NEW YORK – The Anti-Defamation League on Wednesday expressed “deep concern” over Saudi Arabia’s decision to deny a visa to Michael Wilner, Washington bureau chief of The Jerusalem Post, who had applied to cover US President Barack Obama’s meeting with the Saudi king this week.
ADL national director Abraham H. Foxman called the Saudi government’s decision “disturbing” in a letter penned on Wednesday to the Saudi ambassador to the US, Adel Al-Jubier.
“Because there have been clear precedents for issuing such visas in the past and Mr. Wilner is the only journalist currently accredited to the White House who was denied a visa, it is difficult to understand this decision, which prevents a Jewish American journalist working for an Israeli news outlet from doing his job,” Foxman wrote.
In the strongly worded letter, Foxman said that if Wilner was denied a visa because he is Jewish and works for an Israeli paper, then this is “unacceptable” and “will diminish the standing of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in the eyes of many.
“If it is not true, I respectfully urge you to publicly set the record straight and provide a reasonable explanation for the decision to exclude Mr. Wilner from covering President Obama’s important meeting with King Abdullah,” he added.
The National Press Club, one of the world’s largest professional journalism organizations, also issued a statement Wednesday urging the Saudis to grant Wilner a visa.
“We regret that a member of the White House press corps has been denied access to Saudi Arabia to cover the activities of President Obama during his trip,” said Myron Belkind, president of the National Press Club. “We join our colleagues at the White House Correspondents’ Association in calling for Saudi Arabia to provide access for this reporter.”
The State Department, the National Security Council, the White House Correspondents’ Association, and Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes have all denounced the Saudi decision, which was made despite strongly worded appeals from National Security Adviser Susan Rice and Tony Blinken, assistant to President Obama, to the Saudi ambassador.
Approached by The Jerusalem Post, as well as The New York Times, CNN, and other outlets, the Saudi Embassy in Washington declined to give a reason for the denial.
“The decision has been made,” one Saudi official told Wilner. “Nothing can be done.”
Wilner is a Jewish American who has not lived or worked in Israel, and has never applied for Israeli citizenship.
He was due to arrive in Riyadh on Wednesday and leave with President Obama on March 29.