the kingdom attempts to strike a balance between championing the Palestinian cause — its traditional role — and keeping attention on domestic economic and social reforms spearheaded by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

It has been nearly one month since the October 7 attacks in which Hamas killed 1,400 people and kidnapped more than 230, according to Israeli officials.

Since then, Israel has relentlessly bombarded Gaza and sent in ground troops in an assault that the Hamas-run health ministry says has killed 8,700 people, two-thirds of them women and children. While the Saudi government has issued repeated statements condemning attacks on civilians in Gaza, the response from the Saudi public has been fairly muted, in large part because there are few safe outlets for any kind of political speech.

Authorities do not allow the kind of pro-Palestinian protests seen in other Arab countries since the war began.

Public social media posts are also dicey in a country where judges routinely hand down heavy sentences for content critical of the government.

Some Saudis have settled for social media posts on private accounts.

“We cannot talk about supporting Palestine publicly,” said Ali, a government employee who did not want to give his surname due to the sensitivity of the issue.

“I used to pay money from my own pocket to support the Palestinians during the intifada 20 years ago. Now we have been silenced and we cannot even write a supportive post on social media.” Saudi Arabia, home to Islam’s holiest sites, has never recognised Israel and has long fashioned itself as a champion of the Palestinian cause, issuing statements condemning the recent attacks on Gaza civilians.


Comments are closed.