When Saudi Arabia announced a new policy to allow tourists, it brought attention to the official Supreme Commission for Tourism’s website, which explicitly stated Jews were barred from applying for visas.
But since WorldNetDaily published a story early this morning about the site’s contents, the reference to Jews has been eliminated, and the Saudi Embassy in Washington insists the Islamic kingdom does not bar anyone on the basis of religion or ethnicity.
Nail al-Jubier, chief information officer for the embassy, told WorldNetDaily he was “stunned” when he saw the Saudi tourism Web page listing “Jewish People” among those not permitted to enter the country.
“That is not our policy,” he said. “The tourism board is looking into how it got there. We have no rule regarding Jews or, for that matter, any religious believer.”
The tourism board’s page previously looked like this.
It said the following people are not allowed in the country:
- An Israeli passport holder or a passport that has an Israeli arrival/departure stamp.
- Those who don’t abide by the Saudi traditions concerning appearance and behaviors.
- Those under the influence of alcohol … .
- Jewish People
The new page can be viewed here.
Al-Jubier acknowledged, however, there is a ban on anyone with an Israeli passport.
“There are no diplomatic relations with [Israel], and they will not be issued visas until a [peace] settlement is in place,” he explained.
But the prohibition on passport holders who have an Israeli visa was lifted some time ago, al-Jubier added.
Saudi Arabia expects to have a new law allowing tourist visas within the next several weeks. To this point, travel has been limited to business, employment, pilgrimages and specially approved visits.
Yesterday, U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner, D-N.Y., referring to the tourism website, urged the U.S. to rethink its relationship with the Saudis until they “clarify” their immigration policy.
“It is very difficult to see the Saudis as anything other than a backward country with backward ideals and this reaffirms that,” said Weiner in a statement. “I think the administration should take a hard look at this Web site and decide whether a country that has these policies should be considered our ally.”
The Saudi Embassy in Washington issued a statement today in response, stating it had contacted Weiner’s office, advising him the website was in error.
Ambassador Prince Bandar bin Sultan said he was “surprised that Rep. Weiner would issue a statement after his office was advised by officials of the Embassy that the concerns he raised were not the kingdom’s policy.”
“At this time, we should be working toward greater understanding and better relations between the United States and the Middle East,” the ambassador said. “Rep. Weiner and his actions only serve to spread doubt and mistrust.”