UAE-based Omani blogger sparks fury online with trip to Israel

UAE-based Omani blogger sparks fury online with trip to Israel
Asma Al-Shehhi, a UAE-based Omani blogger visited the Israeli city of Haifa as well as occupied Jerusalem as per her Instagram account, which drew criticism from pro-Palestinian activists online.
3 min read
05 February, 2023
The Omani blogger documented her arrival at Ben Gurion Airport, where she said that employees processed an Omani passport "for the first time" [Getty]

An Omani blogger has sparked anger for reportedly travelling to Israel, despite the Gulf country’s many laws restricting travel to to the country.

Asma Al-Shehhi posted videos on her Instagram story documenting her arrival at Ben Gurion Airport on Friday, where she spoke of the surprise of an airport employee saying that this was the "first time" they had met an Omani and processed an Omani passport at Tel Aviv’s airport.

The blogger initially posted an image of herself accompanied with an ask box, asking her followers to guess where she was going. Hours later, she posted a video of herself in an airplane with a caption "guess by the language" as a flight attendant can be heard speaking Hebrew on a speaker. She proceeded to post videos from the airport, showing that she had landed in Israel.

Moments later, the blogger - who has 52,000 followers on Instagram - can be heard pointing out a road sign that says "Orshalem", in reference to the Canaanite tribe that once inhabited Jerusalem thousands of years ago.

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Al-Shehhi also showed that she visited the Israeli city of Haifa, which has a sizeable Palestinian population.

Later during the weekend, Al-Shehhi posted numerous images and videos of herself visiting the Jerusalem's Old City, notably the Dome of The Rock and the Damascus Gate. In a caption, she said visiting Jerusalem was a “dream come true”.

Al-Shehhi’s trip to Israel was met with criticism and condemnation from activists online, including the NGO Omanis Against Normalisation.

Twitter user Issa Al-Balushi said: "We [Omanis] will visit Jerusalem as liberators, not [ones who condone normalization]. Rest assured, she [Al-Shehhi] is not Omani, she just claims to be]. A true Omani’s main concern would be the liberation of Palestine and Jerusalem".

Moreover, many Instagram users have commented "Normalisation is Betrayal" under several posts of the Omani blogger, in response to her trip. Al-Shehhi has since turned off the comments on a number of her posts.

According to the NGO, Al-Shehhi resides in the UAE, which established diplomatic ties with Israel in 2020 via the US-brokered Abraham Accords. 

Oman voted on a draft amendment to expand its law banning ties with Israel in December.

Oman already bans "interaction with the Zionist entity for private and public figures," as per Article 1 of the country’s Royal Decree. It is looking to also prohibit sports, cultural and economic contact, and on interacting with Israelis in person and online.

Muscat also officially upholds the Arab League’s stance that any form of diplomatic relations with Israel is entirely dependent on the establishment of a Palestinian state.

Several Arab states, including Morocco, Bahrain and the UAE, have normalised ties with Israel, drawing near-unanimous condemnation from Palestinians, who call the move "a stab in the back".