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 traveling 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 the 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 actions, saying he had not intended to offend Muslims.
“If anyone takes offence to this video, I deeply apologise,” he wrote in English on Twitter.