Saudi Arabia Denies it Will Allow Jews to Work in the Kingdom

January 5, 2015  

Saudi Arabia’s Labor Ministry is denying a report in a local newspaper that it will be employing Jews within the Kingdom, according to Middle East Eye.

On Tuesday, the Saudi daily Al-Watan reported that Saudi authorities are now allowing people of all faiths, including Jews, to work in the Kingdom, saying this was proof of the country’s openness to other religions and cultures.

Al-Watan stated that the Saudi Labor Ministry website, which deals with “importing [workers] for institutions and companies,” lists a number of options for foreign workers’ religions: Zoroastrianism, Communism, Judaism, Buddhism, Sikhism, Islam, Christianity, Hinduism, and no religion.

The paper went on to say that “the labor authorities in the kingdom have permitted the import of people who practice Judaism for working on its soil” and called this “a move that emphasizes openness to all monotheistic religions and to people from other cultures.”

But the Saudi Labor Ministry later poured cold water on the report, according to Middle East Eye, releasing an official statement denying that there was any change to the official policy in the Kingdom.

The ministry said the while new forms for foreign employees provide the option to choose Judaism as a faith, it does not mean that the government has made an official decision to authorize the employment of Jews in the kingdom.

Among the other religious beliefs put forward by the ministry as options on the forms are Zoroastrianism, Communism, Judaism, Buddhism, Sikhism, Islam, Christianity, Hinduism, and no religion.

While the country has never established formal relations with the State of Israel or allowed Israelis to travel to the Kingdom, its attitude towards non-Israeli Jews has been more ambiguous.

In the 1970’s, visitors to the Kingdom had reported having to sign affidavits swearing they were not Jewish.

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL), an organization monitoring global anti-Semitism, has previously observed that Saudi Arabia “bars anyone from bringing into Saudi Arabia religious ritual objects, including religious texts, from any faith other than Islam, effectively banning religiously observant Jews from entering the country.”

In recent years there have been claims that Saudi Arabia and Israel were getting close and perhaps are even secret allies, though most of this has been disseminated by Saudi Arabia’s regional rival, Iran.

Iran has accused the Saudis of conspiring with Israel against it. These accusations came in a series of Iranian media reports claiming, among other things, that the head of the Saudi intelligence service met with several senior Israeli security officials and that a Saudi Arabian delegation flew to Israel for meetings with high-ranking Israeli officials, including Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.

An earlier report had said that Israel and Saudi Arabia had teamed up to launch a virus against Iran’s nuclear program.

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