Al Jazeera English has taken down a video of an episode of its current affairs show UpFront, in which a Saudi academic and activist said that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) would commit political “suicide” if he normalized relations with Israel amid its war on Gaza.
The episode, titled “Israel-Gaza: Could further escalation lead to a wider conflict?”, was aired on 3 November and featured Madawi al-Rasheed, a visiting professor at the London School of Economics and a co-founder of the pro-democracy opposition group National Assembly Party (NAAS), and Matt Duss, executive vice president at the Center for International Policy, a Washington-based think tank.
The video of the 25-minute show was posted on Al Jazeera’s website and YouTube channel on the same day, but was removed by Sunday. A page on the website where the show could be viewed now says “Page not found”. The show’s X and Facebook accounts have teased a short clip of the episode, and an audio version of the entire show remains online on Al Jazeera’s website and on some podcast platforms.
It is unclear why the video program has been removed. Al Jazeera English did not respond to requests for comment from Middle East Eye and The Intercept, which first reported on the video’s takedown. Marc Lamont Hill, the host of UpFront, told The Intercept that he was aware of the video removal and had inquired with the news organization’s leadership.
Funded by Qatar
Al Jazeera is funded and owned by the government of Qatar, a small country that has had a tense relationship with its larger neighbor, Saudi Arabia. In 2017, Saudi Arabia led a regional blockade against Qatar, accusing it of supporting “terrorist and sectarian groups” and demanding that it shut down Al Jazeera. The Gulf states reconciled in 2021 and Al Jazeera continues to operate.
In the course of the discussion, al-Rasheed was asked by Hill whether she believed Saudi Arabia would normalize its relations with Israel, a move pushed by both the Trump and Biden administrations. Al-Rasheed said that MBS, who is widely seen as the de facto ruler of the kingdom, had already signaled his willingness to do so, but faced domestic opposition and regional challenges.
“He would not probably survive as the future king of Saudi Arabia, if he goes ahead and normalizes in this context of war,” al-Rasheed said, referring to the ongoing Israeli assault on Gaza, which has killed more than 200 Palestinians, including 61 children, since 10 May.
Al-Rasheed said that MBS had already alienated many segments of Saudi society, including religious conservatives, liberals, women, activists, and dissidents, and that normalizing with Israel would further erode his legitimacy.
“He will be seen as a traitor who is selling Palestine, who is selling the Arab cause, who is selling Islam,” she said.
Al-Rasheed also criticized the Saudi media for its coverage of the Gaza crisis, saying that it was “trying to whitewash the Israeli aggression” and “trying to present the Palestinians as the aggressors”.
She said that the Saudi regime was “afraid of the Palestinian cause” because it could mobilize people against it, and that it was “trying to divert attention from the real issues that are facing the Saudi people”.
Al-Rasheed is a vocal critic of the Saudi monarchy and a supporter of democratic reforms in the country. She has written several books on Saudi politics, history, and society, and has been banned from entering the kingdom since 2005.
She is also one of the founders of NAAS, a political party that was launched in September 2020 and calls for a constitutional monarchy, free elections, human rights, and an end to corruption and repression in Saudi Arabia.
NAAS has been denounced by the Saudi authorities as a “terrorist organisation” and several of its members have been arrested or harassed.