Israeli Sports and Culture Minister Miri Regev visited the United Arab Emirates Sunday for a judo tournament in Abu Dhabi where one of the Israeli athletes won gold. The event allowed the Israeli national anthem, Hatikvah, to be played in UAE despite not recognizing the state of Israel.
Regev also visited Abu Dhabi’s Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, the third largest mosque in the world, after which the minister wrote on Facebook, “I am happy that I was privileged to be the first senior official from Israel to sign the mosque’s guest book. I chose to do so in Hebrew, out of a message of brotherhood and peace between people.”
On Facebook, Regev posted a video that showed her standing inside Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque next to a man who appeared to be Mohamed Bin Thaloob al-Dera, president of the UAE Wrestling Judo & Kickboxing Federation and another man whom she identified as a mosque official.
Her visit to the mosque was denounced by many on various social media platforms due to her past controversial comments which described the Muslim call for prayer, Adhan, as the “crying dogs of Mohammed”. She has also been criticized in past for comments rejecting Palestinians' right to land.
The UAE houses a large Palestinian community and this visit by Regev has been rejected by many, especially because it comes at a time when an Israeli airstrike killed three children in Gaza and when Israeli forces have killed hundreds of Palestinians though what the United Nations has called "excessive use of force" and human rights groups have called a "shoot-to-maim-or-kill policy" used against protesters in Gaza, who are demanding their right to return.
One social media user sarcastically congratulated the UAE for receiving a "hardcore Zionist" and lamented what it means for Palestinians, adding #RIPPalestine.
In January, Regev came under fire for posting a video of herself at a football game in Israel where fans were shouting genocidal chants against an Arab team.
Her visit came immediately after Netanyahu announced Friday that he had just returned from a surprise visit to Oman, the first time an Israeli leader visited the Sultanate in 22 years.