Sana’a (GPA) – It seems as though Saudi Arabia is taking notes directly out of Israel’s playbook. A close look at the Yemen crisis reveals several similarities as both oppressors attempt to beat their subjects into submission. And in both cases, the subjects refuse to submit.
12 Reasons Why the Yemen Crisis is Saudi Arabia’s Gaza
The Yemen crisis provides virtually a mirror image of Gaza in terms of the oppressor’s strategy. Here are just a few ways the Saudi and Israeli strategy overlaps.
1. Inhumane Blockade and Collective Punishment in Yemen Crisis
Saudi Arabia imposed a land, sea, and air blockade over its southern neighbor in 2015 shortly after revolutionary forces took control of the capital, Sana’a. Yemenis and human rights groups alike say these measures amount to collective punishment.
Amnesty International says that the United States and Saudi coalition in Yemen have prohibited roughly 500,000 metric tons of food and fuel on 29 vessels from entering the country’s main lifeline: Hodeidah port. Likewise, both the United Nations Secretary-General and Amnesty have condemned the over ten-year-long blockade of Gaza as collective punishment.
A coalition offensive to occupy Hodeidah port from indigenous Yemenis is currently underway which the UN warns would lead to widespread humanitarian disaster taking the lives of some 250,000 civilians. In comparison, the coalition to retake Mosul from Daesh (ISIS) — an actual terror group — killed over 9,000 civilians.
2. Hyper-restricting the Flow of Movement
The Rafah Border Crossing is Gaza’s only point of access to the outside world via Egypt. Israeli Occupying Forces handed control of the gateway to Egyptians in 1982 who effectively operate on Israel’s behalf in this instance. For years, Egyptian forces have opened and closed Rafah sporadically and arbitrarily.
In comparison, Saudi Arabia’s allies control Yemen’s only access points to the outside world with the only operational airport in the occupied city of Aden. Anyone entering or leaving the country must pass through checkpoints controlled by Saudi or Emirati-backed mercenaries or troops.
The tens of thousands of Yemenis requiring urgent medical care as well as innocent civilians cannot leave the country unless they have several thousand dollars to pay smugglers. These dangerous routes take travelers through either al-Qaeda territory en route to Oman or across the treacherous Gulf of Aden en route to Somalia. Hundreds die on this route each year. (African refugees often travel this route to Yemen as well.)
3. Destroying Economy and Civilian Livelihood
The Saudi-led coalition has also launched an economic war against Yemen through their blockade. In October, the Yemeni rial plunged to a record low of 830 amounting to just one U.S. dollar.
This war against Yemen’s economy has prohibited public sector workers from receiving their salaries for years. As a result, many public sector employees like teachers, engineers, doctors, nurses, and sanitation workers to seek employment in the private sector.
The Yemen crisis has caused unemployment to skyrocket. Estimates from the Social and Economic Development Research Center (SEDRC) suggest general unemployment stands around 50% and shoots up even higher to over 73% for young adults.
4. Control of International Dialogue on Yemen Crisis
Saudi Arabia has effectively isolated Yemen from the international community on several fronts by controlling and manipulating the international dialogue to its advantage.
Waleed Al Ibrahim founded the Middle East Broadcasting Center in 1991 in London and later moved the company’s headquarters to Dubai. This media conglomerate controls about a dozen outlets — including Al Arabiya, a Saudi-owned pan-Arab television news channel broadcast throughout the Middle East.
Another influential Saudi tycoon, Al-Waleed bin Talal, is the grandson of the first Saudi king, Ibn Saud. He also happens to be the second largest voting shareholder of 21st Century Fox. Subsidiaries of this conglomerate include the Fox News network, National Geographic, Star TV, Regency Enterprises, and even Hulu. In late 2011, Al-Waleed invested $300 million in Twitter, which amounted to over a 3 percent share at the time.
In June of 2017, Saudi investor Sultan Muhammad Abuljadayel purchased a stake of between 25 percent and 50 percent in London-based outlet The Independent.
Outside the public eye, Riyadh utilizes various embassies and subscriptions to guide the narrative wherever possible. Through embassies, the Saudis can monitor local media agencies to spot outlets ripe for manipulation.
The “Saudi Cables,” published by WikiLeaks, display how precisely the kingdom takes a systemic approach to projecting a positive — or at least neutral — image across the Arab world and beyond. The cables refer to the Saudi strategy as either “neutralizing” or “containment.” Once Saudi authorities select an outlet to target, they will either purchase thousands of subscriptions at inflated rates or merely funnel money directly to the outlet. In exchange, Riyadh expects favorable, or at least neutral, coverage.
In other cases, Riyadh will simply sanction media outlets that provide damaging coverage. In 2012, Riyadh attempted to blackmail London-based Financial Times, demanding it close its Saudi bureau and fire its correspondent for publishing what Riyadh called “lies.” The cable went on to state that if the Financial Times did not adopt an “objective” approach, Riyadh would consider legal action.
