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Saudi Arabia bars nearly 3 million Palestinians from Hajj and Umrah

  • 8 November 2018
  • Author: QT01
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Saudi Arabia bars nearly 3 million Palestinians from Hajj and Umrah
Saudi Arabia is barring more than one and a half million Palestinian citizens of Israel from travelling on temporary Jordanian passports to perform the Islamic pilgrimages of Hajj and Umrah in the holy city of Mecca, according to Middle East Eye (MEE).
The measure is part of Saudi Arabia's new policy to stop issuing visas for Hajj and Umrah to Palestinians in Jordan, Lebanon, East Jerusalem, and, most recently, to Palestinians living in Israel, who hold temporary travel documents issued by Jordan or Lebanon - a policy that became effective on 12 September.
This Saudi move affects 2.94 million Palestinians in total across these states, who have no access to any other form of travel document allowing them to go to Saudi Arabia, where millions of Muslims travel each year on pilgrimage to the holy cities of Mecca and Medina.
Several travel agents spoken to by MEE in Israel, East Jerusalem and Jordan said that they were informed by Jordan's Ministry of Awqaf and Islamic Affairs that the Saudi embassy in Amman told them to not apply for visas for anyone seeking to travel to Mecca on a temporary Jordanian passport.

Israeli-Saudi agreement
A Jordanian source, with an inside knowledge of his country's diplomatic affairs, told MEE that the Saudi decision is part of a bilateral agreement with Israel to put an end to the "Palestinian identity and the right of return for refugees".
"Saudi Arabia is pressuring Jordan to naturalise the Palestinian refugees in Jordan, Palestinians in East Jerusalem, and now Palestinians in Israel. The same could happen in Lebanon. Then, you will not have a Palestinian refugees problem," the source said.
"It is all part of a bilateral agreement between Israel and Saudi Arabia. But Jordan is refusing to naturalise Palestinians."
Jordanian MPs told MEE that Jordan has been issuing temporary travel documents since 1978 for Palestinian citizens of Israel, who fell under Israeli military administration after the 1948 Arab-Israeli war.
Saud Abu Mahfouz, a Jordanian MP, said that they have asked Jordan's minister of interior and the minister of Awqaf to send a committee to Riyadh, the Saudi capital, to negotiate a reversal of the policy, and called upon King Salman to intervene. 
"The decision is affecting every Arab and Muslim who has the right to worship. We have been hearing complaints about this matter since last year, and we were surprised to find almost 200 tourist companies in Jordan not able to issue an electronic visa for Umrah from the Saudi embassy for Palestinians," Abu Mahfouz said.
Another Jordanian MP, Yahya Al-Saud, said that they have asked for a meeting with the Saudi ambassador in Amman, Khaled bin Faisal, but the embassy has yet to set a date for the meeting.
"There is a pressure on Jordan. The Saudis are saying that only people with permanent passports could get a visa for Hajj and Umrah," he said.
Prior to 1978, Palestinian citizens of Israel endured three decades without going to Hajj and Umrah, a situation that ended when Jordan's King Hussein began a policy in coordination with the Arab League to issue travel cards for them to perform Hajj, one of Islam's five pillars.
After 2000, Jordan's Civil Status and Passports Department in Amman started issuing them temporary passports instead of travel cards that are valid for a year and cost 50 Jordanian dinars ($70).
Saudi Arabia and the majority of Arab states do not recognise the Israeli passport. The Jordanian temporary passport was a tool to facilitate Hajj and Umrah pilgrimages to Mecca for Palestinian citizens of Israel who hold an Israeli passport.
"Since 1978, we were just allowed to go to Hajj, but in the 1990s Saudi Arabia allowed us to go to Umrah [also]," Saleem Shal'atah, the head of the Hajj and Umrah Committee for Muslims of 48 that organises the journeys to Saudi Arabia, told MEE.
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