5. Erasing History and Cultural Identity
Despite its composure of mainly European and Western settlers, Israel infamously absorbs surrounding Arab culture to pass off as its own while destroying actual Palestinian culture in the process. Although Saudi Arabia hasn’t appropriated Yemeni culture, they do remain hellbent on destroying every ounce of Yemeni heritage.
When they aren’t attacking homes and civilian infrastructure, coalition warplanes often strike significant Yemeni cultural sites.
In addition to mosques, Saudi airstrikes have destroyed many of Yemen’s prized archaeological sites. Yemen is one of the oldest centers of civilization: people have inhabited cities like Sana’a for thousands of years. As a result, Yemen is home to several incredible ancient sites.
In 2015, Saudi jets damaged the historic Marib Dam — the construction of which dates back to the eighth century BCE. Its walls contained scripture detailing ancient laws and customs and this site as a whole is specifically mentioned in the Quran — it’s that old.
Saudi warplanes also destroyed the Regional Museum of Dhamar along with thousands of ancient artifacts from the 280 CE Himyarite Kingdom inside. Additional archaeological targets include Aden’s medieval Sira Fortress along with over 60 other key historical sites.
“The Saudis were given information on important cultural heritage sites, including exact coordinates,” by UNESCO, said archaeologist Sarah Japp of Berlin’s German Archaeological Institute.
6. Famine and Disease as a Weapon to Create Yemen Crisis
Famine and disease isn’t just an unintentional byproduct of the blockade — it’s a weapon of war in the Yemen crisis.
Saudi Arabia imposed its blockade over Yemen shortly after revolutionary forces took control of the country’s capital, Sana’a, in 2015. This land, air, and sea blockade severely restricts imports, exports, and the flow of movement.
Yemen imports nearly 80 percent of food so the blockade has devastated the country: over two-thirds of the population face famine or food insecurity. Riyadh and Abu Dhabi are the gatekeepers of anything entering or leaving the country — including people.
This embargo combined with a shortage of medical and sanitation equipment eventually triggered a cholera epidemic. From April 2017 until the end of the year, over 1 million people became infected with this very preventable, very treatable, and very fatal disease. Thousands died because they were not able to receive medical care in time. This created the largest cholera outbreak in the world.
Again, Riyadh’s airstrike targets seem to prove that these epidemics are, in fact, a weapon of war. It’s common for the Saudi coalition to target water treatment facilities and hospitals — even at the height of the cholera outbreak. Coalition airstrikes also frequently target food trucks, markets, farms, and other sources of nourishment. Last summer, also at the height of the cholera epidemic, Saudi Arabia refused to allow fuel into Yemen to power water pumps.
7. Illegal Weapons
Israel has no qualms about skirting international law to attack Palestinians with prohibited weapons like white phosphorous, dense inert metal explosive, and armor-piercing bombs. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, meanwhile, is no different.
Riyadh routinely uses internationally banned weapons like cluster munitions. Cluster bombs feature a single artillery shell containing dozens or hundreds of additional munitions inside which subsequently explode across areas the size of a football field.
Although the United States claims to have ceased production on cluster munitions, Israeli companies still manufacture the internationally banned weapons. Yellow diamonds near the nose of the shell indicate that the munition contains submunitions.
It is unclear whether Saudi Arabia is still working through their backstock of cluster munitions from arms deals with the United Kingdom and the United States or if Riyadh is simply purchasing the internationally banned weapons covertly from Israel.
Saudi Arabia has also used white phosphorous against civilians in the Yemen crisis.
— Hussain Albukhaiti (@HussainBukhaiti) May 7, 2015
8. Support from the International Community
A wide majority of the international community supports Israel’s occupation of Palestine either politically, diplomatically, or materially. Similarly, the Saudi-led war against Yemen is really an international effort.
Over two dozen countries participate in the Saudi and Emirati-led invasion, aerial bombardment, and blockade of Yemen. The United States and other Western countries provide the majority of military might in the form of weapons, planes, refueling aircraft, logistics, intelligence, and even ground troops for training.
Other countries like Turkey, Pakistan, Sudan, South Korea, Somalia, and Eritrea participate in the coalition with varying levels of support depending on their ability to contribute. A broad majority of the Saudi coalition ground forces involve foreigners from Sudan or even Blackwater contract killers from Latin American countries.
9. Indiscriminately or Purposefully Killing Civilians
Over the past three-plus years, U.S.-backed Saudi airstrikes have produced over 35,000 civilian casualties: over 13,000 killed and over 21,000 injured — many of which are women and children. This figure, recorded by Yemeni monitoring group Legal Center for Rights and Development, only includes stats from the 1,000-day mark of the war in December of 2017. Countless others have lost their lives since then.
The United States provides logistical and intelligence support for selecting airstrike targets which Washington claims reduces casualties. However, a majority of Saudi coalition airstrikes specifically target civilian infrastructure and densely populated civilian areas.
In fact, Saudi coalition warplanes routinely target homes, farms, buses, hospitals, gas stations, cars, and anywhere else typically frequented by civilians. The coalition also targets large civilian gatherings such as weddings, funerals, and crowded weekend markets.
It’s difficult to highlight some of the worst offenses due to the sheer number of massacres, however, some of the deadliest intentional mass killings include
- An attack on a school bus full of children in August 2018 killing 51
- An attack on a funeral in 2016 killing over 155 and injuring over 500
- An attack on a wedding in April of 2018 killing 55 including the bride
Not to mention, the Saudi coalition has also made a habit of performing “double tap” airstrikes. After the first set of airstrikes, the warplanes return to target ambulance crews, rescuers, and media personnel entering the scene.
According to a recent report from a UN panel of experts, these double tap airstrikes along with the coalition’s use of precision-guided smart weapons indicate that the ongoing attacks on civilians are entirely intentional.
10. Manipulating Local Politics
The entire purpose of the Saudi-led war in Yemen is to manipulate Yemen’s political power.
After intense protests and months of back-and-forth negotiations, the former Yemeni President Saleh finally agreed to step down in 2011. Saleh met with members of the Gulf Cooperation Council and eventually signed a transitional agreement after a series of backroom deals in Riyadh.
The agreement left Saleh conceding power to Hadi, who was vice president at the time. Thirty days later, Hadi held a snap election specially designed by Saudi Arabia to ensure his victory. Both Ansarullah (aka “the Houthis”) and Yemen’s Southern Movement called for election boycotts.
After attempting to set up an improvised capital in Aden, Hadi fled for Riyadh where he currently resides. The coalition still names Hadi as the “internationally recognized president” and has not stopped attempting to force his governance — on paper, this is the war’s entire purpose.
Shortly after, Saudi Arabia launched its military coalition and created the Yemen crisis to reinstate Hadi.
Not to be outdone, the United Arab Emirates also has skin in Yemen’s political game with their own preferred candidates throughout Yemen’s southern provinces.
11. Saudi Religious Supremacism and Yemen Crisis
The Saudi royal family adheres to an intolerant ideology known as Wahhabism. They force this ideology onto their civilian population as well and punish anyone (sometimes with death) who does not follow this specific sect of Islam.
Jews and Christians are not allowed to have places of worship inside the kingdom while Jews can’t even enter the country. The Wahhabis have a long history dating back several hundred years of destroying Islamic shrines and massacring followers of different Islamic sects everywhere they attempt to conquer.
Yemen, on the other hand, is historically pluralist: multiple sects live side by side in peace. Although Saudi Arabia uses tactics to create sectarianism in Yemen, the populace remains more unified than ever.
This ideology mirror’s Israel’s justification of genocide against Palestinians and the creation of a Jewish ethnostate.
12. Yemen Crisis and Military Occupation
The official Saudi Army is fairly weak. Most of Riyadh’s military might comes in the form of carpet bombing from the sky and paid mercenaries on the ground. However, the United Arab Emirates — a close ally of the Kingdom — has successfully opened a military occupation throughout all Yemeni territory under their control.
The Emiratis stationed troops on the Yemeni-controlled island of Socotra — a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which they use for training purposes — in November of 2015. With current UAE assistance (and previous decades of assistance from late Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh), the United States has secured a naval base on the island as well.
When additional U.S. troops entered Yemen for a so-called offensive against al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) in July, it was Emirati, not Saudi, forces that greeted them at the airport and assisted in the operation — an operation that ended with a U.S. and UAE joint occupation of oil fields in Yemen’s Shabwah province.
Fast forward to the Yemen crisis today and the United Arab Emirates is leading the invasion of Hodeidah. Dubbed Operation Golden Victory, the offensive began in June of this year and is yet another failure for the coalition to add to their poor PR record.
Saudi Arabia Taking Notes from Israel’s Playbook for Yemen Crisis
A close look at the Yemen crisis shows a striking resemblance between Israel’s and Saudi Arabia’s genocidal strategies. Both entities feel entitled to skirt international law to carry out their military occupations and invasions at the expense of the local population.
As Saudi Arabia warms ties with Israel, these strategies are likely to converge even further in the form of military support or coordination — if it hasn’t already happened behind closed doors. Meanwhile, the United States will continue to provide virtually unlimited military and diplomatic support for both genocidal countries indefinitely.
Owner and editor of Geopolitics Alert, Randi Nord is a US-based geopolitical analyst and content strategist. She covers US imperialism with a special focus on Yemen, Iran, and Lebanon. She has participated in the UNHRC as a guest of NGOs and speaks at anti-war events.